How do you make a living legend come to life for an audience too young to remember what made him legendary? If you’re Jordan Brand, you augment the present with one of the most extraordinary moments from the past. Meet A/R Jordan.
Michael Jordan is, to many, the greatest basketball player of all time. While he consistently excelled throughout his career, there are a few moments that catapulted him to mythical status. One of those is the 1988 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest, when Jordan executed one of the most mind-blowing moments in the history of the NBA: the famous free-throw line dunk.
Many athletes have an eponymous shoe, but it’s feats like that gravity-defying slam that ensure one’s shoe line becomes a world-beating brand. But even Air Jordans must work to stay relevant, especially when the new generation of sneaker heads has never even witnessed the brand’s namesake lace up to take the court.
Enter Snapchat and its universally accessible A/R technology, which turns any user’s phone into an augmented reality viewer. By creating “the world’s first social commerce experience in augmented reality”– a Snap lens that superimposed Jordan’s iconic dunk onto a geofenced “court” outside the Staples Center during the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend–new fans could experience the jaw-dropping awe of that moment for themselves. Oh, and also buy the brand new Air Jordan Tinker IIIs, which Virtual Mike just happened to be wearing in the A/R experience, straight from Snapchat through a partnership with Shopify.
The A/R Jordan experience is widely considered the gold standard in social commerce. In addition to winning a slew of awards, including a Cannes Gold Lion, the program also incited a ton of social chatter and, oh yeah, sold a bunch of shoes.
Goals: Speaking of selling shoes…that wasn’t the goal, as much as the Shopify partnership may have indicated that sales were top of mind for the Jordan Brand team. Make no mistake: This was an awareness play, through and through. How do I know? Because Jordan Brand declined to release sales figures for the promotion, even though it said the shoes available through the A/R experience sold out in 23 minutes (23! conveniently coincidental). What matters here is the exposure of the Jordan Brand as modern, savvy and cool as all get out. Mission accomplished.
Offline connection: One of the most interesting touches was the e-comm partnership with Darkstore, a same-day fulfillment center network that delivered all the new Jordans ordered through Snapchat to their new owners within two hours. In an instant-gratification world, the brand story came to life in near-real time–I use the lens, I see the shoes, I buy the shoes, I’m wearing the shoes. All in less time than it takes to watch an NBA game.
Key channels: Obviously we need to talk about Snapchat, especially because it’s proven a difficult channel for brands to create standout campaigns that go beyond a sponsored lens or filter. A/R Jordan broke the mold by first considering how Snapchat’s unique user experience–making A/R approachable for anyone with a smartphone–could be applied to Jordan Brand’s unique problem of making its namesake superstar relevant for today’s shoe buyers. The results? Uses of the A/R Jordan lens 4x’ed the engagement of the next most successful brand lens in Snapchat’s history. The lesson? Don’t sleep on what makes each social channel a unique experience.
Not every brand can orchestrate a multi-platform coup like Jordan Brand did with A/R Jordan. But the key learnings are applicable to any brand: lean into your proprietary assets, put your audience’s experience first and take calculated risks. After all, they have the greatest potential payoff and they’re usually the most fun.
Reinvent your brand experience for the world your audience inhabits. Thirty years ago, the world watched Michael Jordan redefine the slam dunk in one consistent way: TV. Today, audiences want to control their own experiences and A/R Jordan gave them the ability to live in a legendary moment in the exact way they wanted to.
Bring in the right partners. The buzz about A/R Jordan was generated by the holistic experience, and that required the right partnerships with the right companies. From Snapchat’s A/R capabilities to Shopify enabling purchase right from the app and Darkstore delivering on the instant-gratification demands of the audience, the experience was impeccable from start to finish because Jordan Brand didn’t try to reinvent anything–it simply leaned on those that already did it well.
You can teach new audiences old tricks. If you’re a legacy brand, you’ve got stories that could be reevaluated and repositioned for today’s consumer. It’s a hot trend for a reason.