Using Advertising Appeals: The Case of Michael Jordan





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Darrin C. Duber-Smith

Since 2000, Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA, has been president of Green Marketing, Inc., a Colorado-based strategic planning firm offering marketing and sustainability planning, marketing plan implementation, and other consulting services to companies in all stages of growth. He has over 25 years of specialized expertise in the marketing and management profession including extensive experience in working with natural, organic, and green/sustainable products and services. He is a co-founder of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS, c. 1999) market concept and leader of the first U.S. industry task force that helped frame an industry definition of natural (c. 2005). He has published over 60 articles in trade publications and has presented at scores of executive-level events over the past 15 years. Mr. Duber-Smith is Visiting Professor of Marketing at the Metropolitan State College School of Business in Denver, CO and Affiliate Marketing Professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Mr. Duber-Smith was the recipient of the Wall Street Journal's In-Education Distinguished Professor Award for 2009, and is author of Cengage Learning's KnowNow! Marketing blog. He can be reached at

Appeals are often used in advertising and other brand or company promotion strategies.  Commonly used appeals include sex, humor, fear, intellectual, prestige, expertise, celebrity, and referent power.  During the time that former basketball star Michael Jordan was playing basketball, and even today, many companies asked him to represent their companies, products and brands.  Of course they paid him very well for these endorsements, but this blog is going to concentrate on other reasons so many companies wanted Michael Jordan to represent them. 

One type of appeal is expertise.  This appeal works if the person representing a company or product is seen as an expert in the use of that product.  Another appeal is referent  poiewr appeal.  This type of appeal works if people respect the spokesperson and thus that person would have some influence over them as they go through the process of purchasing products.

A list of the companies and/or products that Jordan endorsed and represented are as follows.

  • Nike
  • Gatorade
  • Bijan Cologne
  • MCI WorldCom
  • Rayovac Btteries
  • Hanes Uderwear
  • Ball Park Franks
  • Wheaties Creal (General Mills)
  • Wilson Sporting Equipment
  • Oakley Sunglasses
  • AMF Bowling
  • CBS Sportsline
  • Chevrolet (Chicago Area)
  • McDonalds
  • Bigsby & Kruthers (Men's Clothing Store)
  • NBA Entertainment/CBS-Fox Home Videos
  • Michael Jordan's Restaurant, Chicago
  • Upper Deck
  • Coach Leather Products
  • Warner Brothers (Space Jam Film)

Among these product endorsements, which ones did the use of Jordan serve as an expertise appeal and which ones did the use of Jordan serve as a referent power appeal?  It is clear that Michael Jordan was at least perceived to be an expert in certain types of products.  These products were likely the sports-related ones, such as Nike, Gatorade, Wilson Sporting Equipment, Upper Deck, and possibly the Space Jam movie for Warner Brothers..  It is also possible that he might be perceived as an expert on some clothing and accessories, such as Oakley Sunglasses, Bigsby & Kruthers Men's Clothing Store, Coach Leather Products, and Hanes Underwear.  (This might be questionable because how many believe that Michael Jordan actually wears these simple Hanes cotton undies?)  However, he is clearly no more of an expert on the other products as almost anyone out there, so the other products enjoyed the referent power appeal when having Michael Jordan represent them.  GB

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