Is Michael Vick Endorsement-Ready?

Discussion
Dec 21, 2010
Al McClain

Commentary by Al McClain

Over the years, we’ve had numerous discussions
on celebrity endorsements and advertising on RetailWire, and my recollection
is that most readers have felt that it’s not worth the risk. There are
many bad things that celebrities can do to ruin your brand, and often they
do those things.

But, one of the interesting things about celebrity endorsers
who go bad is that sometimes they work their way back into the public’s
good graces. O.J.
Simpson still sits firmly on the “bad” list (and in jail); but
Martha Stewart came back stronger than ever. Tiger Woods is sort of back in
good favor. Basketball star Kobe Bryant and NFL star Ray Lewis have both
mostly recovered from past serious transgressions to regain lucrative endorsement
dollars. But here comes Michael Vick, one celebrity that seemed to be down
for the count as a pitchman.

The star quarterback, who now plays for the Philadelphia
Eagles, reportedly earned about $100 million a year in salary from the Atlanta
Falcons and endorsements from companies including Nike, Coca-Cola, Kraft,
EA Sports and Hasbro prior to serving 23 months for operating an illegal dog
fighting ring.

Yet, according to a recent piece in AdAge, Mr. Vick has
signed on as a pitchman for Woodbury Nissan in New Jersey, appearing in a video
spot that has gone viral (and is running on cable TV, according to BostonHerald.com).  Mr.
Vick has done his prison time, apparently worked out his anger and emotional
issues, and now works with the Humane Society as a quasi-spokesperson. And,
(shudder the thought to many), he is now interested in acquiring a dog as a
pet.

According to AdAge, Mr. Vick is not being paid for the spot,
except that he has access to a luxury car. In the article, Darren Marshall,
SVP of the sports marketing firm Revolution, says “…the whole
image makeover is almost complete.”

Presumably, Mr. Vick’s agent
has set up this deal as the first step in securing larger, more lucrative sponsors.  Meanwhile,
Mr. Vick has led his team to first place in the NFC East, his jersey is again
among the best sellers, and he is the leading vote-getter for the NFL’s
Pro Bowl.

Discussion Questions: Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance as
a celebrity endorser? In what situations, if any, should signing a pitchman “on
the rebound” be explored?

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22 Comments on "Is Michael Vick Endorsement-Ready?"


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J. Peter Deeb
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Let’s wait another year and then evaluate his on and off field behavior before taking the risk of using Vick as a pitchman for a product. If I were his agent I would be looking at young male dominated products to ease him back in to the sponsorship business (e.g. male sports wear and equipment, trucks, etc.). He may never be able to do family or female directed products.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Not even close. It isn’t about what Vick “deserves.” It’s about the risk any business takes with a celebrity endorsement. What are the odds Vick will do something embarrassing to the sponsor? Even if it’s only 20%, isn’t that too high?

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
10 years 4 months ago

At the end of the day this is an emotional issue more than a business issue. There are those, and not sure I disagree, that say he would have needed to have a “hole in his soul” to do what he did. But at the end of the day redemption is between him and the people that choose to involve themselves in his life as a fan, purchaser of his shirts, or favorite items he is being paid to hawk.

There are I am sure very few Eagle fans this weekend wishing he was back in jail. The businesses that choose to have him sponsor their wares will do so because they believe he will help them sell more product, not because they think he is or isn’t a better person.

Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I have two observations. First, the focus should be on the brand, not Mr. Vick. Will his association with the brand help the brand…to either gain attention or reflect imagery that influences sales?

Do I think he “deserves” the opportunity? That’s for a higher authority to judge.

Ironically, it’s usually the car dealership that is the last stop on a sports celebrity’s way down the endorsement ladder. Here we get to see it as the first step up in a comeback.

Regardless, it seems like a no brainer for the retailer to use the celebrity to bring people into the show room. And the payment to Mr. Vick seems like a small stipend. All in all it’s a low risk investment with potential high return.

If Mr. Vick’s agent throws this experience into his credibility portfolio, why not. It’s still up to the next marketer to make a decision about the upside value of using Mr. Vick, along with the downside risk.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

This has nothing to do with what Michael Vick deserves. This is all about the dollars and if a company feels they can make money with Mr. Vick being their spokesman, why not?

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

With regards to Michael Vick being endorsement ready, three words: never say never.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 4 months ago

Ultimately, there are two criteria as to whether he will make a good endorser. First, will he continue to excel at what he does? Secondly, will he keep his personal life in order? Yes, what he did was reprehensible. He also paid a big price for what he did.

Increasingly, our culture projects this expectation of total perfection onto celebrities. They are, after all, human beings like the rest of us, just exceptional in one thing. I doubt that all those calling for permanent punishment for a celebrity that disappoints them would like to be (or succeed at being) held to total perfection as a human being. I, for one, think everyone deserves a second chance. I admire Nike for sticking with Tiger through his troubles and continue to favor their products–in some part–due to their continued support.

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance to rake in celebrity endorsement dollars? Yes, he has served his time and paid his debt to society. Is it a smart move on the part of any brand to use him? I don’t think so. Women make the buying decisions much of the time, and women have a long memory when it comes to the kind of mess he was involved in.

Maybe he would be successful endorsing a product that was only marketed to men, but women have a way of applying pressure even when they are not directly involved in the decision making process. With so many other celebrities available, why take the chance?

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I agree with a wait and see attitude regarding Vick’s endorsement readiness. Yes, he certainly is doing well on the field but that is not what this is about. The concern is if off field activities/behavior. Waiting may mean sponsors will pay more, but I think it’s the smart play.

Mike Boguszewski
Guest
Mike Boguszewski
10 years 4 months ago

The only value of a Vick endorsement would be to the segment that cares about pro football generally or the Eagles specifically, so he could be eased in now for certain products targeted to that segment. BUT…to a larger market? No way. There is still lingering anger and resentment so, is your product/company so reliant on profit with the NFL segment that all the negatives with the larger market are outweighed?

Personal case in point: if I came home wearing a Vick jersey, my wife would make me take it off so she could burn it.

Tom Smith
Guest
Tom Smith
10 years 4 months ago

If the company is willing to risk their reputation with Michael Vick then he is certainly endorsement ready–AS AN ATHLETE, NOT AS A ROLE MODEL.

Being a lover of dogs, much more so than the NFL or any particular player, I WILL NOT buy anything Michael Vick endorses; however, I’m sure there are tens of thousands of others who will.

This is still a free country and companies are free to pay people to endorse their products just as people are free to endorse which products they choose. However, companies would be better off developing stronger relationships with existing customers than by paying someone, especially someone with questionable integrity, to endorse their products.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
Abuse of any kind is largely dismissed by the legal system. People guilty of crimes like rape, murder and other extreme physical and mental abuse are provided for and taken care of by the branches of government assigned to only determine guilt and relevant, just punishment. Slogans like “killing in the name of” and “if it doesn’t fit you must acquit” serve to turn the blame on a thing called society. Society is having less and less to do with slogans and misguided justice and now realizes itself to be the victim over and over again. I can forgive with time anything. But I do not want the opportunity for additional abuses to ever exist and I will not let myself be identified as sympathetic to an abuser by subscribing to his endorsements. And what I hear from the public is the same. Michael Vick did a lot of real bad things for a long time and should not be representative of any products depending on public support and patronage. The memories of what he… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
Michael Vick has deservedly become a current poster-child for bad celebrity behavior. Even as his on-field career is on the upswing, there are plenty of folks who will remind us zealously of the things he has done wrong. In a pointed example, a group called humanewatch.org ran a full-page ad in last Sunday’s New York Times sports section, criticizing The Humane Society of the U.S. for accepting a donation from Vick’s Philadelphia Eagles and then saying nice things about him. Vick’s involvement in dog-fighting was horrendous, callous and, yes, criminal. He was convicted, served time in prison, apologized publicly, lost millions in income and has reportedly ceased his bad acts. So far so good, but we don’t owe him a free pass to unfettered celebrity and all the goodies that come with. We could, however, keep the door to redemption open a crack–not so much for his sake, but because his story has potential to stand as an influential example to others. Over time, some endorsers may elect to risk their brands on Vick. The… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
There is at least a goodly portion of the American public that still loves a great “come-back/redemption story.” Whether driven by the psychologists explanation that we identify with the subject as kindred imperfect souls (though obviously not of the same sort!), or by the Horatio Alger in all of us who just wants to pull for the underdog (oooh…bad choice of terms?)–we still like to see a good come-back kid story. IF Michael Vick can pull this off off the field (I think the on the field question is pretty well settled after the New England game) he could be golden for the right brands. But celebrity endorsers ALL carry risk. The value of their borrowed interest to most brands just never pays out. We certainly had our history with celebrities and characters within PepsiCo for example. From Michael Jackson for Pepsi to Jay Leno for Doritos to an obscure Cajun cook named Justin Wilson for Ruffles. The biggest paybacks? Created characters like Chester Cheetah for Cheeto’s, Horton (the baby) for Ruffles and the Frito… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
10 years 4 months ago

Mr. Vick’s spokesperson career is inevitable. While my dog would not like my saying this, there is still less “shame” associated with animal abuse than spousal abuse (and even that’s not so clear or taboo these days–look at the transformation of Mike Tyson, etc.) The “bad boy” image or the “redeemed” are just part of today’s acceptable icons as branded entertainment becomes more prevalent and powerful.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

As some have noted, correctly but somewhat irrelevantly, Mr. Vick has “paid his (legal) dues”; but this isn’t a legal issue, it’s a perceptual issue: a good many people will find his actions ultimately unforgivable, doubt his sincerity, or simply be unable to get beyond the stigma attached to his name; that some will respond positively is offset by the certainty that others will be turned off. It is for an advertiser to decide if the former significantly outnumber the latter (not so much “cavet emptor” as “caveat venditor”).

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Time heals all wounds. Michael Vick will be able to do local spots, and then regional sponsorships for minimal pay, before he is even eligible to become a spokesperson for anything national in scope. Despite what the article stated, Michael Vick’s actions are more repugnant then a Martha Stewart or Tiger Woods. His case will take longer for the public to forget….

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Does Mike Vick deserve a second chance? I suppose how you answer that question might reflect your “world view.” I would say that undoubtedly deserves another opportunity for endorsements, but that he has some time to plow in to build more equity and trust with brands.

We are shallow as marketers if we let quarterback ratings influence our decisions, but also missing opportunity if we allow ourselves to become the adjudicators of morality.

Why the hurry? Let Mr. Vick finish his season, live a little and the brands that have audiences compatible with Vick and that can benefit from an association with him will become more obvious.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Michael Vick has paid his legal dues in terms of time served and career. It is time to move past yesterday and concentrate on tomorrow. Maybe the timing is not there yet. And maybe the automobile deal is a “toes in the water” by his agent to gauge his marketability.

Mr. Vick has been a model citizen and lived up to the agreement the NFL Commissioner made before allowing him to do the one thing he does better than most people in the football world. The next step is to continue the model citizen role and move forward with more advertising opportunities that fit his current status.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 4 months ago

Americans do love a redemption story. And in today’s society, the list of celebs, politicians and others who do wrong and then redeem themselves seems to grow ever longer. At the end of the day, there will be some who wish to never hear from or about Vick ever again. But as long as brands believe Vick or any other redeemed celeb still has the potential to sway consumers, then we can expect to continue hearing from those who crashed, burned and rebuilt.

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
10 years 4 months ago

Never! What would he endorse? Choke collars? Electric cables? Shovels to bury the remains? Plastic bags to collect the carcasses?

No beer ad can wash away the imagery of those tortured dogs, no car brand can speed away from the disaster of Mr. Vick’s behavior. Maybe his attorney or agent can get an ad out of his “resurrection,” selling him to the Eagles was quite a feat, but as for him, the less of him the better.

Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

While the value of Michael Vick as an endorser depends on a great many things – notably whether he continues to rehab his image and, more importantly, to win on the football field – the real story is that of his comeback. Americans love a comeback story and Michael Vick is it, even more so than Tiger Woods, at least as of the moment.

There are plenty of examples of others who misbehaved and redeemed themselves and if Vick can continue his road to redemption, he’ll have a shot. Regardless, he’s undoubtedly very happy to have his second chance and has done the hard work to make the most of it.

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