I’m not someone who often gets excited by shoes. Even when Michael Jordan’s shoes were the must-have product of my generation, I never valued the $100+ shoes as much as some of my other friends.
Based on some recent news, I have a feeling that’s about to change. Derrick Rose came out with a shoe called “Windy City.” Check out The Basketball Jones blog for pictures of the newest addition to the Adidas family. The main colors are red, white and black (Bulls colors) with blue shoe laces, which are supposed to symbolize the Chicago flag. The back of the shoe says “The L” and the sole of the shoe has a map of the L system while the tongue reads, “All flights canceled.” I take this in two ways. The first is a reference to O’Hare airport, which customers are frequently frustrated with for canceling and delaying flights. The second would be a jab at Jordan. I doubt Rose would ever want to undermine “Air Jordan,” with that phrase, but considering the fact that Jordan’s shoes were Nike and Rose is with Adidas, you never know.
But that argument is not why I’m talking about this shoe. I’m talking about it because it’s a sign of things to come from the new face in Chicago sports (with all due respect to Starlin Castro).
Rose is the first big-time Chicago athlete to play for a Chicago sports team. That’s a huge advantage as far as marketing ability is concerned. People who live in Chicago care a lot about their brands such as Sears, Marshall Fields, the Tribune, Wrigley, I could go on. The point is that Chicagoans are some of the most brand loyal people you’ll ever meet, particularly if that brand is based in Chicago.
If that’s the case about companies, the same is true about athletes. While comparing anyone to MJ is taboo around here, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Rose’s marketing power is eventually going to eclipse Jordan. While Rose might not be the global superstar that Jordan was in his day and won’t have as many commercial opportunities, he will eventually surpass the Jordan brand, both as a player and as a company.
Rose’s new shoe is a coming out party. Now that he’s associating his newest shoe with Chicago, the stage is set for him to come up with his own brand, similar to the way Jordan did with the “Jumpman” logo. Whatever Rose ends up putting out next is likely going to continue being very Chicago-oriented since he loves the city so much and knows that playing for the city he was born and raised in provides a unique opportunity. His authentic appreciation for his roots will certainly be played up, and the city respects him more because of it.
Another thing that sets Rose apart from Jordan is his blue-collar mentality, which we saw last season on the basketball court. Jordan was a perfectionist and determined to be the best at all aspects of the game. He also had a distinct advantage being 6-6. Rose, on the other hand, is three inches shorter and doesn’t really fly over anyone. In a lot of ways, the L analogy is very appropriate for Rose because he uses his speed and strength to get through defenders the same way a train is powerful but at the same time quickly gets from point A to point B. Because of Rose’s style, he got hurt a lot more but showed his resilience in playing through the hard contact.
That resilience is something many Chicagoans will relate to and is going to eventually be part of what makes Rose so marketable. Rose has a unique story of growing up in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Chicago in Englewood where his brothers did everything they could to keep him away from drugs and violence. His ability to focus on staying out of trouble and playing basketball resonates with the city and makes him an even more well-respected guy.
Tie that all in with the social media, which is going to help Rose become more popular in Chicago. Keep in mind, Mark Zuckerberg was six months old when Jordan started his rookie season and was going into freshman year of high school the same year that the Chicago Bulls won their sixth championship. Simply but, Jordan didn’t have anywhere near the opportunity that Rose is going to have when it comes to gaining popularity in Chicago.
Hopefully the 22-year-old Chicago product has some good marketing people working with him so that Rose can tie all of what makes him special to the city of Chicago into his brand and successfully sell whatever sort of product line he wants to associate himself with. Regardless of how Rose chooses to market himself, you can be certain that the most marketable Bull of all time will appropriately be the guy who wears No. 1.