Sports Agent Interview:
with Matthew Vuckovich
Mark Steinberg is a 39 year-old sports agent and is the director of Global Golf Business at one of the largest agencies in the industry, IMG (http://www.imgworld.com). Mr. Steinberg represents two of the best golfers in their respective fields, PGA golfer Tiger Woods and LPGA golfer Annika Sorenstam. He also used to represent NBA star Vince Carter. Mr. Steinberg is an alumnus of one of the best Universities in the world, which I happen to be a senior at, the University of Illinois. He is known in the sports industry as one of the best agents around. Mr. Steinberg has helped the Tiger Woods brand develop into a global masterpiece. I was able to squeeze in an interview with this very busy agent and learn what its like to be at the top of the agent tree.one of the best agents around. Mr. Steinberg as help Tiger Wood’
Matthew Vuckovich: How did you get started in this industry?
Mark Steinberg: I went to law school after I graduated and I did a summer stunt with a law firm while in law school and also an internship with IMG. I did a little compare and contrast with both places and I realized that I wanted to stay involved in the sports industry in any way, shape, or form. After I did my summer internship with IMG, I stayed in close touch with some of the people that I worked with during the summer that I was there. IMG offered me a job in my third year of law school, and I began working there immediately after I took the Bar Exam.
Matthew Vuckovich: Did you attend law school or grad school? If so, which law school or grad school?
Mark Steinberg: Yes, I went to the University of Illinois College Of Law (http://www.law.uiuc.edu/).
Matthew Vuckovich: How did you handle your first contract negotiation?
Mark Steinberg: IMG had me working on the women’s golf circuit. I was traveling around trying to recruit LPGA golfers for IMG. My first negotiation was sitting down with a high profile LPGA golfer and trying to work out a representation agreement between the two of us.
Matthew Vuckovich: What is the most important aspect of being a sports agent?
Mark Steinberg: HONESTY and INTEGRITY. Athletes in general sometimes feel that people are out there to take advantage of them since they are high profile people who are making a lot of money. Athletes are very wary about who is a part of their inner circle. What I’ve learned in the past 15 years is to be honest and tell the truth. What I mean by that is not just to be a yes man or a yes woman, but to tell the truth, speak your opinion and be a straight shooter. You need to be fair and not take advantage of your clients and if you work hard, you will have a very successful career.
Matthew Vuckovich: Take our readers through a typical day in your life.
Mark Steinberg: There is no such thing as a typical day in my life; everyday is different. I travel about 50% of the time and when I'm in the office everyday it's different. I represent two very high profile athletes --Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam, but I also run a business. I am the global head of all of IMG's Golf Business and have 155 people all around the world that work in the division. Everyday is different and that's what I LOVE about MY JOB. I can't wake up any day and say that I have to do this or that again.
Matthew Vuckovich: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
Mark Steinberg: Sport seems like a very sexy profession to get involved in and everybody seems to want to be a sports agent. Getting involved in sports or being a sports agent is very rare. More often then not, the first job that you get is not going to be the job for the rest of your career. I think that people need to be flexible and open minded about getting involved in a specific career in sports. You always hear people saying, "I want to get involved in sports" and there is so much that you can do within the sports industry. What you should do is go work for a league, team, or a union because there is a tremendous amount of opportunity in sport and entertainment. You need to really widen your scope and expand your horizon and see what you can come up with.
Matthew Vuckovich: Does your agency provide internships for people looking to break into the industry?
Mark Steinberg: Yes. We have a summer internship program that runs from June through July. It is an 8 week program. I actually am a product of the internship program 17 years ago, so the internship program here definitely has a special place in my heart
Matthew Vuckovich: What differs in the style of representation for golfers like Tiger Woods compared to LPGA star Annika Sorenstam?
Mark Steinberg: With those two there is a lot of similarities because they are both at the top of their game and are arguably the two greatest golfers to ever pick up a golf club in their respective fields. The financial figures are certainly larger in men's golf, but the women's gap is closing considerably with purses increasing substantially and endorsements and golf course design opportunities growing.
Matthew Vuckovich: What were some of the issues that you had to overcome when trying to make Tiger Woods, the brand, global?
Mark Steinberg: I don't think that there was necessarily a challenge about making him a global brand because he made himself a global brand. What we tried to do was partner with different brands that were the right fit for him - that reached the proper demographics and the widest array of people.
Matthew Vuckovich: What are some of the obstacles that you face when representing high profile athletes such as Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam?
Mark Steinberg: There are always challenges because everybody wants a piece of athletes especially if you're the best in your field. You just have to be practical, reasonable and smart about your associations. One of the toughest parts about our job is having to say no so many times but the reality is that's what you have to do. There is only so much these players can do and there is only so much time in a day. One of the challenges is creating the most efficient schedule for Tiger or Annika or any of the other athletes that we represent.
Matthew Vuckovich: How were you able to forge long term partnerships with brands like Nike Golf, American Express, Buick, and EA Sports for Tiger Woods?
Mark Steinberg: Our goal was to align Tiger with the brands that made the most sense to fit his image. We were looking for global brands that would reach the widest array of demographics as possible and once we found the proper partner, we mandated long-term associations. Tiger and I are still not interested in short term one-off deals. We reject those out of hand and we are looking for long-term partnerships so that we can grow and help develop a mutually beneficial business together.
Matthew Vuckovich: What are some of the rewards that you receive in return for being one of the best agents in the business that oversees the most successful athlete brand in the world, Tiger Woods?
Mark Steinberg: The reward for me is the internal satisfaction. Tiger and I have developed a great partnership together and he's developed some great friendships and partnerships with the companies that he is associated with.
Matthew Vuckovich: On behalf of SportsAgentBlog.com and all of our readers, I would like to thank Mark Steinberg for sharing his knowledge and experiences with us today. You can check out his website at IMGWORLD.com. Till next time, be safe and act ethically in the business that you love.