Over the course of the last five weeks, while «The Last Dance» — ESPN’s 10-part documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls — has been screening on millions of televisions across America, Michigan has been up to something.
Michigan football and basketball have been partnered with the Jordan Brand since August 1, 2016, and it’s been hyped up ever since.
Jim Harbaugh‘s team became the first football team to don the iconic Jumpman logo on its jerseys, pants, cleats and just about everything else the players and coaches wear. In years since, Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma have joined Michigan in wearing the brand. But, make no mistake, the Wolverines were first.
Soon after the partnership began, Jordan made his way to Ann Arbor for Michigan’s opening game of the 2016 season to serve as an honorary captain. Duties included giving a speech to the team and representing the club during the pregame coin toss.
«My thoughts are I’m proud, honored to share a sideline with Michael Jordan,” Harbaugh said when the partnership between Michigan and the Jordan Brand was announced. “I’ll be proud, honored to have shared the Jumpman logo on our uniforms.
«I look at Michael Jordan as one of humanity’s most evolved human beings of all time. The chance to be on a team with Michael Jordan, to share a sideline … that was something that was going to be a win all the way.»
Here we are, almost four years later, with Jordan’s documentary series dominating sports talk because, well, there isn’t much else going on in the sports world due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan is using the exposure and attention Jordan is getting to continue to sell its own brand to fans and, more importantly (fair or not), recruits.
Several Michigan football coaches have taken to Twitter over recent days and weeks to give friendly reminders that Jumpman and the Block ‘M’ have teamed up.
A recruit won’t pick Michigan due to the Jordan factor on its own. Other factors — such as results on the field, relationship with the staff, campus life, proximity to home and much more — heavily outweigh what shoe brand the team reps.
But, if one thinks there is no impact, one would be wrong. Former Michigan All-American tight end Jake Butt explained his excitement for wearing the brand after it was announced in 2016.
«It’s great. You want to associate yourself with successful people and winners, and obviously Michael Jordan is the perfect example of what it means to be successful and be a winner,” Butt said.
On the basketball side of things, Michigan coaches are selling the same thing, an opportunity to be associated with the best.
Head coach Juwan Howard — who was actually a Jordan Brand athlete as an NBA player — made a cameo appearance in episode eight of the series, shown playing pickup hoops with Jordan and other pro stars out in Los Angeles on the set of «Space Jam.» Then, last night, assistant coach and former player Howard Eisley was shown during the Bulls’ NBA Finals series against Eisley’s Utah Jazz. Former Wolverine and teammate of Howard in Ann Arbor, Jalen Rose, was also shown and interviewed during the series.
Needless to say, the Michigan presence was strong during the documentary, and the Maize and Blue didn’t miss the opportunity to sell the brand.
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