Michael Vick has moved from throwing keys in a commercial for a South Jersey car dealership to a 2-year endorsement contract for a company that makes football pads.
Unequal Technologies, based in Kennett Square, will make Vick the company's first corporate spokesman with a formal announcement tomorrow, chief executive officer Rob Vito told the Associated Press.
The company makes products that use shock-blocking composite material, including aramid, which is used in bulletproof vests. The Eagles quarterback wore a vest designed by Unequal after missing time with a rib injury. He also wore the company's shoulder pads and thigh pads.
Vick made his area TV debut in a commercial for Woodbury Nissan in December. The premise of the commercial is that Vick has "signed" with the dealership and is working there, throwing keys to a salesman so hard, he hurts the guy's hand.
What Vick earned for the commercial was not disclosed, although the advertising industry website AdAge.com said Vick received only the free use of a $54,000 Nissan Armada.
Terms of his deal with Unequal, his first paid endorsement, were not disclosed, but Vito said it was a "sizable" investment.
"We believe it was worth it," he said, "because of Michael Vick and how he can shed light on the technology of our products."
Vick was once the NFL's highest-paid player, and he made an estimated $7 million in endorsements during his six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. That all disappeared with his 2007 arrest on dogfighting charges and an 18-month prison stay.
"We're real excited about it," Vito said. "Michael is good people. He paid his dues. President Obama reached out to him. He deserves an opportunity. This is what makes America so great. He's moved forward. He's a whole other person."
Joe Mahan, an assistant professor at Temple's Sport Industry Research Center, said it would not be a surprise for a company like Unequal to "take the leap" with Vick, because he already is using their products.
"For a national more prominent brand, I think it's going to be wait and see," he said. "He's still a hands-off entity, because the sting from his legal issues is still there. [Unequal Technologies] is not a company that has has a huge or long-lasting image, so they would be more willing to take a chance.
"I would still hesitate to say the floodgate is going to open."
Mahan said the pairing of Vick and a football-pad company makes sense.
"They can get wrapped up in the image of Michael Vick," he said. "He got hit a lot. There were questions about whether he was being treated fairly. It was in the news every week. [They can say] we're protecting him."