SBJ/April 25 - May 1, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Vick’s rehabilitation as endorser accelerates

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The NFL draft is usually a time when the endorsement potential of the latest crop of league rookies is assessed, but the marketing rehabilitation of 30-year-old quarterback Michael Vick will grab headlines this week with the likelihood of two new deals being showcased.

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Michael Vick will be the subject of a documentary and is a finalist for the cover of "Madden NFL 12."
Vick has agreed to do a documentary film chronicling his life with Bombo Sports & Entertainment, which has exclusive video rights for both the NBA and Manchester United. Bombo CEO Bob Potter said the plan is for a 70- to 90-minute documentary with a theatrical release in Philadelphia and other NFL cities to coincide with the start of the NFL season, and a possible TV airing on ESPN or another sports-focused TV outlet.

“I am a dog owner, so this won’t be a sugar-coating, but it should be a good film about an athlete who is fantastically talented and really polarizing at the same time,” Potter said.

An agreement with the NFL needs to be reached if the league’s intellectual property and footage are to be used. Potter said he has spoken with the league several times. He added that sponsorship opportunities for the yet-to-be-named film are now being sold.

A writer or director of the docu-film has not been named.

Meanwhile, if Vick wins an online fan vote concluding this week, he will be announced as the cover athlete of EA’s “Madden NFL 12” game. He is up against Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, a relative unknown, as both advanced to the finals of a 32-player competition staged over the past month, and both will appear at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., for the Wednesday announcement of the winner on “SportsNation,” EA Sports’ partner in the voting process.

More than 12 million fan votes have been cast to date.

“The idea is to have that sort of ‘American Idol’ moment where the winner is announced on ‘SportsNation’ with the two of them standing there,” said Rob Semsey, EA Sports spokesman.

EA will then stage the cover shoot of the winning choice, and that will be followed by a whirlwind schedule Thursday in New York.

Vick is competing against the Browns' Peyton Hillis in the fan vote for the "Madden NFL 12" cover.
Vick was featured on “Madden NFL 04” while a member of the Atlanta Falcons, so other than making him the first athlete with two appearances on what is often the country’s top-selling video game, a Madden cover would provide a “Good Housekeeping” seal for marketers still reticent to link their brands to a convicted felon, albeit one with consistent national TV exposure.

“A Madden cover would get Vick back into the aisles at places like Wal-Mart or Toys ‘R’ Us, where he was but hasn’t been able to get back into,” said Mark Zablow, senior director of marketing at Platinum Rye Entertainment, which matches athletes and brands for clients, including Procter & Gamble. “Then a big [consumer packaged goods] company doesn’t have to be the first brand to break the ice for Vick with a major retailer. And EA always put a lot of marketing muscle behind Madden, so it would really continue Vick’s rehab.”

Chicago-based attorney Andrew Stroth represents Vick for marketing deals. “Michael is committed to rebuilding his brand on and off the field,” Stroth said. “The support he’s received for the EA-Madden 2012 campaign is a testament to his appeal in the marketplace.”

Vick served 21 months in federal prison on felony charges related to his involvement in dog fighting. He returned to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after last season.

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