top of page


Released 2023. Director: Ben Affleck

THE AIR JORDAN BRAND IS WORTH a staggering $4 billion a year for Nike. How did the deal with Michael Jordan come about? The way Ben Affleck tells it, it’s a tale of the underdog overcoming obstacles to rewrite the rules of sports marketing. You see how the now iconic brand evolves from a risky idea to a tangible product. You see how visionary thinking, bullish pushiness and gentle but firm negotiations lead to immense profits.

It’s about making deals. It’s about athletes getting a share of the profits for using their name. There are some mould-breaking precedents in the creation of Air Jordan and the movie lays out the process in a snazzy and engaging way.

For Nike, the hard part is not making the shoes, the hard part is making them Michael Jordan’s shoes. As a rising star in basketball, Jordan is courted by the top names in the sports business. Nike, not yet the industry leader in 1984, faces stiff competition from Converse and Adidas, both brands more established and favoured by Jordan.

Sonny Vaccaro, working as a talent scout for Nike, is so sure of Jordan’s long-term potential he argues to dump all their budget on one player, even before Jordan has played a single NBA game. Everyone thinks he’s nuts, including Nike founder Phil Knight, who eventually acquiesces to Sonny’s instincts.

Having wrangled the skeptical support of the Nike executives, Sonny also has to convince Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris, who has the final say to seal or break the deal.

Much of the movie could’ve been tedious and flat. Imagine a group of men planning and arguing about strategy and proposals, which doesn’t scream cinematic excitement. For a movie involving one of the greatest basketball stars ever lived, there’s next to no ball action. Credit to the cast for bringing life to Alex Convery’s rather mundane script and engaging us in their journey of crunching numbers, analysing statistics and exchanging corporate jargons.

Matt Damon has an easy charisma and credibility in his approach, the ability to shed his image and make us believe in the ordinariness of his character. He makes Sonny totally legit as an overweight workaholic who buys his food from 7-Eleven and eats, sleeps and dreams basketball. Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis all do good work, finding their positions in the ensemble and playing to their strength like a tightly organised team going for a slam dunk.

If you’re expecting to see Michael Jordan or relive some of his court action you’d be disappointed. Air is not about Michael Jordan, who is hardly seen or heard, and to the movie’s discredit, we never find out his personal thoughts about the deal. Instead, Air is a spotlight on Sonny Vaccaro and the entire movie builds to his triumphant speech in the boardroom about how “a shoe is just a shoe until somebody steps into it, then it has meaning.” Glory hallelujah.

The movie has a feel-good strain sewn into the storytelling, right up to its congratulatory ending telling us how successful each of these people has become, and the enormous amount of money they’ve made. What takes the shine off is the timing.

Air comes out at a time when every single day the news reminds us about economic gloom around the world. High inflation, rising interest rates, mortgage stress, rental squeeze, cost-of-living crisis, families tightening their belts. In a more economically vibrant climate a movie like Air would be an inspiration in the commercialisation of a name, an image, a personality. This moment in history is perhaps not the best time to applaud the genius of footwear marketing.

Click image above to view trailer. New window will open.


bottom of page