What is this?
Photograph of George “The Iceman” Gervin in a space filled with large ice cubes, holding a silver basketball in each hand, wearing a silver tracksuit with the word: ‘ICE’ embroidered on the chest. He wears white Nike sneakers. In lower margin: ICEMAN; lower left of photograph: NIKE logo.
Why is this important?
Nike was founded as Blue Ribbon Sports, an importer of Japanese running shoes, in 1964, but by the early 1970s began manufacturing its own goods and in 1978, officially changed its name to Nike. Image making was a key component of Nike marketing, which aimed to speak directly to athletes, rather than retailers or investors. In the late 1970s, Nike's then–advertising agency, John Brown & Partners, began developing so-called "personality posters," which captured the unique personalities of celebrity athletes by showcasing them in unusual settings and poses. "Iceman," featuring NBA scoring champion George Gervin, was one of the first such posters. Gervin's nickname, referencing his smooth on-court composure, is literalized as he sits on a throne of ice in a silvery-blue track suit labeled "ICE,” holding two icy-blue basketballs, on an icy court. The ad agency wanted consumers to see the "specialness" of each athlete, which the consumers were meant to also see in themselves. The signature Nike Swoosh, designed both to convey movement and be visible from afar, is seen on Gervin's shoes, as well as in the lower right of the poster, above large, block letters reading “ICEMAN,” driving the visual elements home in text.