September 28, 2001 05:43 PM

Michael Jordan’s return to playing NBA basketball has failed to excite advertisers just yet, as many are holding out on the sidelines — waiting to see if the new Jordan is as good as the old one, reports Reuters. Media buyers and sports consultants said that Jordan’s decision to hit the court for the Washington Wizards, a team that he partly owns, should help jump-start the struggling team and perhaps attract some marginal fans to the sport. But they doubted that the sports legend, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, can compete with the current downbeat economy, where spending on advertising has plummeted this year as companies cut costs amid the business slowdown. “It’s a positive story, and we need positive stories right now,” said Neal Pilson of the TV-sports consulting company Pilson Communications. “But the problems right now are not ratings but the economy. I’m not sure if even Michael Jordan is big enough to turn the economy around.” Indeed, reports the news service, many advertisers who believed that the once-high-flying NBA was overpriced in its Jordan-esque heyday will feel the same way even after the 38-year-old superstar comes back, said Paul Schulman, president in the New York office of media buying firm Advanswers PHD. “It’ll certainly turn the heads of some advertisers toward the NBA,” said Schulman, whose clients include Energizer and the Gap, none of which advertise in the NBA. “But the economy is such and there is so little money out there that I don’t know if it’s going to matter immediately.”

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