Nike's (NYSE:NKE) grand spokesman Michael Jordan recently bolted out of a scheduled appearance in Taiwan as quickly as he used to drive to the hoop for the Chicago Bulls.

Devoted Jordan fans snapped up Nike merchandise and won a drawing to spend time with one of the most celebrated athletes of all time. What they got was a 90-second flash and a chip on their shoulders from the public relations nightmare. Jordan's approval rating has finally done the impossible: It has dipped below his Birmingham Barons batting average.

Damage control is the new name of the game in Taiwan, as Nike scrambles to keep its faithful customers' attention. The company hopes that Jordan posters and throwback sneakers will keep unhappy fans from fleeing to competitors Adidas, Reebok (NYSE:RBK), K-Swiss (NASDAQ:KSWS), and Puma.

With basketball truly becoming an international phenomenon, American stars (even retired ones such as Jordan) have become ambassadors for the game. Many American players are skipping the summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, over security concerns. So it has become even more important for shoe companies such as Nike to lean on the past to generate future sales.

All of this commotion is unlikely to hurt Jordan's long-term marketability, but it does highlight the fine line companies must walk in the promotion game. So many retail outlets, like Foot Locker (NYSE:FL), Sports Authority (NYSE:TSA), and Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS), rely on star athletes to help sell their products that when it goes wrong, it can hurt.

So, what will all of this Asian tumult do to Nike's financial performance and stock? In the final analysis, it will probably have little impact on the company's share price or its financials. But with many of our basketball stars staying home from the Olympics, the visibility of these shoe companies' star marketers will be lessened a great deal this summer. This will force advertisers to switch to Plan B, which will probably be an old-school approach featuring endearing retired players like Jordan.

Nike's chief competitor, Reebok, is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor holding. Sign up for six months risk-free to learn more.

Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and now concentrates his writing on more fictional characters. He has no stake in any firm mentioned above.