Did you know before Deion Sanders posed as Leon Sandcastle, Michael Jordan’s alias, Johnny Kilroy, existed? In an effort to further the Jordan brand following his 1993 retirement, Nike took the clever approach of developing the fictional character, Johnny Kilroy. Although, in reality, MJ traded his rubber soles in for cleats to be worn on the baseball diamond, Nike planted the idea that he wasn’t truly finished with the game of basketball. Instead, he faked his retirement and continued playing as Kilroy. The spot featured Steve Martin as a lead investigative reporter who was determined to expose the truth. And in the end, with the help of Alonzo Mourning and Marv Albert, Steve Martin concluded that the Kilroy’s uncanny physical resemblance and athletic abilities, to that of Jordan’s, confirmed his suspicions. Johnny Kilroy was in fact a disguised Michael Jordan.
Watch the Johnny Kilroy spot below and compare it to the Deion Sanders version which aired during last night’s Super Bowl.
Although the NFL Network borrowed this idea from Nike, it’s still a great ad. Twenty years ago, Nike didn’t have the benefit of social media to truly blow this idea out, but the NFL Network does and I expect them to fully capitalize.
Immediately following the debut of the spot, Leon Sandcastle began tweeting from his official account. Less than 12 hours later and Sandcastle already has over 15K followers, as well as an Instagram account with over 600 followers. Can you say winning?
I’m very interested in seeing how they continue to scale this idea and keep the momentum going as we approach the NFL Draft. I’m sure the NFL and the NFL Network don’t want to steer too much attention away from real draft prospects and their big moment, but while we have some down time, it’ll be fun to follow the antics of Sandcastle.
There are only a handful of former greats who are relevant, cocky, and bold enough to pull off a staged comeback while using a false identity, and Primetime is one of those guys. Nicely done, NFL Network.
What did you think of Leon Sandcastle? And after seeing the original ad with Michael Jordan as Johnny Kilroy, does that change how you feel about Deion’s ad?