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Vick quickly reemerging as pitchman

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From the floor of Congress one day to a boardroom the next, Michael Vick's(notes) continuing road to redemption is seemingly paying off in real ways.

On Tuesday, Vick spoke before the U.S. Congress in support of an anti-dogfighting bill, the latest in a long list of speeches and appearances to battle the very thing that derailed his career for two years.

On Wednesday, Vick was in New York to become a pitchman for a company and product that hopes to revolutionize the future of the sports drink and medical businesses. While Vick's partnership with Fuse Science is truly that (Vick gets part-ownership in Double Eagle Holdings, Ltd., along with an endorsement fee), perhaps the most stunning development is that Vick is again a wanted man in the marketing business.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," Vick said Wednesday through his publicist. "Taking care of my priorities: family, football and community as I know how everything given can be taken away."

This month, Vick was re-signed as a pitchman by Nike (he was merely receiving products from them upon returning to the NFL) and has inked a deal with MusclePharm. In June, Vick got back in the promotions business in a smaller way when he signed to help promote a helmet padding system created by Unequal Technologies.

While Vick is still a long way from being the marketing dynamo he was earlier in his career, what's happening is at least very surprising to those in the marketing business.

"I am somewhat surprised but not totally shocked by it," said Henry Schafer, the executive vice president for The Q Scores Company. Schafer's company compiles copious data over years and years to track the marketability of public figures, including prominent athletes. "He had a pretty good year on the field and showed he's on the right track personally, but this kind of improvement usually takes a long time. He still has a long way to go, but his improvement is very significant."

Schafer bases that on numbers, not just feel. A year ago at this time, Vick was still viewed harshly by the general public. His positive Q rating was only 10. His negative rating was a staggering 61. By comparison, Vick had a 21 positive rating and only a 17 negative rating in 2005, two years before his involvement in dogfighting was exposed.

Today, however, Vick has quickly headed in the right direction again. Schafer said Vick's positive number climbed back to 16 after last season and his negative rating dropped to 49. While the negative rating is still high, it's diminishing faster than Schafer expected.

"That's a very big jump in the positive score and a really drastic drop in the negative score," Schafer said. "That's not just about winning. You can win a lot and still not change your score that much. To do what he's done, you have to be living on the straight and narrow, and you have to be sincere. People really have to believe that you mean what you say."

To that end, Vick's efforts to battle dogfighting by partnering with the Humane Society, and speaking at schools and to troubled children seem to have struck the right chord between apology and proactive change. On top of that, his performance last season after three years of basically not playing was nothing short of stunning. Vick won the comeback player of the year honors as he led Philadelphia to the playoffs, where the Eagles nearly beat eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay.

"It's the perfect formula," said agent Steve Caric, who does not represent Vick but has extensive marketing background. "If you can admit that you're wrong, take proactive steps to change those things and then win, you can rebuild your career … you look at what Kobe Bryant has done to get himself back. Nobody talks about what happened with him anymore. Tiger [Woods] will be the same way as soon as he starts to win championships again."

While that is all likely true, there is an issue of sincerity factor built into the equation. Bryant, for example, has never really recovered the positive view. Despite leading the Los Angeles Lakers to two NBA championships years since being accused of sexual assault in 2003, Bryant still has only a 16 positive Q rating. That's well behind the top 10 current or former athletes, led by Michael Jordan with a 34 rating and Derrick Rose at No. 10 with 24, Schafer said.

Vick has quickly matched Bryant's positive despite not winning nearly as much. That's likely due to the perception that Vick is trying to do the right thing. There is a perception of sincerity with Vick.

View photo

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Michael Vick had career highs in passing (21) and rushing (9) TDs last season.
(US Presswire)

"Michael has handled himself off the field in a way that's allowed him to re-enter corporate America at a perfect pace," said Joel Segal, Vick's agent. "The things that Michael is doing right now are from his heart."

Now, that approach is translating to Vick's wallet. On Wednesday, Vick went on CNBC to announce his partnership with Fuse, a product that has redesigned the delivery of nutrients and vitamins found in sports drinks such as Gatorade or the many energy drinks that have hit the market in recent years.

Rather than having to consume drinks, Fuse has developed ways to deliver substances such as electrolytes and vitamins in concentrate drops or through epidural rubs which work in much shorter time. Eventually, the company hopes to use the delivery system for medicine, creating something second only to using IVs in terms of efficiency.

"We're talking about getting an energy boost in a matter seconds just by putting two drops under your tongue," said Adam Adler, the CEO of Fuse Science, which will unveil products such as Fusome Energel and Fusome Electrolyte drops. "It's not a matter of minutes anymore. It's not where you have to ingest 32 ounces of some product. It's a much faster and more efficient way of getting what you need into your body.

"What we expect to be able to do, for example, is deliver the kind of pain relief that once took 30 minutes in a matter of seconds."

Adler said all of the products have been designed to adhere to the supplement policies for all major sports, such as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. Now, it's a matter of getting people to believe in the product.

Enter Vick.

"Michael Vick will be our No. 1 NFL athlete," said Adler, who has 18 NFL players already signed to use and endorse the product. "We're not stopping with Michael and the NFL. We're going to have a roster of the top athletes reflective of the type of product this is and how it's going to revolutionize the market."

Still, some might say that Fuse is taking a leap of faith with a man who is just two years removed from prison for a crime that many people find patently repulsive.

"Michael has done everything he can to repair what he did wrong and I think people recognize that," Adler said. "He paid his debt and he's moving forward. For him, this is a product that fits the type of athlete and businessman he wants to be. He wants to be at the forefront of something that will help athletes.

"When we showed him our product and what it can do, the first thing he said is it was something he needed to make himself a better player, to get that ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl."

If Vick can get to that ultimate goal, it will surely help him. However, getting to the point where he can be the face of a product has taken much more than athletic achievement.

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