It’s been a couple weeks since the demise of Seattle-based Vicis, the high-tech football helmet maker that laid off all of its employees and was placed into receivership by its board just before Christmas. But the once highly regarded startup is still in the game — at least when it comes to being featured in NFL commercials that are airing during current playoff games.
The Vicis ZERO1 helmet, the company’s signature product, shows up right at the start of an ad titled “Building a Better Game,” below, in which the NFL touts its commitment to helping engineers and innovators come up with a more advanced helmet. The goal is to reduce serious head injuries which have become a stain on the league and the sport as a whole.
The Vicis name and product are seen in the ad a couple more times, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is shown at one point lifting and preparing to put on his helmet.
Wilson became an investor in Vicis, as did former teammate Doug Baldwin and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They were definitely not alone, as Vicis turned to nearly 400 investors to raise more than $85 million in five years. But the company burned through that money and had difficulty raising more.
The helmet ad aired during Sunday’s NFC Wild Card matchup between the Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles. The NFL is in the midst of a “Helmet Challenge” initiative in which the league is making up to $3 million in HeadHealthTECH grant funding available to applicants to support the development of their helmet prototypes.
GeekWire reached out to the NFL and a league spokesperson did not reply to a question as to whether the ad would continue to run. But the spokesperson did speak to helmet choice among players and the popularity of the Vicis product.
“Players have a choice in the type of helmet they wear. For players who have the Vicis ZERO1 helmet, which topped the list in the NFL and NFLPA’s joint laboratory tests the last three years, that option continues to be available to them,” the spokesperson said. “Club equipment managers will maintain player helmets as they normally do. If a helmet cannot be maintained or reconditioned, equipment managers work with players to make the best equipment choice based on the NFL/NFLPA joint laboratory helmet testing and other factors, including fit, comfort and durability.”
As for the future of Vicis and the receivership situation, the NFL said it “is not a party to the case as we do not have any equity or other financial interest in Vicis.”
Philadelphia fans had plenty to say about helmets and player safety, and the irony of the ad placement, during Sunday’s game. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was knocked out of the game early after a head-to-head shot that he took from Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, pictured below.
— Edward Alden (@edwardalden) January 6, 2020
@NFL https://t.co/fpyO6sR0JH you all serious about players & head injuries. Incidental contact driving a falling qb's head into the ground, resulting from a blow to the back of the head from a player who launched himself by leaving both his feet and leading with his head. No Flag
— Bobby Bitcoin (@ImBobbyBitcoin) January 6, 2020
Love this "better helmet technology is building a better game" NFL commercial while our QB is out with a concussion #FlyEaglesFly
— David B. Larter (@DavidLarter) January 6, 2020
Wentz was featured in a Business Insider story in May 2017 because he was one of the first players to wear a Vicis ZERO1 helmet during training camp. The NFL even shared a photo, below, of the QB on its Instagram feed back then.
But the Twitter feed @HelmetStalker reported a couple weeks later that Wentz had returned to his Revo Speed helmet.
We weren’t sure what brand he was wearing during Sunday’s game that ended his and the Eagles’ season. But @HelmetStalker messaged us on Twitter to say that Wentz was wearing a Riddell SpeedFlex Precision Diamond.