A new epidemic is sweeping across the western world. Stories of drug and alcohol deaths are being pushed out of the limelight for a new breed of killer. It is the result of a product almost everyone uses on a daily basis. And it’s not a plant based product grown on hills in rural South America. A product that far to synthetic to be ingested. For this commodity we need to head further east to the worlds supplier of just about everything, China. An addiction consumers are spending thousands of dollars to satisfy and can be found in just about every shopping centre in the world. Let us introduce newest, freshest drug.
Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with basketball. He joined the NBA in 1984 as the 3rd overall draft pick for the Chicago Bulls. Through unequivocal desire and mesmerising leaping capability Jordan quickly became one of the leagues stars. His capacity to fly through the air soon earned him the nickname of air Jordan. Combined with extraordinary defensive ability Jordan went on to win the most valuable player award 5 times. This earned him a cult like following amongst fans made his name one of the most recognised in America.
Jordan’s notoriety didn’t go unnoticed by major brands. Just one year after he joined the league the first pair of Air Jordan’s were released, the Air Jordan 1’s. A shoe released in partnership with Nike and their top designers including Tinker Haven Hatfield. Shoes have always been an subtext of basketball culture and an item that helped define who the heroes were. Jordan’s shoes have created a dynasty so strong that demand hasn’t dropped even since retiring for the third time from the league in 2003. He crafted a deity status that has lived on well past his basketball career. A privilege of the very select few.
Ultimate price for a pair of shoes
Joshua Woods was a 22 year old man on the day of the Air Jordan 11 release. He was working two jobs and had managed to save up enough money for a pair of highly craved shoes. Enough to buy his his sister a pair too. Woods left the shopping centre after purchasing the $185 shoes. Little did Joshua know that as he was driving away the car he was being tailed. He was with his friend Goodwin Matthew who had also managed to obtain a pair. When they got arrived back to Matthew’s house a group of men also appeared. The men tried to steal the shoes so both Woods and Matthews tried to escape in their car. The group of men were armed with a .40 calibre handgun and opened fire, taking 14 shots. One of these bullets hit Joshua in the head and the car crashed.
How do brands create such a insatiable desire among the urban youth?
This case is not isolated. It’s estimated that over 1000 people die each year in pursuit of these “must have” shoes. Jordan’s shoes are a luxury good, but one that isn’t only obtainable by the wealthiest. His name alone is worth an unthinkable amount of money. Safeway used Jordan’s name in a commemorative issue of Sports Illustrates published in 2009 without permission. This led to an award of just under $9 million in Jordan’s favour.
Jordan has a 98% awareness level in the United States, a level only matched by the President, Mr Obama. His name is circulated among the worlds best rappers, Drake in his song, ‘Worst Behaviour’ says, “Still at it, scrub J’s (Jordan’s) with a toothbrush”. And it is this level of fame and notoriety combined with Nike’s designers, restricted releases and global brand domination that has lead to something as simple as a pair of shoes being made worth killing for. It is a problem that creates extraordinary profit through intentional ignorance. Only a mindset change from a entire generation would seem able to solve this due to big brands not even engaging the problem.