I’m sure most of us have very strong opinions when the name Michael Vick is mentioned, but I’m not here to debate the severity of his crime or punishment. This is simply a great case study for building and re-building a celebrity brand.
Since his release from prison Michael Vick has be watched by millions, fans and naysayers alike. Its no wonder that the BET Network capitalized on the public curiosity and launched a reality show around the fallen athlete (view full episodes of The Michael Vick Project). The premier episode chronicled Vick’s rise to the pinnacle of his career and his fall to the depths of despair. It is the first time most of us get a glimpse at how severely Michael, his family, fans and community were impacted by the dark saga.
Living in the ‘A’ has allowed me to see Vick up close and personal and I will admit that I have not always been a fan. I liked him as a player, but as a person he always seemed a bit arrogant to me. This is not a personal judgment, its just that arrogance is often the enemy to a brand coach and I recognized what appeared to be a big obstacle to me. More on this later.
Back in 2007 when I first started to watch his scandal unfold, all I could think about was how would Vick EVER salvage his brand? I know that is a bit one track minded but what can I say, if you cut me I bleed branded blood. The first thing I wondered was ‘How deep is the bottom of this pit’. I mean when would Vick actually hit rock bottom. In the beginning of the ordeal, he broke some of the major rules of a branding. First was he denied allegations that were later easily proven. Next he offered a canned apology. Every time he or his legal team gave a press conference, I kept thinking “Are you kidding me right now?” Not one of them was believable. I kept wandering what publicist was botching this whole thing. I could not bare to watch this fiasco any longer, so by the time Vick was sentenced I had long since checked out the media circus.
Now what I am about to say will likely surprise you. MV took his first step to rebuilding his brand when he turned himself in to authorities early. It was the first truly noble thing he’d done. Its one thing to make a mistake, its yet another to suffer reparations without complaint. This would start to pave the road to public forgiveness and rebuilding a seemingly unbreakable brand.
Since his release, Vick has continued his long and arduous journey back to grace by involving himself in community outreach, a campaign to stop dog fighting and reclaiming his spiritual connection. He has been reinstated in the NFL and is slowly regaining his financial stability. Along the way, he has received help and encouragement but I think he is far from claiming a victorious return.
After I started to watch The Michael Vick Project, I finally saw a glimpse of the man that I had hoped existed. He was honest about his mistakes and humble about his punishment. Additionally he admitted that he has been drunk with power and did not heed the warnings to stop his illegal activity. MV came across as very authentic and remorseful. His confession did not seem rehearsed in fact there was a hint of embarrassment. But more importantly I saw the pain that he came to endure due to the damage he caused his family. Major milestones in rebuilding his brand will be conquered by rebuilding the trust of the his loved ones and then the public.
So while his return cannot quite be counted victorious just yet, at least we know that his road to that victory is paved with some renewed honesty, blood atonement and rivers of tears. And while he has yet to claim me as a fan, I must admit that I am poised to cheer for #7, not just on the field but as a renewed brand champion!