September 4, 2009: Springfield, Mass. will be the center of the basketball universe next week when the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame holds its 2009 induction ceremonies. The annual event usually attracts lots of attention and some marketing support, but none quite as equal to this year as the Class of 2009, which is led by Michael Jordan and also includes hoops luminaries John Stockton, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and C. Vivan Stringer.
Nike has already funded a special section at the Hall of Fame to honor Jordan, the player who put the athletic shoe and apparel company on the map, to coincide with his induction on Sept. 11. Nike's Jordan Brand is getting into the game on Sept. 5 with a “Hall of Fame Pack,” which will include new variations of the Air Jordan ), Air Jordan 2K9 and Air Jordan 6 (Six Rings). Key stats from Jordan’s NBA career are printed on the upper section of each shoe, and the AJ6 specifically highlights the half-dozen NBA titles he won as a member of the Chicago Bulls. (MSRP ranges from $125-200.)
NBA.com will unveil a special mini-site on Sept. 4 featuring timelines detailing the careers of all the inductees and commentary from TNT NBA announcers Ernie Johnson, Marv Albert, Doug Collins, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley, as well as retrospectives from NBA.com writers.
NBA TV will dedicate programming to each inductee next week, including exclusive 30-minute premiere specials produced by NBA Entertainment. Sept. 7 will highlight the Utah Jazz player/coach duo of Stockton and Sloan; Sept. 8 will feature San Antonio Spurs Robinson; and Sept. 9-10 will be dedicated to Jordan.
In June, Nike launched a Web-based marketing campaign starring the fictitious LeRoy Smith (played by comedian Charlie Murphy), the "man who motivated Michael Jordan." According to Smith, "In tenth grade, I beat out MJ for the last spot on our varsity basketball team, igniting a fire that inspired him to greatness." Fictional products include posters and wallpaper with such LeRoy Smith words to live by as "There are two 'I's' in motivation" and "Dribble with one eye always looking into the future."
Also among his still-active marketing deals, Gatorade released limited-edition packages honoring Jordan's career, complete with marketing support.
The ceremony, usually held at the Hall of Fame, which can accommodate about 1,200 people, has been moved to Symphony Hall, which underwent a $1 million improvement and now seats more than 2,600.
Earlier on Sept. 11, the inductees will be making at stop at the MassMutual Center for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 Enshrinement Pep Rally, which is being presented by Mohegan Sun, MassMutual Financial Group and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Fans will also be able to test out the EA Sports' NBA Live 10 videogame at the EA Live Lounge. The game will not be released until Oct. 6.
But not everyone is happy with the marketing, in particular Brand Jordan's "Hall of Fame Pack." SportsFuzion, a Massachusetts-based sportswear company that said it has owned the exclusive worldwide rights to the Hall of Fame's trade names, logos, trademarks, designs, and photos for use in sportswear since 2006, in June filed a lawsuit against Nike and the Basketball Hall of Fame. SportsFuzion said that Nike and the Hall of Fame "allegedly conspired to eliminate SportsFuzion from the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of sportswear related to Jordan's induction on Sept. 11."
According to the company, the lawsuit "will move forward after a September 9, 2009 hearing after which United States District Judge William G. Young will set a discovery schedule in the case." SportsFuzion said that the Hall of Fame's attorneys recently provided SportsFuzion with a letter which claimed that the "Leroy Smith marketing/advertising campaign does not involve the promotion of the sale of shoes and/or other apparel in any respect [and] would not create any potential conflict with any rights that might be held by SportsFuzion."