A Tale of Two QBs

favre-vickIn the same 48 hour period, we’ve had two major NFL quarterback announcements. On one hand, you have the conditional reinstatement of Michael Vick, a fallen icon who has spent the better part of the past two years in jail on dogfighting charges.  On the other hand, you have the decision to stay retired by Brett Favre, generally considered to be one of the most accomplished and admired quarterbacks in NFL history.  In addition to the timing of these events, they are also indirectly connected through the Minnesota Vikings.  Favre was only interested in coming back with the Vikings, but now that he’s decided to stay retired (at least for now), there is a rumor that Minnesota may be interested in Vick.

So what areas of the business are affected by these two events?  Let’s go through some quick examples (and yes, I realize that

  • PR:  Both Favre and Vick come with some PR baggage, granted that there is a big difference in terms of degree. Because Favre has gone back and forth about his retirement so much (even expressing some immediate doubt about this most recent decision), he has lost some support from the fans and media.  However, it is nothing compared to the storm of negative PR associated with Vick.  While he may have “served his debt to society,” many people will never forgive Vick for his actions, and he (and any team that signs him) faces a long future of protests and unhappy fans.
  • Marketing:  The presence (or lack thereof) of either QB has a major impact on their team’s marketing approach. The Vikings would have definitely found good ways to incorporate Favre into their marketing message, but now they must move in another direction.  Meanwhile, any team that signs Vick will probably need to market “around” his presence, taking a very delicate approach to any mention or inclusion of Vick.
  • Merchandise:  The Jets had a large spike in merchandise sales when they traded for Favre last year, particularly in jersey sales.  The Vikings would have probably experienced the same spike this year if Favre returned.  It’s unlikely that Vick will have any positive impact on merchandise sales, and there’s a chance that the negative response from fans could hurt sales for that team and maybe even the league as a whole (although that is much less likely).
  • Sponsors:  Favre is a very sponsor-friendly figure, and could have helped generate additional local sponsor interest in Minnesota if he returned.  Just the idea of having access to Favre through exclusive hospitality events could have closed some new sponsorship deals for the Vikings.  Meanwhile, any teams that thinks about signing Vick need to be concerned that sponsors could back out, fearing that their brand would take a hit from the connection to Vick.  This would need to be handled proactively and delicately through open communication with major sponsors before any signing occurs.  In addition, the NFL may need to be concerned about league-level sponsors (see Darren Rovell’s thoughts on this topic).
  • Ticket Sales:  Ticket sales among most NFL teams are pretty steady, with many teams having limited inventory to sell as single game tickets.  Because of this,  I don’t think the Favre decision will have much impact if any on the Vikings’ ticket sales.  The impact for a team signing Vick will depend greatly on the specific market and the availability of tickets for that team.  There would probably be some short-term negative impact, but if Vick turns into a contributing member of the team, any negative effect could turn around pretty quickly.

Now I know that the situations with Favre and Vick are very different, so I’m not trying to directly compare the two inidividuals. I just thought the timing of both news items was interesting, since each one has its own unique impact to consider.  What are your thoughts on either of these stories?  Share your comments here!

3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two QBs

  • July 29, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Great analysis of these two high-profile athletes. I found myself agreeing with everything you said.

    When it comes to merchandise marketing, I cringe at the thought of a little boy (or girl) wearing a Vick jersey for any team this early in the game. There is no doubt he is a talented athlete but he has a whole lot to make up for until he can be seen as an example, a hero if you will, in the eyes of a child…or an adult for that matter. I happen to be one of those adults that want to see complete vindication on his part before I’ll even root for the athlete that he can be.

    As for Favre, yep, I’m also tired of the back and forth yo-yo that has become his retirement. He probably still has a little bit of gusto in him but is it enough to gamble on (for him or for the team that acquires him)? I’m not so sure. And truthfully, why would he want to continue playing if he can’t play at the level that he used to be able to? I say, stay retired, enjoy the legacy you left, move on to other ventures. Favre was a GREAT QB. Let’s keep it that way – was.

    Off my soapbox now. 🙂

    Thanks for the post, Russell!

  • July 30, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Once again you hit the nail on the head here. Only thing is Favre recently signed a marketing deal with Sears and I’m sure those Wrangler jeans commercials will haunt us on sundays for years to come. Despite the stats, I personally hated Favre my entire life and struggled watching him as a Jet this last season. He needs to ride off into the sunset and wait until he gets the call for Canton.

  • July 31, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Great analysis. Favre is annoying because he can’t make a decision and he is the equivalent of a rock band that claims it is their last tour. Everyone knows there is NO SUCH THING as a band going into retirement? They always come back no matter how many times they decide it is over.

    Vick is a publicist’s nightmare. Will anyone take him on given his history? I am not sure.

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