Currently the Jordan Brand has one of the weakest line-ups of signature players out of the top shoe brands. Their current active signature player line-up is Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Both Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are past their prime and are currently unlikely to return as All-Stars for the remainder of their careers. While Russell Westbrook has found a new home in Houston and is playing one of his best style of basketball, he will turn 32 this year and it’s likely that his productivity will decline in the upcoming years. This gives the Jordan Brand a need for a new signature athlete that will become the face of the brand. A signature athlete is important to the brand as they’re a effective marketing tool for the brand. So out of the current young players that are signed with Jordan who is the most likely to become the face of the brand?
Currently there are 4 young players that are signed with Jordan Brand, Rui Hachimura, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson. It is expected that the new face of Jumpman will be selected out of these four players. To determine who will become the new face, a few factors have to be discussed on what makes a signature athlete.
First is the most obvious one, the players popularity. A signature player is used to attract attention to the brand and persuade the fans to buy the products of the brand. To measure the popularity of each player, I looked at the number of followers the player has on their Instagram account and the number of posts their name was mentioned in, this can be determined through looking at number of times their names were used as hastags.
Currently, Zion Williamson has a large lead in terms of popularity, at least on Instagram. He had the most followers out of the 4 players with 5 Million and had the most post which mention his name as #zionwilliamson, which was used on 234K posts. Luka Doncic has a popularity close to Zion with 4.7 Million followers and 152K posts mentioning his name. Jayson Tatum came third in terms of popularity and Rui Hachimura came last.
Second is the personal allocates of a player. For a player to become a signature athlete of a large brand like Jordan, the player has to be good. As Micheal Jordan famously said to Rip Hamilton, “My sneakers are for All-Stars”. A signature player is the face of a brand and their performance determine peoples’ opinion on the brand. So, brands like Jordan will want a player that will constantly perform at a high level.
Only two players have currently made the All-Star game with Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic. However, it is difficult to compare both Rui Hachimura and Zion Williamson since they are in their rookie season and their season hasn’t finished yet. So excluding Zion and Rui from the debate, it is fair to say Luka Doncic has the upper hand in terms of personal allocates as he is a first time All-Star, a Rookie of the Year and also has been mentioned in the MVP race ever since the season started.
Third, the presence of the player in the team. Whether a player is a face of a franchise can also determine whether the players are going to receive a signature shoe. For the case of Nike and Jordan all of their active signature players were given their signature shoes when they were the face of a franchise. Being the face of the franchise is also related to the popularity of the player and performance. A player who is a face of a franchise is likely to have more fans and performs better than a player who is not.
Right now looking at the four players Luka Doncic has already firmly established himself as the face of the Dallas Mavericks as he is leading the team to their first playoff game in 3 years. The front office and the fans have accepted him as the player to be handed the torch to be leading the Dallas Mavericks. For Zion Williamson as well, the media and the fans were quick to put him as the face of the New Orleans Pelicans as soon as he was drafted. He has shown small sparks of a player that can lead in the on and off the court. He acted as an example for other players to follow as he volunteered to pay for the Pelicans staff that were unpaid due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the case of Jayson Tatum, it is a very confusing one. People are yet to see him as the face of the Boston Celtics as Kemba Walker is still considered as leader of the team. And with the presence of players like Jaylen Brown and Gordan Hayward, it has been difficult for Jayson Tatum to establish himself as the face of the franchise. For Rui Hachimura he has been a solid rookie but not currently a player with a large role in the team.
Finally, whether the players had their PEs officially released. Nike has a habit of introducing signature players through selling their PEs on their teams shoes before they release a singature shoe. Selling their PEs officially, means that the brand has confidence in the player’s popularity for the shoes to sell. This was seen in Paul George and Kyrie Irving who both had their PEs officially released before their announcement of a signature shoe.
Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson has been the only players who have had PEs officially sold. Luka had a Jordan 1 Mid colourway inspired by him which was part of a “Pre-Game Rituals” pack that was made by Nike. Zion Williamson had a Jordan 34 PE released. It was sold out and is currently selling on the second-hand market for nearly double the retain price. This proves the level of influence Zion currently has. For Rui Hachimura and Jayson Tatum, they are yet to have their PEs officially released.
In conclusion, when considering the factors, the next face of Jordan brand is likely to be either Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson. Both Rui Hachimura and Jayson Tatum are good players but but they aren’t on the level of popularity on and off the court as much as the other two. Out of Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson, I believe Zion Williamson will be the first one to get a signature shoe and become the new face of Jordan. He has been getting a lot more screen time in Jordan commercials and also events than Luka Doncic has. It is obvious that Jordan Brand is pushing Zion Williamson to become the future face of the brand. Although it is unclear when Zion will be getting his shoe, it is clear that Zion is up next to be leading Jumpman.