Sports clothes maker Champion added a third factory shift to make No. 45 jerseys. Nike rushed to have No. 45 hats printed. Sports card marketers scrambled to slip No. 45 into their NBA players series.
The number that has long conjured up visions of army automatic pistols, hit record singles and a potent malt liquor brew has a new ambassador.
Michael Jordan took 45 for his return to the Chicago Bulls last Sunday. In doing so, the athletic superstar has created another potentially lucrative niche in the multibillion-dollar world of sports marketing.
“It gives you a chance to do everything you’ve done over again,” said Brian Murphy, publisher of Sports Marketing Letter.
In ending nearly 1 1/2 years in retirement from the NBA, Jordan left his old No. 23 hanging from the rafters at the Bulls’ home arena. That was the number he wore for his first nine years with the Bulls, leading them to three consecutive NBA championships.
Jordan has said he left 23 in retirement because it was the last one his father saw him wear. His father was murdered in the summer of 1993, and Jordan retired from the NBA a few months later.
No. 45 is what Jordan wore in his year-plus stint in baseball’s minor leagues, where the number was almost an irrelevant detail.
But Jordan’s switch back to basketball, which created worldwide front-page news, also generated an unexpected boon for companies that make merchandise tied to him.
NBA-licensed goods generated $2.8 billion in retail sales in the year ended July 31 and the league expects sales to exceed $3 billion this year.