Michael Vick got to write his comeback story on the field. Now, he has seen his image come full circle off of it.
CNBC has learned that, in a remarkable move, Nike, which severed Vick’s contract in 2007 after he admitted to his involvement in a dogfighting ring, has re-signed the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
“Michael acknowledges his past mistakes,” said Nike spokesman Derek Kent. “We do not condone those actions, but we support the positive changes he has made to better himself off the field.”
Vick’s longtime agent Joel Segal told CNBC that “Michael is excited to have a long-term and strong relationship with Nike.” The deal was done by Chicago-based attorney Andrew Stroth.
Nike had been giving Vick free products since his return to the field after serving 23 months in prison, but wasn’t paying him. Financial consideration on his new contract was not disclosed.
The brand dropped him in August 2007, halting the release of his fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, and releasing a statement saying that cruelty to animals was “inhumane, abhorrent and unacceptable.”
It is believed to be the first time in the history of sports marketing that a brand that dumped an athlete came back to re-sign him. Coca-Cola let Kobe Bryant’s contract expire in 2003, after he was charged with sexual assault; the criminal case was dropped, and the civil case was settled. Coca-Cola eventually hired Bryant back in 2008 to endorse its Vitaminwater brand.
Others in the retail world reacted as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods said it wouldn’t carry Vick jerseys in its 300 stores. But Vick seemingly made all the right moves, beginning with a "60 Minutes" interview in August 2009, and continuing to serve the community on animal abuse outreach.
After a great season on the field in 2010, corporate America started to give him a chance again. Unequal Technologies, which was making Vick his protective gear to go under his jersey, signed him to a two-year endorsement deal in January. Two months later, Vick signed a deal with Core Synergy, a titanium-infused, silicone wristband brand. At the end of the season, Vick's No. 7 Eagles jersey was the sixth most popular in the league.
And now a formal deal with Nike, which originally signed him before his rookie season in 2001. Nike officials didn’t disclose what exactly they will do with Vick. The brand takes over from Reebok as the NFL’s official apparel supplier in April 2012.
Vick, who was named Subway Sportsman of the Year by the BET Network on Sunday, has other projects in the works:
His autobiography, "Michael Vick: Finally Free,” hits stores July 27. Vick is selling 7,777 signed copies on his official website for $99.99. New York-based Bombo Sports & Entertainment has an agreement with Vick and the NFL to make a documentary about his “rise, fall and resurrection as a player and a person.” Bob Potter, the producer of the yet-to-be-named documentary, says the film will likely be released in theatres some time between Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl. The film will also have a DVD and TV component.
Vick also signed an exclusive autograph deal with Las-Vegas based J.O. Sports Co. in December.
Update: “I am thrilled to be on the Nike roster," Vick said, in a statement. "The brand represents the most exciting athletes in sports. My focus is now on preparing for the football season and performing at the highest level for my team and my fans.”
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