by Laura Gardner, Web Editor, Vestoj
Advertising, or more specifically, branding works with a currency of space, visibility, and therefore exposure. The effectiveness of branding will relate to the size and potential impact of such a space. Branding in sport is perhaps the first direct facilitator of corporeal branding, the space for a capitalist identity on the body. Despite a long history of endorsement from famous figures, in film and music for example, the use of the body in sport is an inverse of this relationship, and a more recent phenomena.
Michael Jordan and Spike Lee for Nike, 1991
The most successful of the early ‘collaborations’ between athlete and brand could be attributed to the one between basketballer Michael Jordan and sportswear company Nike . The partnership has worked dually in launching Jordan’s career as an individual sportsman and super brand. Then, the highest-paid sportsman in the business, the alliance unfolded into the sportsman’s own clothing and footwear brand ‘Air Jordan’, for which the early eighties imagery of the sportsman mid-flight, suspended in ‘air’ formed the template for the logo of the brand (one only has to type ‘Michael Jordan Nike’ into a Youtube search facility to see the extent of the Nike/Jordan output). The spirit of this long running partnership between Jordan and Nike continues in a new global system of branding alliances and stakeholders. More recently Nike closed a $250 million, 10-year contract with golf champion Rory McIlroy. A weighty financial and time commitment that reflects how lucrative this industry has become, the 24-year old, who juggles Nike with his other sponsors Bose and Omega; says, ‘I don’t want a lot of sponsors. I want a few quality ones.’  suggesting that these relationships have become inevitably symbiotic.
Roger Federer front row at Fashion’s Night Out with Anna Wintour and Blake Lively (http://www.zimbio.com/)
Now a highly lucrative global industry that sits in the arena of advertising and industry, the relationship between athletes and big brands is absolutely necessary in any dialogue on sport and even fashion, with brands offering credibility and commercial value to an individual. This is crucial to the effectiveness of the entire business, McIlroy cites one of his personal and professional influences as Tennis champion Roger Federer, as a symbol of ‘grace and good taste’ . This no doubt connects with the values of the brands for which Federer endorses, such as Nike, Rolex and Louis Vuitton (Federer’s 2012 sport earnings of $7.7 million were dwarfed by the $45 million he received for sponsorship) . Given this, the values of the individual sportsman become imbued with those of the sporting brand and the necessary clarity of boundary is therefore distorted. Reflecting, in many ways, Nike’s original imperative in the Air Jordan collaboration, to ‘…erase all boundaries between the sponsor and the sponsored.’ 
- S. Elliott (2013). Losing a Step, Nike Seeks to Regain Its Edge. The New York Times. April 14. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/business/media/nike-once-cutting-edge-seeks-to-regain-its-brand-aura.html?pagewanted=all
- K. Crouse (2013). The Branding of Rory McIlroy. The New York Times. May 4. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/sports/golf/the-branding-of-rory-mcilroy.html?pagewanted=all
- Roger Feder’s 2012 profile on Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/profile/roger-federer/)
- N. Klein (2000). ‘No Logo’. p 51. London: Harper Collins