Michael Jordan Tackles the ‘Greatest Ever’ Debate in Surprise Sunday Night Football Promo

He’s talking about the Nov. 4 face-off between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers

The Sunday Night Football spot is the first TV promo or ad featuring Michael Jordan since 2015. NBC Sports
Headshot of Jason Lynch

It took a long time, but Michael Jordan is weighing in on the “greatest ever” athlete debate in a spot that will debut Sunday night on NBC.

While the spot initially seems to be a Nike or Gatorade ad in which Jordan is finally discussing whether LeBron James is the true GOAT (greatest of all time), the twist is that he’s talking about NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. And Jordan is actually appearing in a Sunday Night Football promo for the Nov. 4 matchup between Brady’s New England Patriots and Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers.

NBC Sports convinced Jordan, who hasn’t appeared in any ads or promos since 2015, to participate in the spot to hype what is only the second career meeting ever between Brady and Rodgers.

The promo opens with a contemplative Jordan, shot in black-and-white, acknowledging that there’s “a lot of talk going on these days about who is the greatest ever.” As he touches on important factors like “titles,” “raw talent” and “clutch” moments, Jordan seems to be alluding to the GOAT debate involving himself and James. “I get it. It’s a tough call. I mean, even the jersey numbers are the same.” (Both he and James wear No. 23.)

Finally, he concludes, “maybe the best way to settle this debate is to play it out, head-to-head.” The spot then switches to dramatic NFL footage featuring Brady and Rodgers (both of whom wear No. 12) and returns to Jordan for one final observation: “I’ll watch that.”

NBC Sports, which produced the promo in-house, will premiere the 45-second spot during Sunday Night Football.

UPDATE: Here is the full promo, which NBC Sports released shortly after its Sunday Night Football debut. (The original teaser for the spot, which Adweek exclusively shared on Friday, has been moved to the bottom of this story.)

Joseph Lee, svp of brand and content services, NBC Sports, said the company had been anticipating the Nov. 4 Packers-Patriots game for months, given that it will be only the second time in NFL history that Brady and Rodgers have ever faced off.

Because the Patriots and Packers are in different conferences, the teams only play each other once every four years unless they meet in a Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened. Rodgers wasn’t starting for the Packers during the 2006 matchup and was injured in 2010, so his only faceoff with Brady came in 2014 in a game that Green Bay won 26–21.

“These two legendary quarterbacks have been around for so long and are at the very top of their profession,” said Lee. “When we knew that we had this opportunity for what could potentially be the last time they ever face each other, that got us very excited and into a conversation about what makes the greatest of all time.”

NBC Sports senior producer Brett Strycharz suggested having Jordan—“probably the singular athlete who is representative of the greatest of all time,” said Lee—participate in the spot. Because the former NBA star is close with NBC Sports president of programming, Jon Miller, the company was able to successfully pitch him on the idea.

The promo, which was directed and shot by Scott Duncan and edited by Jeremy Quayhackx, was intentionally filmed to look like a Nike or Gatorade ad and not a network promo.

“You don’t see very often Michael Jordan addressing people directly,” said Lee. “What we want to do is bring people in.”

This appears to be Jordan’s first appearance in a TV ad or promo since April 2015, when he popped up in Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” revival. A year earlier, he starred in a Hanes campaign and was one of many people who tipped his cap to returning New York Yankee Derek Jeter in the Re2pect ad from Nike’s Jordan Brand.

Jordan last partnered with NBC Sports a decade ago, appearing in spots for its coverage of the 2008 Ryder Cup.

Even if you don’t watch Sunday Night Football, it will be tough to miss the Jordan promo—either the 45- or 30-second version—over the next week. NBCUniversal plans to blanket its airwaves with the two spots, which will run during The Voice, This Is Us, the Chicago drama, Today, USA’s WWE shows, NBC’s late-night shows, MSNBC and across NBC Sports programming.

There will be additional heavy promotion on NBC’s affiliates, the NBC Sports regional networks and NBC Sports’ social media platforms, as well as media buys on DirecTV, Comcast platforms, social media, Spotify, Pandora and the mobile version of EA Sports Madden.

To Lee, the key element of the promo is Jordan saying that he himself will watch the Nov. 4 game. “That’s very much in keeping with our campaign, which is [that] Sunday Night Football is a game that everybody watches because it has the best teams and the best stars,” he said.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.