Before Michael Vick, quarterbacks were (mostly) tall, slow white men who passed the football, handed it off or got creamed by pass rushers. Vick changed the game by combining the strength, speed and agility of a running back with the arm and savvy of a quarterback. With it, he turned the traditional also-ran Atlanta Falcons into a contender. How could any company in the sporting goods field not sign such a sure-fire hall-of-famer as a spokesperson?
And sign him they did. Nike (NYSE:NKE) created a "Michael Vick Experience" ad campaign. He appeared on the cover of the 2004 version of Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:ERTS) Madden football. The sponsor money rolled in, and when the Falcons signed Vick to a 10-year, $130 million contract, he had reached the pinnacle of sports success.
Then came the expose. News reports tying Vick to a dog fighting ring, then naming him as the pivotal figure in a horrendous gang who raised killer dogs in a kennel on Vick's property and buried the losers nearby. By the time Vick was taken into custody, his brand was so fouled that companies couldn't back away from him fast enough. The only sales of equipment with his name on it was to dog owners who used them as chew toys.
In a fiasco, everyone involved suffers. I just wish the everybody here hadn't included innocent dogs.