SBD/Issue 15/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Does He Or Does He Not? Vick/Nike Situation Puzzling Industry

Nike Says It Does Not Have
Endorsement Deal With Vick
In the wake of a surprising announcement by Eagles QB Michael Vick’s representatives that he had signed an endorsement deal with Nike, and a rebuttal by the company that although it agreed to provide him with product, but did not have a contract him, many in the sports industry were left scratching their heads. Some in the industry questioned motives or criticized Blue Equity Sports Television Managing Dir Mike Principe, who unveiled the news a the Relay Sports Sponsorship Symposium in N.Y. in front of an audience of high-level sports marketing execs. Asked if Vick would ever get another commercial endorsement deal, Principe said: “He actually just became a Nike client. So he has a new deal with Nike which we are all very pleased about.” Others are wondering exactly what kind of relationship Nike has with Vick and who at the company agreed to provide him with product, without outlining the agreement in a contract. Meanwhile, industry sources said that Vick had a similar offer from another shoe company but turned it down because he has worn Nike since his days at Virginia Tech. Attempts to confirm the offer with other shoe companies were unsuccessful. Nike ended its endorsement of Vick in August '07 after he was indicted on federal dogfighting charges. Nike issued a statement Thursday saying, "Nike does not have a contractual relationship with Michael Vick. We have agreed to supply product to Michael Vick as we do a number of athletes who are not under contract with Nike." The company declined to answer a list of questions from SportsBusiness Journal.

CONFUSED BY NIKE STATEMENT: The Nike statement left many in the industry puzzled, including agents who said Nike typically writes up contracts for product-only or merchandise-only deals with athletes. Agents requested anonymity, saying they did not want to offend Nike because they negotiate deals with the company. "They do contracts for their product-only Nike guys," said one agent. "If it's a merchandise-only deal, they absolutely do contracts." A contract that provides product only, valued at $25,000, for example, would often include incentive clauses for cash payments if the NFL player hit certain targets, such as playing in the Pro Bowl, this agent said. Another agent said Nike sends out tax Form 1099s to players with merchandise-only deals, as these deals often give the athlete and his family the ability to order Nike product for many different sports up to a set dollar amount. Yet another agent said that Nike does do deals without contracts for NFL players in which it provides only on-the-field product, but those contracts are reserved for very low-profile NFL players, such as the team's long-snapper or a player on the practice squad who later moves onto the regular roster. Such deals are often agreed to by the player himself and a Nike field rep. Vick's agent, Joel Segal of BEST, told SportsBusiness Journal on Wednesday that he negotiated the deal for Vick but would not provide any details. Segal did not return phone calls Thursday, nor did Principe.

DOING THE BEST THEY CAN? Many in the industry praised the BEST agency for its efforts in getting Vick re-instated into the NFL, but questioned the release of the information about the new relationship with Nike. "The biggest mistake was made by the agent," said Sonny Vaccaro, a retired basketball sports marketing executive who has worked at Reebok, adidas and Nike. "By making a statement at that particular conference at that particular time made him what he wanted to be -- the star of the show." Many in the industry noted that this year has been the worst year ever for shoe deals for athletes and that many NFL and NBA players are going with product-only deals. Some speculated that the deal with Vick was for him to wear Nike without compensation, with the idea that he would get an endorsement contract later depending on his performance on and off the field.

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