Nike and Vick: just did it

Nike proposed. Michael Vick accepted. Nike got cold feet and the wedding was called off: Last night all the major newspapers were reporting that Nike had resigned Vick, but this morning USA Today reported that no deal had been negotiated.

Just because Nike backed out of the marriage, however, doesn’t mean the courtship is over. Flowers and chocolates are still coming Vick’s way, as evidenced in a statement from Nike:

“Nike does not have a contractual relationship with Michael Vick. We have agreed to supply product to Michael Vick as we do a number of athletes who are not under contract with Nike.”

One thing’s for sure: Nike’s people and Vick’s people are talking. And the announcement followed by the quick denial is simply Nike’s way of floating the idea of such a partnership to gauge public reaction. It’s a classic PR maneuver and allows Nike to strategize as to how to incur the least amount of outrage when they do go forward.

Even if Nike takes its time resigning Vick, is there really much difference between paying Vick to endorse Nike product and supplying Vick with free Nike gear? There’s no doubt Nike’s goal is to create an association with Vick. They want fans to see Vick wearing their stuff. It’s all branding.

And the question remains: Why? Vick’s performance in last Sunday’s game was unremarkable at best. And his sprinkling of mandatory speaking engagements and rehearsed apologies hasn’t exactly impressed the public or redeemed himself in the eyes of non-believers.

So if he’s done little, lately, as an athlete, and even less as a human being, why is Nike so quick to the altar?

Not that Nike’s moral compass has ever pointed to anything except money–I just didn’t expect to see such greed so soon. But heck, if Nike wants me to associate their brand with Michael Vick, I can easily create that image in my mind. It’s not a pretty one, so consider yourself warned before you click (image found on outside website).