Vick Proves Yet Again That Sports Fans Have Memories Like Goldfish

How many times over the past few years have we seen athletes implode on the world stage? Kobe Bryant and his chambermaid, Michael Phelps and his bong, Tiger and his harem, Michael Vick and his dogs and now Tony Parker and his own teammate's wife. Every time it happens, all you ever hear in the media is gloom and doom. Experts will say, "He's finished with sponsors," or "He'll never recover," etc.

Well, consider the facts:

  • Within a year of his (alleged) incident with the 19-year-old chambermaid, Bryant jerseys were the #1 selling kids' jerseys in the NBA again.
  • Phelps' Q-Score, which measures an athlete's endorsement power based on awareness, likeability and ability to motivate a sale, went up by 10 points. (True, Kellogg dropped him, but it was going to do that anyway and was just lucky to escape under cover of smoke from the bong.)
  • Vick is widely touted as the front-runner for NFL MVP. His #7 Eagles jerseys are "flying off the shelves" in Philly, according to SportsBusiness Daily, with sales doubling each week he starts.

The truth is, we sports fans have the memories of goldfishes when it comes to star athletes -- as long as they start winning again. Sexual assault? Animal torture? Womanizing? Drug use? Never mind all that, if you win back-to-back NBA titles, Olympic Gold medals or a probable NFL MVP nomination. (Though I must admit I had my doubts with Vick since pets were involved, and you know how people value their pets like family).

Now, of course, Tiger is the exception to this because he has not won anything since his close encounter with the tree on Thanksgiving 2009. And let's be honest, not only has he not won anything, he has been terrible. Hence, his image is still in the doghouse (sorry, Michael) outside of Beaverton, Ore. I would bet my mortgage, however, that if he does start winning again, absolutely nobody will care about with whom he consorted.

Often our advice to clients caught up in these soap operas with their endorsers is simple -- do not panic and stay the course. It's likely all will be forgiven by the fans in a few months or a year. Just stay quiet for a few months. Do not run ads with the athlete until the issue fades from the front and back pages. If you have a morals clause in the contract, exercise it to get a big cut in the fee, but do not just cut and run. Fans will continue to associate you with the athlete for years anyway if you have been with him a long time, so by the time everyone has forgotten Accenture sponsored Tiger, he will be worth sponsoring again.

Now, this is a far-from-popular view. Nobody in the media wants to interview me when these falls from grace occur because it is not dramatic enough to say, "Nobody will care in a year," even if it is almost always true. They want the doom and gloom and the career-is-over angle, and who cares if it is really true?

So what advice would I give to Tiger to resurrect his career and join the ranks of the commercially rehabilitated? In the immortal words of Al Davis, "Just win, baby!"

1 comment about "Vick Proves Yet Again That Sports Fans Have Memories Like Goldfish ".
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  1. Tomasito Bobadilla from BFM Movimiento LLC, December 7, 2010 at 6:34 p.m.

    Here's a positive observation on why MV has work so far, from my "eyeballs."

    I am not an Eagles fan; neither do I get paid to be a mouthpiece for Michael Vick. Kudos to all involved in resuscitating Michael Vick brand recovery. A beautiful demonstration of brand attributes for a City, an Organization, Humane Society (Pit Bull), A Franchise and the NFL which can be study for years in the annals of branding. Seriously, I’m not nuts, this strategy has clarity of focus in the positioning of Vick…..Top 5 advantages offered on the clarity of this strategy are:

    1. Pit Bulls - I can rejoice in my childhood recollections of watching the Little Rascals play with their "please name it", Teenagers and Adolescent can now pin-point when in the “hood” someone is raising pit bulls to fight. Silence is no longer allowed…..
    2. The City of Brotherly Love - the City of our declaration, eh, brings an essence of reality and perseverance, and compassionate led by a man, Andy Reid, who has battles with his own family demons……but deeply shows a devotion to his family first - (look it up)
    3. The Eagles franchise, a symbol of what this great country stands for, the ability to persevere in very tough situations surrounded by those who believe in you…..the opportunity to remake yourself doing good for others. Yeah, it’s just a game, but the branding of the eagles name correlates a strong brand position for the franchise, and most important its fan base.
    4. The league for having the foresight to path out a pragmatic perspective into the toys (collection of dog and trainers) of its player’s recreational activity. Everyone knew this was going on; just look at those rap videos, now, it’s no longer acceptable behavior……
    5. Audiences every type of audience is engaged by the visual and verbal identity of our laws and consequences of a civilized society. If only Asia, and Latin America, could be so lucky.

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