When it comes to the power of a star brand, it's clear that wattage will diminish over time.
That's what basketball legend Michael Jordan appears to be learning this week in a Chicago courtroom, where a civil trial will examine the value of his brand and determine whether a grocery chain harmed that value by selling steaks through a magazine ad that featured his image. Jordan is suing the chain, the Safeway-owned Dominick's, for more than $5 million.
The 2009 print ad, which ran in a commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated, invoked Jordan's name and proclaimed, "You are a cut above." An attached coupon offered $2 off a Dominick's steak, which may have been one of the least effective advertisements ever, given that the Chicago Tribune reports that only two people redeemed the coupon. Jordan has taken issue with the unapproved use of his name, with his attorney noting that the case is about the right to control the basketball star's identity.
But Jordan's identity isn't causing any sort of hubbub at the courthouse this week. To begin with, the judge denied his request to use a special security tunnel to enter the courthouse, requiring him to enter through the front doors, just like everybody else, The Associated Press reported.
When prospective jurors were asked to raise their hands if any of them held up Jordan as "an idol or personal hero," not a hand was lifted. One selected juror told Jordan, "I'm not a basketball fan, sorry!," the Chicago Tribune noted.
To be fair, Jordan didn't appear overly impressed by the courtroom proceedings, reportedly yawning at several points and leaning back in his chair to read documents.
Because another judge ruled that Dominick's did use Jordan's identity without permission, the current hearing will decide on damages. Opening arguments are slated to begin today.
Even if Jordan wins damages in the case, the amount is likely to be paltry compared with his overall net worth, pegged at $1 billion by Forbes. Thanks to his brand, which covers Nike shoes and gear, Jordan earned $100 million last year, more than he earned during 15 years on the court, the magazine noted.
A spokesman for Safeway said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.