In the sneaker world, it could be argued that the collaboration sneaker is king. While player exclusives and signature endorsements are powerful sellers, the collab models drive the most hype.
From artist collabs like Jordan x Travis Scott or Kanye West's Yeezy line with Adidas to designer partnerships like Nike x Off-White, there are many different types of collaborative efforts.
But one of the most unique is the partnership between Jordan Brand and the French Association football club Paris Saint-Germain, also known as PSG.
Understanding Relationship Between Football Club and Sponsor
To better understand what is so special about the PSG x Air Jordan relationship, we first need to discuss the relationship football clubs have with their athletic sponsors. In American sports, the individual leagues have deals in place with suppliers. For example, the NBA, NFL and MLB jerseys are all made by Nike. NHL sweaters are all made by Adidas. MLB caps are made by New Era. In European football, this is not the case. In the Premier League alone there are eight different kit manufacturers for the various clubs: adidas, Puma, Nike, Hummel, Castore, Macron, Kappa and Umbro. There are even more brands that supply teams in other leagues.
Also unique to soccer is that kit designs change every year. While it's true every team has a main colorway for their first choice kit, the pattern and design of that kit differs every year. For example, this year Manchester United's main red kit has a polo-style collar, while last season it did not. Add to that completely overhauled second, third and sometimes fourth choice kit options every season, and the fact that association football is the most watched sport in the world, it's easy to see that being a large football club's main athletic supplier is a big deal. Perhaps none of them more so than the deal in place at Paris Saint-Germain.
With Air Jordan, the Sky's Not the Limit for PSG, It's the Beginning
In 2016, Jordan Brand started branching out from being strictly a basketball and lifestyle brand. Michael Jordan is never one to be content and will always strive to grow his brand in the same way he strived for success on the court.
Their first foray outside of the basketball world was to sign the University of Michigan to the largest apparel deal ever for a university and put the Jumpman logo on the maize and blue football jerseys of the Wolverines. Four other schools quickly followed. Any sneakerhead will tell you that the Jumpman often trumps the Swoosh in terms of hype.
In 2016, the Jordan Brand entered into a partnership with world-renowned footballer Neymar. At the time, the young Brazilian was one of the hottest young players on the planet, winning trophy after trophy at FC Barcelona as part of the lauded MSN line (Messi, Suarez, Neymar). The initial outcome of the Jordan x Neymar project was a Jordan themed version of Nike's Hypervenom II soccer boot.
The NJR x Jordan Hypervenom II was a high-performance flyknit boot that took its colorway inspiration from the Black Cement Air Jordan 3. It included Neymar's Brazilian kit No. 10 on one shoe and Jordan's 23 on the other in an homage to the Jordan 5. Also released at that time was a limited colorway of the Air Jordan 5 Low. The Jordan 5 Retro Low "Neymar" is one of the only decent lows in the entire Jordan lineup, consisting on an entirely 3M upper and a black leather tongue, effectively flipping the original colorway. This is an important step in Jordan making their way into soccer, and it also laid the groundwork for their relationship with PSG, even if that was unknown at the time.
In 2017, Neymar was in the spotlight again, this time for being sold for a record 200 million Euros to Paris Saint-Germain. And a year later, in August 2018, Jordan Brand announced that they would be entering into an exclusive partnership with PSG to be an apparel supplier alongside parent company Nike. That means pullover hoodies, long sleeve t-shirts, tracksuits, fleece pants, fleece hoodies, the list goes on and on, all adorned with the PSG logo or even just "Paname" from the french phrase "Je suis de Paname" which means "I come from Paris."
Ici, C'est Paris
France was the center of the soccer world at this time, having just won the 2018 World Cup. Young star Kylian Mbappé was being hailed as one of the games best athletes, and he just so happened to play for his hometown club, Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG is easily the biggest club in France's top soccer flight Ligue 1. They were/are routinely present in the latter stages of Europe's premier club competition the Champion's League. Big name players for years had been playing for PSG, including Ronaldinho, Pauleta, Ibrahimovi? and even David Beckham. And now they had the next great young superstars in Neymar and Mbappé and a seemingly endless supply of money. It was only natural for Jordan Brand to be attracted to the club, especially since they already had a large presence in the French basketball scene with their Quai 54 tournament and collaborations with Parisian store Pigalle.
Welcome to the family.
Jordan x Paris Saint-Germain. pic.twitter.com/Vp3kpNWDDG
— Jordan (@Jumpman23) September 13, 2018
The first year saw the Jordan Brand logo on a stunning black and white second choice kit for the club, and more significantly, a large collection of consumer apparel. Hats, jackets, shirts, pants, you name it. If Jordan Brand made it, they made a PSG version. And they put those items on their biggest cultural stars.
Justin Timberlake wore a PSG bomber jacket during a concert of his in Paris.
Likewise, Travis Scott wore a mesh PSG x Jordan basketball style jersey at one of his.
It was hard to not see the collaboration in hype circles. And it was only natural that this would eventually lead to the PSG logo appearing on colorways of Air Jordan retros. The first was a black Air Jordan 1 Hi and Low with red stripes on the midsole, and at least one retro has followed every season since, typically in a similar colorway to the Jordan logo adorned PSG kit. There was Grey, Black and Infrared Air Jordan 6 in 2019, a White and Bordeaux Air Jordan 4 in 2020, a Jordan 7 and a Jordan 1 Zoom Comfort in 2021, and so far this year there has been a Air Jordan 1 Mid and a Jordan 5 Low that looks especially similar to the Neymar colorway.
Apart from the sheer magnitude of the deal, the PSG x Jordan Brand relationship is also exclusive, meaning Jordan Brand agreed that they would supply Paris Saint-Germain and only Paris Saint-Germain in the soccer universe for the length of the original deal. The deal was set to expire in 2021 and was extended to 2022. There has been no official word of the deal being extended again, but the club just revealed their second choice away kit for this season and it is once again sporting the Jumpman logo.
PSG drop their new Jordan away kit ? pic.twitter.com/KbcUbun5IX
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 19, 2022
Wether the exclusive deal continues remains to be seen. It would only make sense for Jordan Brand to want to expand their roster of major soccer clubs, and make appearances in the other major leagues. While I am certain that will happen, and likely happen soon, it will be hard to top the sheer cultural force the Jordan Paris Saint-Germain relationship has been, and not just at the Parc des Princes, but across the globe. "Ici c'est Paris."
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