SBD/July 6, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Nike Re-Signs Michael Vick To Endorsement Deal After Dropping Him In '07

New Nike contract is Vick's third endorsement deal since January

Nike has signed Michael Vick to a multiyear endorsement contract. The deal continues the marketing reformation of the Eagles QB, once one of the highest-paid endorsers in the NFL. Earlier this year, Vick signed with Bombo Sports & Entertainment to do a documentary film chronicling his life. More recently, he finished second in fan-balloting for selection of the cover athlete for the next “Madden" video game behind Browns RB Peyton Hillis. Vick served nearly two years in federal prison on felony charges related to his involvement in dog fighting. He returned to the NFL with the Eagles in '09 and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after last season. The deal returns Vick to Nike, which had him as an endorser from when he entered the league in '01 until the deal was later terminated. That relationship yielded both signature product and a memorable "Michael Vick Experience" TV ad from Wieden & Kennedy. "Nike represents sports performance, so the hookup there is a natural fit," said Andrew Stroth, a Chicago-based attorney who represents Vick for marketing deals. Joel Segal remains Vick's agent for on-field matters. The Eagles placed the franchise tag on Vick in February. Nike returns as the NFL's lead licensee in '12 with rights that begin April 1, like every NFL deal. Adding Vick gives Nike another big-name QB, adding to a stable that includes the Packers' Aaron Rodgers and the Saints' Drew Brees, the winning QBs in the last two Super Bowls. However, Nike's timing in releasing the news of the Vick signing on a Friday of July 4 weekend can only be considered odd. Typically, companies release information in that kind of time frame in an effort to avoid media scrutiny, and Vick remains a controversial figure as a result of his felony conviction (Terry Lefton, THE DAILY).

WORTHY OF A SECOND CHANCE: Nike U.S. Media Relations Dir Derek Kent said, "Michael acknowledges his past mistakes. We do not condone those actions, but we support the positive changes he has made to better himself off the field." Financial terms of the new agreement were not disclosed, and Nike officials did not reveal "what exactly they will do with Vick." CNBC.com's Darren Rovell, who first reported the Vick signing, noted Nike "had been giving Vick free products since his return to the field after serving 23 months in prison, but wasn’t paying him." It is believed to be the "first time in the history of sports marketing that a brand that dumped an athlete came back to re-sign him" (CNBC.com, 7/1). In Philadelphia, Jeff McLane noted Vick's "return to product endorsing has been a slow one," but after a strong '10 season, "he signed with a few small companies," including Unequal Technologies and Core Synergy. His return to Nike "cements a whirlwind two years in which Vick went from third-string quarterback to backup to starter leading the Eagles to the NFC East title last season" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/2).

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Syndicated radio host Jim Rome said, “If ever there was a guy who dug himself way too big a hole to come back from, it was Mike Vick. I’m astonished at what he’s done. And credit to him -- he’s done and said all the right things. ... For him to get back to where he was is incredible.” Rome: “I didn’t think he would make it back as a player, and I certainly didn’t think he would make it back as a brand” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 7/1). ESPN's Michael Smith said, "Michael Vick was so radioactive when this all went down with the dogfighting and going to jail, it just goes to show you again that if you can ball and if you win, we will forgive you" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/1). CBS News' Tony Guida noted the deal "represents commercial redemption for Vick." SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, "Nike is taking a bit of a risk, but there's also a high reward if it all works out for them" ("Evening News," CBS, 7/2). ESPN's Skip Bayless said, "I'm surprised it took them so long." Nike "loves for its athletes and spokespeople to have edge" ("First Take," ESPN2, 7/4).

REAX: Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "America will make the decision ... whether they buy the sneakers, whether they buy the products he endorses" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/1). In Connecticut, Dave Solomon wrote, "If Nike thinks it wise to sign him to an endorsement contract, let the consumer decide. Isn't that the way it works?" (NEW HAVEN REGISTER, 7/3). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "I don't think you have to forgive him as long as you say, 'Okay, he seems better'" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/1). But Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy said signing Vick is a "bad move" for Nike. Shaughnessy: "Do you need to really go and hire him to sell stuff? Is that going to make people want to buy shoes or T-shirts?" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 7/1).

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