Can Michael Jordan make NASCAR cool?


These few months have been unusually hectic for Paul Sparrow, general manager of consumer products at NASCAR. Ever since Michael Jordan entered the sport as a part-owner of 23XI Racing, Sparrow’s phone has been ringing with people clamoring for one thing: merch.

“I have taken many calls each day to ask myself, ‘When is the product coming? When does the product arrive? Sparrow said.

In December, 23XI finally gave fans what they wanted, announcing on Twitter that it had released its first batch of shirts and hoodies. Less than five minutes later, the inventory was exhausted.


“The future for them is just incredibly bright,” says Sparrow, who notes that the success of the product drop has been a clear indication of 23XI’s potential not only as a racing team, but as a brand. bigger.

Jordan’s new initiative creates something like a perfect storm for NASCAR merchandise: The manager of the most popular sneaker line of all time is embarking on a new venture. The team added to its appeal by signing Bubba Wallace, one of the sport’s brightest stars and currently the only black NASCAR driver. Wallace’s social activism and support for Black Lives Matter last year made national headlines, earning him a whole new group of fans beyond the usual NASCAR crowd.

Bubba Wallace swinging a mask that should be familiar to Air Jordan fans.

Sean Gardner

According to Sparrow, the combination of Jordan and Wallace has led to a resurgence of interest in NASCAR, attracting new fans and demographics – fans who, perhaps unlike traditional NASCAR enthusiasts, “lead with fashion.” . As a result, Sparrow says 23XI will undoubtedly take a forward-thinking approach in the coming months.

Car culture and style, after all, have gone hand in hand for decades, dating back to Steve McQueen in the late 1960s. But in modern times, motorsport fashion has become a relatively dominated niche market by PUMA. , who officially partnered with Formula 1 teams in the early 2000s to produce a full line of streetwear for top brands like Ferrari and Mercedes, including the Speedcat sneaker collection. While certainly popular with racing enthusiasts, PUMA’s gear is probably foreign territory for most Jordan fans.

“None of the big sports brands were active in motorsport, and we have always tried to do things differently,” says Anja Egger, Head of Motorsport Marketing Business Unit at PUMA. “Nowadays there is a much bigger mix between the track – the design language of motorsport – merging with streetwear, the cut lines being more fashionable, the graphics more appealing and appealing to an audience. younger.



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