In 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!