Vick's next comeback: product endorsements

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in his promotional spot for Woodbury Nissan. Public response has been mixed.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in his promotional spot for Woodbury Nissan. Public response has been mixed.
Posted: December 21, 2010

As highlight clips go, Michael Vick's performance for Woodbury Nissan can't match his spree Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Still, his recent star turn for the New Jersey car dealer marks another step in his remarkable comeback.

Banished from the lucrative world of product endorsements after his arrest in 2007 for running dogfights, Vick is finally being invited to step up and sell again.

Woodbury Nissan is his first client, but marketing experts expect more to follow, as long as Vick and the Eagles keep winding up on top.

"Just win, baby, win!" said Darren Marshall, senior vice president of the Chicago marketing firm Revolution. "It doesn't matter how bad you were a few years ago. We are a nation of believers in the second chance."

Vick once earned an estimated $7 million a year endorsing products such as Nike shoes and Coca-Cola. He lost it all with his arrest and conviction for his involvement in dogfighting.

Now in his second season with the Eagles after serving a prison term, Vick tiptoed back onto the endorsement stage two weeks ago with a commercial for Woodbury Nissan.

Thomas McMenamin, executive manager of the dealership, said the ad was the fruit of a relationship that began shortly after Vick joined the Eagles.

"When the Eagles signed him, we called and showed interest," McMenamin said. "We have been looking at him since. As a dealership and on a personal level, I wanted to get to know him and make sure he was everything I thought he was - the rehabilitated Michael Vick."

After a year and eight months, the dealership concluded the time was right to begin running Vick ads. They have appeared on Monday Night Football, Comcast SportsNet, and ESPN, McMenamin said.

"There has been a mixed response," McMenamin said. "Among our customer base, the majority of it has been positive. Among the animal activists, they feel the guy should be hung on a cross."

As an acknowledgment of that sentiment, the dealership will donate $25 to the Humane Society for each vehicle sold through Jan. 31.

McMenamin declined to say what Vick has been paid for the endorsement. AdAge.com, a website that covers the advertising world, reported Vick received only the free use of a $54,000 Nissan Armada.

Peter Madden, founder and president of AgileCat, a Philadelphia branding and public-relations firm, said he was surprised it had taken this long for a firm to sign Vick to a marketing deal.

"He is winning on the field, and he is seemingly doing everything right off the field," Madden said. "What you are seeing is real brand redemption."

Madden said he expected to see Vick sign marketing agreements for national products soon.

"I think for the right kind of brands, the smart ones will hitch their wagons to his star," he said.

He suggested a sports-related product, such as Under Armour, might be a perfect fit. Brands with wider markets, Wheaties, for example, most likely will shy away from him, Madden said.

"I don't see Michael doing Campbell Soup, for instance," he said.

Bill Doyle, vice president of Performance Research, a firm that helps companies decide on sponsorship deals, agreed that broad-based companies, such as Wheaties or Coca-Cola, would still avoid Vick.

"A very young, hip brand can overlook his past," Doyle said. "A very conservative brand is unlikely to get involved."


Contact staff writer Christopher K. Hepp at 215-854-2208 or chepp@phillynews.com.

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