Wieden’s Labor of ‘Love’

NEW YORK Finding the right images for Nike’s “Jordan Love” campaign, which features striking moments from Michael Jordan’s sports career, was no easy task for Wieden + Kennedy.

“Some great moments have been seen a million times,” said art director Adrian Hilton of the New York agency. “We wanted to show a different perspective.”

The campaign’s 30- and 50-second television spots, four-and-a-half-minute film and 18-page ad insert all needed unique images. So Wieden creatives spent several days immersed in NBA and Sports Illustrated film, video and photographic archives to find the appropriate visuals.

“We wanted images that showed various sides of him, that showed growth,” Hilton said. “Images that showed some range of emotion, that showed accomplishment and failure.”

Ten hours of footage were edited down to 60 minutes, then to 30 minutes, and finally to the commercials and three short films, which vary in length. The entire production process took about three months.

The resulting work shows Jordan as a rookie on the bench, clutching a trophy, making errors as a baseball player and in action as a veteran for the Washington Wizards, among other milestones. The International Olympic Committee would not approve Wieden’s request to incorporate video footage of Jordan from the Olympic Games, though a still image of Jordan during the Olympics made it into the print insert.

The “MJ Love” campaign began at the end of August with print and outdoor ads that asked, “What is love?” through a series of questions conceived by copywriter Tina Johnson. Later print ads showed three athletes answering this question: Michael Finley, Roy Jones Jr. and Derek Jeter. For Jeter, one ad stated, love means “Doing the little things that don’t show up in the box score.” The current work, the third phase in the campaign, focuses on Jordan’s love for the game.

In the TV spots, narration by Jordan states what he thinks love is, from “Love is being a rookie” to “Love is playing each game as if it were your last.”

“We were fortunate enough that [Jordan] liked what we were doing,” Hilton said. “We sent rough cuts to him to show how we were putting it together. He gave the thumbs up.”

In fact, the ads, which broke Jan. 29 in ESPN, Slam and The Source magazines, proved so popular with Jordan’s friends who are professional athletes, Hilton said, that they asked him to autograph copies.

Spending on the effort was undisclosed. Nike spends about $4 million in measured media annually for the Jordan brand, according to CMR.

The copywriter on the campaign was Johnson. Todd Waterbury and Ty Montague were the creative directors. Tom Wright was agency producer and Gary Krieg was executive producer. Malik Sayeed directed the spot for Little Minx/RSA in West Hollywood, Calif.