Air Jordan Goes Green

NEW YORK Nike plans to launch a campaign for its Air Jordan XX3 shoe that it believes will be a “watershed event” in the company’s history.

Not only does the 23rd version of the shoe represent the number that Michael Jordan wore for most of his National Basketball Association career, but the sneaker itself has been designed to be environmentally correct, perhaps the first “green” shoe in the team sports footwear category. It follows an earlier effort by the company, the Nike Considered Humara, an aggressive trail shoe with an eco-friendly design.

The campaign, “Become legendary,” via Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., is anchored by four TV spots, the first of which will break Jan. 14. Support will include Internet, point-of-purchase and experiential marketing, but no print. Nike’s Jordan Brand spent $15 million-plus on media in 2006 and nearly $9 million January]-September 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The intro spot, which highlights the performance aspect of the shoe, features a voiceover by Jordan as shots of him and other members of Team Jordan are seen playing basketball as kids and as pros, including Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. “It’s not about the shoes, it’s about what you do in them,” offers Jordan in the spot. “Work before glory. Doing what they say you can’t do. Not breaking when they say you are broken.”

The three other spots, all of which will run in 30- and 60-second versions, follow similar themes. TV will run on ABC, CBS, ESPN and TNT during high-profile sports events such as the National Football League playoffs, the NBA All-Star Game and playoffs, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s March Madness basketball tournament.

Beyond the marketing, Nike, Beaverton, Ore., is touting the AJXX3 as being the first product in its companywide “Considered” initiative, under which all items would be designed to reduce waste and incorporate environmentally friendly materials. The AJXX3, for example, uses a minimal amount of adhesives and glues that are considered environmentally unfriendly, instead relying on an innovative system of interlocking panels, which meant designing new machines to produce the product. “We pissed off a lot of people at the factory because this wasn’t business as usual,” said Tinker Hatfield, Nike’s vp, innovation design and special projects. “Within six months, you’ll see other [basketball shoe] companies following our lead.”

On Jan. 25, 23 retailers will each receive 23 pairs of the AJXX3 (manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $230). A limited edition NBA all-star version will hit stores Feb. 16. A mass-market version will be available Feb. 23.