Gentry Humphrey: Brand Jordan's Hip-Hop Connection

While everyone knows that the Jordan Brand Classic just recently took over New York City’s Madison Square Garden, what you might not know is how the company works hand in hand with Hip-Hop culture to expand the brand across the world. caught up with the company’s head of international, Gentry Humphrey, on the floor of the Garden alongside the action to get the global story on the line that many in Hip-Hop hold sacred.

“I’ve been with this company quite a while, “ explained Humphrey, “and have seen it go from one that earned a couple hundred million a year to now being a billion dollar a year company. And while our international sales may only be 1% of that figure; it’s still a very important and emerging part of our business.” The company has reaped a good amount of that growing success thanks to the migration of Hip-Hop worldwide.

Since basketball and Hip-Hop lifestyle go hand in hand, Humphrey has been savvy in weaving and nurturing that synergy through the various territories.

“For us, hip hop has always been a large part of what we do. We win by bringing together that dynamic energy of hip hop lifestyle combined with creating live events that give back various communities in cities worldwide. For example, our events in Paris, France just keep getting bigger. Last year we brought (recording artist) Usher to perform, had various basketball clinics and more. It’s like a festival or huge party.” 

Humphrey is a strong believer in creating strong, positive emotion surrounding a brand and allowing that to organically helps to drive sales in many ways beyond simple traditional ads. “The (target demo) sees us come in the community, sees us spend time and money and from that can gather that we care. We’ve also reached out in special ways in areas in Brazil to help young people in favellas there experience things they never would and help to inspire and encourage them. That’s what we’re about.”

But the brand could have an even tighter game if a few simple distribution and media food chain hurdles could be overcome. Humphrey concedes that certainly basketball in most other countries outside of the US will not soon supercede the popularity of soccer or even cricket though basketball is a sport that is growing. But he also noted that the actual media outlets available to give international basketball fans their fix and reinforce the fan culture could clearly be expanded; and therefore serve a variety of interests. This is also a concern voiced by the music industry, is the lack of actual physical retail space through which to sell.

But even given the above noted hurdles and certainly the current state of the economy, the Jordan Brand notes that their sales have not declined abroad. “Certainly the Hip-Hop -related consumer abroad is a lot like the one right here in the U.S. They are still very interested in setting trends and being first so our product is still an important buy for them,” says Humphrey. And what of the threat of counterfeit product? 

“Actually, counterfeit product has even helped the Jordan Brand because the consumer has become even more and more savvy about the details which make the item authentic; and they definitely want the status that comes with the authentic item, not the counterfeit..”

So, where’s the most anticipation for Jordan Brand flourish in the near future? “While the product is sold in numerous territories around the world, the biggest projections for us right now are Canada, Korea, Japan and Mexico. We’re really excited about our plans for these countries,” explained Humphrey.

But the sky could just be the limit for an ambitious company looking to do it even bigger in 2010 and beyond.