Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Fear Factors: Vick's Ad Deals, Saints Vs. Bears


Bye, Bye Michael Vick

Michael Vick

Michael Vick was -- for a short time -- the most marketable player in the NFL. His Falcons jerseys were being sold from Maine to San Francisco. His Nike commercials were water-cooler talk from Chicago to Dallas. Then came “Ron Mexico.”

But this latest incident -- at the Miami International Airport, where Vick’s water bottle had a hidden compartment with a substance allegedly bearing a foul marijuana-like odor -- is really the last straw from a marketability standpoint.

Vick wasn’t arrested because testing is reportedly being done on the bottle, but it’s definitely come to the point where some of his endorsees have to be hoping that he gets charged and he pleads guilty to possession of marijuana (if it even was that) so that they can drop him without penalty. (By the way, it's not all Michael: his brother's issues have certainly hurt Michael's marketability as well.)

He still is flashy on the field and that’s why Nike will probably still stick with him, but this has to be so uncomfortable for the people at AirTran .

Air Tran signed Vick in October 2004, in what was one of the worst ideas in sports marketing at the time. The Falcons have a deal with Delta so there’s a complete disconnect here. I understand what they were trying to do in ambushing Delta on their home turf, but unless you can really convince fans that Vick gets to the game without the team in an AirTran commercial plane, it’s a very hard sell.

Now Vick has this situation at the airport and then boards an AirTran plane. Do you think the people at that carrier are saying, “Well, at least he boarded an AirTran plane and not a Delta one!”

High School On The Tube
With all due respect to my former employer, which I have great respect for, high school basketball without a major marketable star is not pretty to watch -- especially now, when none of these guys we’re watching can leap directly to the NBA because of the rules.

I love my guys, Dave Revsine and Doug Gottlieb, who announced last night's game on ESPN featuring No. 1 Oak Hill vs. No. 22 Simeon High School, but if there's no LeBron James, O.J. Mayo or Greg Oden, this is only a notch above the World's Strongest Man competition. (No, Derrick Rose doesn't do it for me!)

This all being said, I will at least set my TiVo for the Feb. 1st game featuring Loyola Academy (Ill.) against North Central (Ind.). I want to get my first look at this kid name Jeffrey Jordan. Yes, he's Michael's son. The story that's developing behind Jeff is that he's not exactly North Carolina quality.  So local schools like University of Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State and Loyola are duking it out in the recruiting wars for the rights to Jordan's son. It's a great marketing play, and it also might be the key to a large donation that could mean future riches to the athletic budget.

LAX Factor
Many were freaking out in Durham in December, when the Duke admissions department had revealed that early admissions applications had dropped almost 20% -- the biggest correlation to the sexual assault charges against the Duke lacrosse players. (The charges were later dropped.) The better news -- that has somehow been lost in recent days -- is that overall applications only declined 3.3%, but that it will still make up the second largest applicant pool in school history, behind last year's Class of 2010.

Saints In Living Color
If the New Orleans Saints beat the Chicago Bears this weekend and then win in Miami in Super Bowl XLI, don’t feel sorry for Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City -- feel sorry for the insurance companies that underwrote their promotion. At the beginning of the season, the electronics store offered a special promotion on HD, LCD and plasma televisions. If the Saints won the Super Bowl, it would refund what the customers paid. The group of stores reportedly sold about $1 million in televisions.

The way this works -- unless you’re really stupid -- is that you take out an insurance policy against this happening. Given the fact that the Saints were 3-13, Cowboy Maloney’s would have paid almost nothing for this policy. How much of a longshot were the Saints? Likely one of the longest longshots in Super Bowl history. They started the season at 150-1.

Now here’s to hoping those customers kept those dusty receipts from August!

How To Make That Money Back
Barclay's is reportedly paying $400 million for 20 years (a number that, I assure you, isn't all cash) for the naming rights to the new Nets arena in Brooklyn, when they move there. Here's a couple of ideas how they can make their money back.

  • Every time there's a bank shot by a Nets player -- it doesn't happen that often -- get in a sponsorship plug by giving a fan $5,000 and opening up a free checking account for him or her.
  • Before games, present the players paychecks on those big pieces of cardboard with big "Barclay's" logos on them.
  • Change the mascot to "Charles Barclay"

Questions?  Comments?