Nike Denies Deal With Michael Vick

Sport Apparel Marketer Says It's Only Supplying 'Product' to Former Endorser

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CHICAGO ( -- Nearly 18 hours after Michael Vick's agent told a crowd at a sports sponsorship symposium that the ex-con quarterback had a new deal with Nike, the sports apparel behemoth is finally talking.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick
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In a statement, a Nike spokesman said Mr. Vick did not have a Nike contract but would be receiving Nike products as many pro athletes do.

"Nike does not have a contractual relationship with Michael Vick," the statement said. "We have agreed to supply product to Michael Vick as we do a number of athletes who are not under contract with Nike."

The spokesman said that Nike has "no further comment beyond the statement at this time."

So, in other words, Mr. Vick will be wearing Nike gear but not appearing in any creative or taking on any sort of pitchman role for the marketer. It's the sort of typical, nondescript arrangement athletic footwear providers have with countless professional athletes, and they are generally not notable.

Mixed signals
So why, then, did Mike Principe, of agency Blue Equity, which represents Mr. Vick, send speculation soaring by disclosing yesterday that Mr. Vick had a deal with Nike?

He provided no details, referring inquiries instead to Mr. Vick's personal agent, Joel Segal. Twitter -- sparked by first-hand reports from the conference -- went ablaze with buzz about Mr. Vick returning to Nike.

Once reached by Sports Business Daily, Mr. Segal didn't exactly throw cold water on the speculation, saying that "Mike has had a great relationship with Nike and is excited to be part of the Nike team again. He has always been a fan of the brand and looks forward to the relationship."

Mr. Principe's office said he was traveling and not reachable this morning, and a voicemail left on Mr. Segal's cellphone was not immediately returned.

Nike, meanwhile, kept quiet. Reached shortly before 5 p.m. ET, a Nike spokesman told Ad Age he was "checking" into the deal.

Nearly five hours later -- after accounts of Mr. Vick's agents' comments had run on Ad Age, ESPN and in countless other media venues -- a Nike spokesman declined to comment.

All that silence, of course, was widely taken as an affirmation that the marketer had re-signed a convicted felon whose role leading a dog-fighting ring it had earlier labeled "inhumane and abhorrent." And Nike had received plaudits for dropping him after his guilty plea in August 2007.

So the apparent reversal lit up social-media channels with, in some cases, furious postings.

Two typical Twitter posts:

"@ErinLBoudreau Nike resigned Michael Vick? I'm pissed the Cole Haan shoes I just bought use your fucking 'air technology'. Fuck you, Nike."

"@BarmaidsBrain Commercial: Vick, wearing Nikes, running from pissed off pitt bulls, cops, angry mob."

Of course, other Tweeters celebrated the signing. ("@anupkaphle To everyone pissed at Nike for signing a deal with Vick: GET OVER IT!")

On Sunday, Mr. Vick played his first game since being reinstated following his prison sentence. In a backup role for the Philadelphia Eagles, he was largely ineffective in limited playing time.

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