Product placement is no longer just a function of plunking down a Starbucks mug on the set of MSNBC’s Morning Joe or handing Seinfeld’s Kramer some Junior Mints.

That’s so 1.0, yo.

Welcome to Product Placement Umpteen.0, yo.

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:


Game, Set, Product Match for Nike

Michael Jordan’s appearance at Roger Federer‘s first-round match at the U.S. Open wasn’t a simple case of one sports legend cheering on another

Instead, it was a carefully arranged marketing grand slam for sponsor Nike Inc. —a product- placement coup that pulled in both stars and piqued the interest of the ESPN broadcast team.

The point of Mr. Jordan’s presence at the match, coordinated by Nike executives, was to promote a new limited edition of Mr. Federer’s line of tennis shoes. The white and cement-patterned NikeCourt Zoom Vapor AJ3’s feature Air Jordan styling and logos. Mr. Federer wore them in Tuesday’s match, and they went on sale Wednesday.


Here’s a taste of ESPN’s shoe-licking:



It’s what Nike calls “demand creation” and in this case it worked, according to the Journal report: “At the Nike Lab store in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, the Zoom Vapor AJ3s sold out within about an hour Wednesday, a store employee who answered the phone said.”

That’s a great epitaph for the traditional belief that you have a right to know when you’re being advertised to.



John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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