Peter Moore, creator of Air Jordan sneakers, dies at 78
Mr. Moore operated a design studio in Portland in the late 1970s and had Nike, then a fledgling shoe company in Beaverton, Oregon, as a client. Six years later, he joined Nike as the brand’s first “creative director”.
He and another Nike executive, Rob Strasser, saw the marketability of basketball and in 1984 were instrumental in signing Michael Jordan, then starting his career with the Chicago Bulls, to a contract at long term with Nike.
Several people have taken credit for bringing Jordan into the business, but Mr. Moore and Strasser are the ones who devised a marketing strategy based around designing a pair of shoes specifically for the budding basketball star. . The idea of a “signature shoe” was considered revolutionary.
The original Air Jordans (known to aficionados as the Air Jordan 1) contained an air pocket in the sole and were made of soft leather in the Bulls colors of red, black and white. They went on sale in April 1985 for $65, before Jordan wore them in a game.
“I was designing the shoe with the idea that I needed a real basketball shoe that the best basketball player in the world could play in,” Mr. Moore told slamonline.com in 2018. “But I I also needed something that would be unique, never seen before.”
At the time, the NBA required players’ shoes to be either white or solid black (or, in the case of the Boston Celtics, green). After Jordan debuted his new multicolored shoes at an exhibition game in October 1985, they were banned by the NBA. Nike quickly ran an advertisement about the incident and young people camped in the streets to buy the new Air Jordans, which represented style, athletic grace and rebellion all at once.
“There’s no doubt that the fact that the shoes were banned helped sell the shoes,” Moore said in a documentary about the Air Jordans. “Kids like that stuff… ‘I’m wearing something I’m not supposed to wear.’ Perfect. Couldn’t be better.
Nike sent NBA commissioner David Stern a letter thanking him for the free marketing campaign, and the league quickly changed its rules. Shoe store chain Footlocker increased its order from around 5,000 pairs to 100,000, and within a year Nike had sold over a million pairs of Air Jordans.
As Jordan grew into one of the NBA’s preeminent stars, there was a certain mystique to everything about him, especially the shoes. Every year, Nike introduced a new design for the Air Jordan, incorporating lightweight materials and other features, and young people around the world flocked to buy them. Nike ran advertisements calling them “anti-gravity devices” and began using the catchy slogans “Wing It” and “Just Do It”.
The Air Jordan campaign also marked one of the first times a player in a team sport was marketed for their individual appeal.
“It seems so simple, so obvious,” Moore told slamonline.com. “But at the time, it honestly broke all of the operating rules of our industry. No one had taken a player, created shoes and apparel related to their style, and then thrown it all together once.
In 1987, Mr. Moore changed the Air Jordan logo from a basketball centered between a pair of wings to a silhouette of Jordan flying through the air with a basketball in his hand, arms and legs outstretched.
The “Jumpman” logo – based on a photograph for Life magazine – appears on all of Nike’s Jordan-branded products, from shoes to apparel to athletic gear. In 2021, the Jordan brand accounted for more than 10% of Nike’s annual revenue of $44.5 billion.
At Nike, Moore developed other marketing ideas, including posters featuring athletes including Jordan, basketball player Moses Malone and tennis star John McEnroe. They became so popular that some athletes demanded display clauses in their endorsement contracts with Nike.
In 1987, Mr. Moore and Strasser left Nike to start a sports marketing company, and soon they were consultants for Adidas, the venerable German sports shoe manufacturer. The two men then joined the company.
Mr. Moore, who became Adidas’ creative director and, for two years, its chairman, redesigned the company’s logo, turning its familiar three-stripe mark into a new mountain-like symbol. He and Strasser, who died in 1993, refocused Adidas on its history, which dates back to the 1920s, when its founder, Adi Dassler, became the first major designer of high-performance athletic shoes.
“The model was to go back to what Dassler had tried to do his whole life,” Mr Moore told business magazine Strategy+Business in 2015, “which was to make the best products for the athlete to compete in.”
Mr. Moore was also largely responsible for creating the Adidas Equipment (sometimes called EQT) line of performance gear and apparel. He also tapped into the company’s past by launching a successful line of retro-themed items called Adidas Originals. The company’s fortunes reversed and Adidas is now one of Nike’s main international competitors.
Peter Colin Moore was born on February 21, 1944 in Cleveland. Her father was a naval officer and her mother a housewife.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 1969 from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now part of CalArts). He worked in a California design studio before moving to Portland in the early 1970s.
He retired from Adidas in 1998 to focus on painting.
Survivors include his wife, the former Christine Hummel; three sons; a sister; a brother; and four granddaughters.
Last month, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon announced plans to write, direct and star in a film about how Jordan and Nike came together to form a sports marketing juggernaut.