So…how to begin this one. Well, I’m pretty damn savvy when it comes to Marketing and Branding and creating an image with a capital “I,” but every once in a while a decision is made that I really just don’t understand. So this is Part 1 of talking about some of those rare occurrences. You’re going to have to help me out with this one.
So let me get this straight, Fox Sports has hired Michael Vick as a football analyst?
Really? Really really?
See, the whole idea around anyone who becomes a spokesperson for your Brand is that they share your values and relate directly and positively with your audience. You pick dynamic people who’ve proven themselves in the field. These are your Subject Matter Experts, your cheerleaders. These are the people who get your audience fired up and excited to follow your shows and choose them over the competition.
There may be no more dynamic medium than live television. And live sports – the greatest of them all. Anything can happen, and often does, and you want your audience to keep the dial on, say, Fox, and not sneak over to say, ESPN. Simple right? Well, let’s meet the team.
Never mind, no one cares about anyone but Michael Vick.
Three decent players or journalists with decent pedigrees host Fox Sports Kickoff, his new show. And then there’s Mike. How else are you gonna explain that? In all, it’s a case of 3 could-have-been-anyones and 1 WTF.
Take a look at Vick’s career and you see 13 seasons with Atlanta, Pittsburg, and the Jets. He has decent stats, a decent QB rating of 80.4, and probably most memorable for his rushing record. Oh, and the whole dog fighting thing.
Pro-Football-Reference.com has his 2007 & 2008 seasons listed as: “Missed season – Violation of league personal conduct policy.” Damn that’s a polite way of saying Federal prison. But we are not going to go into the horrible things this man’s hands did when he didn’t have a football in them; we are going to look at his new job and how and why he got it.
Fox Sports president Eric Shanks “understands” the controversy and defends the hire of Vick, since he, of course, paid his debt to society. Oh, and that whole killing dogs for sport fracas, well that was ten years ago. Don’t you see he’s a changed man? Ok, I still don’t care.
The point is, Mr. Shanks, he speaks for you – your programming, and your channel as well. So why did you hire him? Take out the big scandal, and there are others. Look at his stats and there’s nothing really exemplary. But even if he’s the best spokesperson in the world, he comes with a lot of baggage and not a lot of pedigree to balance out.
You know why people love, say, Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long? They’re champions. They’re articulate. They’re dynamic. They’re fun – and they come with no baggage. No scandals. Nothing to defame Fox Sports – your damn Brand, Shanks! You have THE winning combination and template of how to do a pregame show right and you hire Vick? Seriously? There was no one else available? Did he give you a kidney or something? It makes NO logical sense. None.
When you hire anyone for any position, for example let’s choose a cashier at McDonald’s, they become a Brand Ambassador and part of the Brand itself. Everyone in your employ is a reflection of your Brand. That cashier, clean and polite, is a face-to-face, living-and-breathing personification of your Mission Statement. A customer walks up to the counter and they see friendly, clean, quick, consistent – all positive aspects of your Brand because you’ve hired that cashier to do just that – support your Brand. You put Vick at that counter, and you’re going to get a very different response. People will leave and the business will lose money.
Michael Vick is the poster child for animal cruelty. He’s known more for his time in prison for his time on the field. That’s what the people, your audience, remembers, Mr. Shanks. If you don’t believe me, ask O.J. Simpson.
When you hire Michael Vick, you invite a petition of nearly 100,000 people demanding his firing to hit your desk. And it has. And it’s growing. You’ve put “holy crap, is Michael Vick the only guy they could get for this job?” and “why in Hell did they hire Michael Vick” in the mind of every viewer that watches not just your channel, but NFL sports. Your seat, Mr. Shank, and a few other seats should be vacant right about now.
So in my professional opinion, well, it comes down to a couple bad (or stupid) apples spoiling the whole network and one not cleaning up the mess. Anyone who says, “hey, we should get a dog killer everyone hates to represent our NFL line-up” should be immediately fired for not understanding any part of that sentence. And fire whoever hired them, and whoever hired them, because, well come on, you’d just have to be stupid to think someone with that kind of reputation is good for your Brand. As far as “paying his debt,” that’s fine, but people just don’t forget certain things, and when someone is a celebrity and wants to take the spotlight, their dirty laundry comes with them. You ought to know that Shanks – you are PAID to know that, Shanks!
Shanks’ team has pretty much pissed in his Wheaties and he is trying to convince us all that it’s just not as bad as we think. Mr. Shanks and Fox Sports, your audience is smarter than that. With the talent around the NFL, on and off the field, there is no good reason that anyone would hire someone without a stellar past and no scandals. All I can figure is, a mistake was made at some lower level and rather than condemn it, Mr. Shanks has been forced to try to find the sunny side of this PR catastrophe.
Well, good luck with that, Eric. Michael might be employed longer than you.