Air: B2B Marketing Lessons from Nike’s Creation of the Air Jordan with Martha Aviles, VP of Marketing at Gigster

In this episode, we’re talking with Martha about what leveraging referral programs looks like, how to break rules to create exclusive and unique content, and why there is always inherent risk in creating something truly remarkable.

Episode Summary

Fans of your brand are one step away from becoming advocates for your company. Help them cross that line by sweetening the deal.

Because if you can get fans to talk about why they love doing business with you, it’s the most effective way to do marketing; word of mouth is an extremely powerful tool proven to make sales. According to a Nielsen report, “92% of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”

And when you can offer a referral program for customers, it incentivizes their brand advocacy. Our guest today, VP of Marketing at Gigster, Martha Aviles, says that word of mouth marketing paired with a referral program leads to an almost 100% close rate.

So in this episode, we’re talking with Martha about what leveraging referral programs looks like, how to break rules to create exclusive and unique content, and why there is always inherent risk in creating something truly remarkable.

About our guest, Martha Aviles

Martha Aviles is VP of Marketing at Austin-based Gigster, a firm that accelerates the delivery of digital transformation applications giving companies the agility to thrive in a software-defined world. With 20+ years of high-tech marketing experience in SaaS, semiconductor, networking, and network security at start-ups, private, and public companies, she is a fierce marketing leader. Martha has a gift for building and growing high-performance marketing teams, corporate brands, and inspiring thought leadership. Her extensive experience includes lead generation, integrated marketing, product marketing, digital marketing, public relations, brand management, analyst relations, and crisis communications. In addition, she has successfully led through 20+ mergers and acquisitions, including managing several integration and acquisition exits. Prior to joining Gigster, she was VP of Marketing at Austin-based Talroo, and also held senior leadership roles in marketing at RigUp (now Workrise) and Enverus - both of which have reached Unicorn status in Austin. Martha is an MBA graduate from the University of Texas and holds a BBA from Texas A&M University. Connect with her on LinkedIn at

About Gigster

Gigster is a smart software development service that combines top developers, designers and product managers with artificial intelligence to build your project. Have your software reliably delivered at twice the speed, with end-to-end management and visibility.

About Air

Air is a sports drama based on the true story about Nike’s deal with Michael Jordan to create Air Jordans, the line of sneakers that is super popular today. In 1984, Nike was about to shut down its failing basketball shoe division. So in a last ditch effort, Nike’s basketball talent scout, Sonny Vaccaro, was sent to find a new spokesperson for Nike basketball sneakers. He advocated for the unlikely pick, rookie Michael Jordan, even though Jordan’s preferred brands were Adidas and Converse, and he would have n been too expensive for their budget. Nevertheless, the deal came through with the stipulation that Jordan would get a cut of every Air Jordan sold, and the Air Jordan was born. In its first year, the sneakers far exceeded expected sales of $3 million, and brought in $162 million.

The movie was directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery, and stars Damion Young as Michael Jordan, Viola Davis as his mother, Matt Damon as talent scout Sonny Vaccaro, and Ben Affleck as Nike co-founder and chief executive Phil Knight. It also stars Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, and Marlon Wayans, among others. It’s the first movie from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s new venture, a production company called Artist’s Equity. It’s an artist-led studio that will give creators a cut of the profit from projects. So Air was a conscious choice as their first film, as it reflected the ideal of giving a cut to the talent.

Key Takeaways

What B2B Companies Can Learn From Air:

  • It pays to do partner marketing. Leveraging partner marketing and offering incentives to your partners or brand advocates increases sales. Martha says, “There are some customers who will be advocates for you, and they're really, really happy with your services, and typically, birds of a feather flock together. If they recommend you, you give them a piece of the action. Things like that work. And those deals are typically almost a 100 percent close rate. It always pays exponentially.” Find customers who are willing to advocate for your brand and offer them a partner deal.
  • Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep giving it your all no matter how long you’ve been in the business. Nike failed to do this when pitching an endorsement deal to Steph Curry in 2013, mispronouncing Steph’s name and leaving another athlete’s name on the PowerPoint deck when presenting. Needless to say they lost the deal because of their sloppiness in what ESPN has called “the worst endorsement pitch ever.” So tune in to what’s going on in your industry, experiment with new marketing techniques, and always always pay attention to the details.
  • Break the rules. Don’t follow trends or do what all the other B2B brands are doing because you think you’ll be taken “seriously.” Instead, tune in to your brand values and create evergreen content. Martha says, “At the time, the NBA had a stipulation that the shoes had to be [mostly] white…Nike paid all of the fines for Michael Jordan to wear these red and black Jordans, which is how they launched. Before, Converse and Adidas were the shoe to wear and Nike's were like your dad's shoe, nobody wanted to wear those. But they brought in that cool factor…And then everybody wanted the shoe and they built the demand.” Be bold enough to break the rules and create demand for your unique content.

*”There's so many times where we have to innovate or we have to figure something out when your back's up against the wall, but [Nike] knew they didn't really have anything to lose. That's how they were approaching it, because they were shutting down this division. It was either like, ‘We're not going to have basketball shoes,’ or ‘We're going to get Michael Jordan,’ you know? And they made the right bet, but it was a big bet.” - Martha Aviles

“If you're telling any type of marketing story, being able to start at the beginning with that uncertainty, with painting the picture in the audience's mind that this might not work, that this crazy thing might not happen…getting into the person's headspace of where they were in that moment, how they felt in that moment, is so important to the story.” - Ian Faison

Episode Highlights


Watch Air

Connect with Martha on LinkedIn

Learn more about Gigster

About Remarkable!

Remarkable! is created by the team at Caspian Studios, the premier B2B Podcast-as-a-Service company. Caspian creates both nonfiction and fiction series for B2B companies. If you want a fiction series check out our new offering - The Business Thriller - Hollywood style storytelling for B2B. Learn more at

In today’s episode, you heard from Ian Faison (CEO of Caspian Studios) and Meredith Gooderham (Senior Producer). Remarkable was produced this week by Jess Avellino, mixed by Scott Goodrich, and our theme song is “Solomon” by FALAK.

Create something remarkable. Rise above the noise.