Digital Revolution: 6 Lessons from Air,The Story of the Great Leap

If you still don’t understand the potential of digital revolution, marketing in general and digital marketing in particular, I recommend you watch ‘Air – The Story of the Great Leap’.
The film gives us a compelling, enlightening and true American story that can be a source of great inspiration.

My name is Giancarlo De Leonardo and after more than 20 years of experience in the hotel and restaurant industry, I am now working in the field of technological innovation and digital marketing applied to the hospitality. The digital revolution of the last 20 years caught me unprepared when I was a manager and entrepreneur in the hospitality sector and at a certain point I stopped and started to dedicate myself full time to how to develop additional revenues directly attributable to digital marketing activities.

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What the film teaches us

On the other hand, it seems obvious to point out that we all spend many hours online with smartphones in hand, so if you want to understand what we can do to intercept that, follow my blog and you won’t regret it.

But let’s get back to the film, which is inspired by the story of Nike and a young Michael Jordan who, at the beginning of his career, wanted to sign a sponsorship deal with one of the most famous companies of the time, which were Adidas or Converse.

In 1984, Nike, which was just starting to make a name for itself in the United States, turned its marketing approach on its head and put its entire budget behind the young rookie who had never played in the NBA. Jordan himself managed to get a contract tied to a percentage of all sales of products bearing his name, something that had never happened before.

Defying the odds, Nike has grown into the colossus it is today, and in 2003 it incorporated Converse.

Against all odds, Nike has become the colossus it is today. In 2003, it acquired Converse.
And with over $1.5 billion in endorsements to date, Michael Jordan is still the highest-paid sportsman ever!

Let’s se the lessons from this film that enlightened hoteliers and restaurateurs should learn.

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The 6 lessons of the film

1st lesson: Marketing is the engine of the business

In the hospitality world, entrepreneurs and managers often neglect digital marketing activities. Or they delegate them to unqualified staff. They only think about the cost, not the value it can generate.
It’s time for hoteliers and restaurateurs to turn this mindset on its head and realise that they need to think differently to make their businesses more successful.

The concept is simple: invest in the achievement of clear objectives from the outset which are commensurate with the investment.
And, most importantly, invest with professionals who have a commitment to results.

This is the way to implement an integrated, economically sustainable digital marketing plan in hotels and restaurants. This can generate additional turnover that is commensurate with the investment made.

2nd lesson: you don’t have to be rich to do marketing!

Nike was born thanks to the vision of two founders, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, who had no capital to invest.
They risked bankruptcy for many years. But the belief that they would succeed was so strong that it allowed them to overcome every obstacle.

Creating memorable businesses means being curious, creative and passionate about what you do. Above all, it means never giving up. It’s not about having a lot of money. It’s about having that positive obsession that drives you to overcome any obstacle.

Investing in digital marketing means generating revenue. You can add it to the revenue you already have. Don’t ask how much it’s going to cost, ask how much it’s going to make you and make sure there’s a stake in the results when you’re in front of a marketing agency.

Remember: don’t rush! Always do a 12-month plan. Results come with time.

Lesson 3: Stay ahead to gain a competitive edge

Experimenting and going against the grain means staying ahead of the curve and gaining a competitive advantage that competitors will find difficult to match.
Nike’s success with Jordan revolutionized the sports industry. It changed the way sports are marketed forever. Fear of failure is normal and everyone has it. But it doesn’t change the fact that you have to think outside the box and challenge industry beliefs. It is a lesson that, in my opinion, can also be applicable to the hospitality industry.

Today, the hotel and restaurant industry is at a turning point in its history. Many companies continue to operate with the mindset and methods of the past. However, the digital revolution has radically changed the rules of the game. It is time to rethink marketing strategies and adopt new approaches to reach out to customers and generate additional revenue that can be directly attributed to digital marketing activities.

4th lesson: be adaptable

It’s no longer the big fish eating the little fish. It’s the faster fish eating the slower fish. Do you want to end up like Blockbuster or Kodak? They were the undisputed leaders in their industry and lost their leadership position within a few years.

You have to be able to adapt.

Nike recognised that basketball was changing and that the rules of sports marketing had to change when it decided to sponsor Jordan.

Similarly, driven by digitalisation and changing consumer habits, the hospitality sector is going through a period of profound change. To remain competitive, it is necessary to adapt to these new dynamics.

There are huge opportunities to reach and engage customers through digital marketing. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok allow you to interact directly with your customers and build long-lasting relationships with them. You can showcase your products and services and communicate your brand values and personality through content marketing, such as blogs and videos. You can increase brand visibility and attract new customers through search engine optimisation (SEO) and online advertising.

You can use digital marketing to create a unique and compelling narrative around your brand, as Nike did with Jordan. This can include stories of happy customers, interviews with staff, a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel or restaurant, and much more. These stories can then be shared across a variety of digital channels to reach a wider audience and build an emotional connection with your customers.

You can also experiment with new business models through digital marketing. For example, there could be online reservations for all restaurants, tailored home delivery services or the creation of unique virtual experiences for customers. These innovations can create new revenue streams. They can also help diversify the business.

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5th Lesson: Always think big

The value of boldness is another lesson from ‘Air – The Story of the Great Leap’. Nike dared to challenge the status quo. It had the courage to invest in an unconventional idea.

Similarly, to experiment with new digital marketing strategies and adopt new technological tools, restaurateurs and hoteliers need to have the courage. For example, you need a digital dream team to develop an integrated digital marketing plan.

It is too expensive for a hotel or restaurant to hire all the necessary professionals. What is the solution? Experimenting with new forms of collaboration with partners committed to the objectives to be achieved. In this way, you can also update the professional skills of those in the company who do not have the opportunity to see what is happening outside.

6th lesson: never stop and chase innovation

Finally, the film is a reminder of the importance of innovation. Nike has not only innovated in what it makes, but also in how it markets and sells.

Innovation is key to staying competitive in an ever-changing industry like hospitality. This can be the implementation of new reservation management software, the use of technologies such as virtual reality or artificial intelligence to improve the customer experience, or the creation of new dishes or services to differentiate from the competition.


In conclusion, there are valuable lessons to be learned about how to take a hotel or restaurant into the future from ‘Air – The Story of the Great Leap’.

Restaurateurs and hoteliers have the opportunity to revolutionise their industry by embracing digital marketing, just as Nike revolutionised the sports industry by sponsoring Michael Jordan. It’s not just about increasing revenue. It’s about building a stronger brand and creating memorable experiences for customers.

So it is time to take the ‘big leap’ into the digital world, my fellow hoteliers and restaurateurs. Don’t be afraid. Experiment, innovate and challenge the status quo. The digital revolution is here, and it offers an infinite number of opportunities to those who are willing to embrace it.

Article written by Giancarlo De Leonardo, former hotelier and restaurateur, now founder of