Amazon Studios released “Air” in the theaters. Their second movie to be exclusively shown in the theaters since “Late Night” in 2019. Keep in mind that “Air” isn’t about basketball in general or Michael Jordan in particular. This movie is about the marketing of a new basketball shoe that turned the sports industry upside down. If you’re not a marketing wonk, you might want to skip this movie.
“Air” opens with a montage of clips, TV ads and stills from the 1980s. Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, is a talent scout for the Nike basketball shoe division. He’s divorced, overweight, stuck in his job, and on the verge of a midlife crisis.
Sonny has a $250,000 budget to promote three rookie basketball players from the 1984 NBA draft. He doesn’t like any of the players except for Michael Jordan. Who is a big Adidas fan, doesn’t like Nike, and too expensive for Sonny’s three-player budget. His boss, marketing VP Rob Strasser, played by Jason Bateman, pushes back on trying to get Michael.
Sonny goes to CEO Phil Knight, played by Ben Affleck, to double the budget to $500,000. Phil denies the request since the basketball division was losing money.
Sonny wants to spend the entire $250,000 budget on Michael Jordan. Focusing on one rookie player was unheard of in the industry. He gambles his career—and the entire basketball division—on getting Michael.
Sonny flies out to North Carolina to speak to Jordan’s mother, Delores, played by Viola Davis. He sets up her expectations on what to expect from the meetings at the other shoe companies.
- Adidas, A.K.A., the Germans, will be wearing gold Rolex watches.
- Converse will have four people with four different opinions about her son.
The Jordan family have their meetings with the other shoe companies. Confirming Sonny’s expectations on what would happen at each meeting. The family scheduled a Monday morning meeting with Nike.
Shoe designer Peter Moore, played by Matthew Maher, spends the weekend designing a new basketball shoe. Sonny presents the “Air Jordan” to the family and gives a heart-stirring speech about Michael’s future. An archival montage of Michael’s career flashes on the screen.
Sonny receives a call that Adidas would match the $250,000 budget and add a Mercedes Benz 380SL to seal the deal. He gets a call from Dolores that her son would sign up with Nike with one provision. Her son gets a percentage of each shoe sale.
Sonny believes that would be a deal breaker since the industry doesn’t work that way. He tells Phil the bad news and walks away disappointed. Phil tells him to get the deal done.
In the epilogue that follows, Nike made billions from the new shoe and Michael Jordan earns $400 million per year in passive income.
My only complaint about “Air” was the volume level for the 1980s soundtrack being too low. Most movies blast the soundtrack front and center, making it easy to identify the songs. I didn’t know “Air” had a soundtrack until I caught the lyrics for Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” in the background. Considering how hard the 1980s got pushed at the beginning, the soundtrack got buried for the rest of the movie.