How to Brand “Like Mike”

Michael Jordan entered the NBA highly touted out of the University of North Carolina after hitting the NCAA championship game winning shot for North Carolina and his mentor, Dean Smith. Clutch.

Giants like CocaCola and Converse came calling but MJ chose instead to make savvy deals with other startups such as Gatorade and Nike.

How can your business brand be more like Mike?

Here are some tips:

Make Strategic Partnerships

Working with smaller brands and strategic startups means you will likely have more influence and a closer bond with the brand.

In MJ's case, suddenly kids everywhere wanted to “be like Mike”. From the shoes to the shaved head to the tongue to the Hanes underwear to the yellow drink to the red 23, everything had to be like Mike.

Your business may not leap quite as far into stardom as Jordan's did, but knowing the power of a partnership is key to future success.

MVP before MVP

The Chicago Bulls of the 80’s were a minimum viable product constructed by Doug Collins. Michael displayed talent that could be scalable but it didn’t matter. The Bulls could not beat the Detroit Pistons and a change needed to be made.

Sometimes your most valuable player isn't enough to carry your product.

Staff to Scale

Phil Jackson was named head coach and mentor while Scottie Pippen was brought on to play the role of chief operating officer.

The Bulls even hired a veteran CTO, Tex Winters, to design a new internal operating system: The Triangle Offense (OSΔ) to maximize the strengths of their athletic wing men.

And the Bulls from Chicago started winning. They beat the Pistons, the Cavaliers, the Knicks, and when they beat Magic Johnson and the Lakers for the NBA title Michael cried uncontrollable tears of joy.

They went on to win three straight before MJ exited with his stock at an all-time high.

Focus on the Core Product

"His Airness" left basketball altogether to pivot his brand into a new vertical, baseball. It was fun, but unprofitable and unsuccessful. Before you knew it though, MJ was ready to get back to what he did best.

The Bulls welcomed Air Jordan back as CEO and he was better than ever, just like when Steve Jobs returned to run Apple.

Pippen was still working the COO position and Jackson was still providing mentorship and a refined triangle offense. The Bulls were better than ever. Three more championships and Michael Jordan did not miss one game during that run.

The Bulls in Chicago invented the term "three-peat" in 1990-93 and reinforced it into our vocabulary in 1995-98.

Now, Michael Jordan’s an investor and a venture capitalist owning a majority 80 percent stake in the Charlotte Bobcats franchise.

He established his brand on the court, with his work ethic and actions. He reinforced it with a great logo, strategic partnerships, a great supporting cast, savvy marketing, and strong brand enhancement.

Zack Price is a serial entrepreneur originally from Cleveland living in Chicago where his current startup Blog Into Book turns bloggers into authors. He recently published the Final Four run by the 2013 University of Michigan basketball team in the book “We On”. You can find Zack on Twitter and Google+ and read his other silly stories about CEOs at

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