Sports Agent Interview:
with Matthew Vuckovich
Zach Aaronson is a 26-year-old athlete marketer and client manager for Octagon Football (http://www.octagonfootball.com). He began his professional career as a marketing intern in Octagon’s Football Division. Zach became a full-time employee of the Football Division in January 2007, specializing in athlete marketing and day-to-day client management. I was able to pick his brain and this is what he had to say. You can also learn more about Zach on his profile page at http://www.accessathletes.com.
Matthew Vuckovich: How did you get started in this industry?
Zach Aaronson: Once I decided that this was what I ultimately wanted in life, I started contacting agents all across the US. Any name I could find, I’d call. I met a lot of good people along the way, but we all know how difficult this business is, and getting in isn’t any easier. One agent I had met throughout my search was always extremely helpful, and we remained friends, and in contact about 2 or 3 times a month for an entire year. One day I got home from my job at that time, and I had a message from that agent and he mentioned that he had an opportunity for me, and thought that my drive and persistence could only help. Ecstatic, I called him back and he told me of an internship opportunity at the agency. I flew out for an interview about 3 days later, and moved north for the job about 2 weeks after that.
Matthew Vuckovich: Did you attend law school or grad school? If so, which law school or grad school?
Zach Aaronson: No I did not attend either law or grad school.
Matthew Vuckovich: Who was the first client that you were given access to? Was it complete access, in the sense of being able to contact at your discretion, or was it limited access only?
Zach Aaronson: The first client that I was given access to was Erik Coleman, the starting safety for the Jets. At the time, my responsibilities were to keep the guys happy and to continue to bring deals to the table, so due to that nature, I was basically given complete access to Erik. As I worked more and more, my responsibilities compounded, and the client list I was working with continued to grow.
Matthew Vuckovich: What is the most important aspect of being a sports agent?
Zach Aaronson: That’s a question I think many people would answer differently. To me, I’d say the most important thing is to always remember what you believe in, and not to give in to temptation, or the other ugly areas of the business. Always stick by your guns, and stick with what you feel is right, for you. What works for somebody may not work for you. And I think it’s important to remember what you did to make it where you are today. If you always stay true to yourself, you won’t have any qualms or regrets about things you’ve done to get you where you’re at.
Matthew Vuckovich: At what age do you feel an agent will hit his prime/glory years? Why?
Zach Aaronson: I couldn’t say an age because I really think it depends on what age you are when you enter the business. Not being an agent myself, but rather a guy who does marketing and client management, I’ve come to realize that it could take about 15 years to really ‘make a name.’ That seems like a long time, but it takes time for guys to sign with you. Once they sign, you better keep them happy for a long time to come. If you do that, you may be lucky enough to have them talk you up to their boys and others. After a few repetitions of that type of cycle, you may have enough clients, and clout to your name to start recruiting not only more athletes, but also, more big name athletes. That’s what it takes, over and over, to make a name for an individual agent. Be loyal to your guys, and I think it will payoff after several years.
Matthew Vuckovich: What is your opinion of “larger” agencies with less attention to their clients compared to “smaller” agencies who counsel more with their clients?
Zach Aaronson: I think that may be more of a generalization to say that ‘larger’ agencies pay less attention to individual clients, as ‘smaller’ agencies counsel more with them. Of course an agent in a smaller agency may have more time to consult with ‘his’ clients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that an agent with a larger firm doesn’t give all his clients that same sort of attention. Generally speaking, that may be the case. But I also think that it depends largely on the agent, as well as the agency. From my experience, and I work in what some may call a ‘larger’ firm, I’ve seen many agents give tremendous attention to their guys. Someone is always available here to talk and help an athlete through anything he may need. His agent is always available, and that is key as well. As an agent, you must always be accessible to your clients. Though my firm is fairly large, we keep a very down-home and family-like feel here, so attention is never a problem.
Matthew Vuckovich: Where do you see the athlete representation industry going in 10 years?
Zach Aaronson: That is something I can’t predict, but if I could, I would be far ahead of the game! To be honest, I don’t see the process really changing too dramatically. But then again, this could depend on what types of rules/sanctions are put in place from now till then. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.
Matthew Vuckovich: Take our readers through a typical day in your life.
Zach Aaronson: Typically I get emails first thing in the morning, and try to catch up with anyone who I may be working with on any type of appearance or deal I’m trying to put together for any one of the guys I’m working with/for. I will take/make calls to my clients all throughout the day, sometimes just checking in to see how they’re doing, see how they’re feeling, make sure something went the way it was supposed to, etc. Those types of things go on all day, at any time. And basically, the rest of the time I spend on trying to secure deals for my clients. These types of deals have a broad range, from endorsement deals to paid appearances, to charity events, and everything in between. All in all, Im just trying to keep all our guys happy and at ease and making sure it stays that way!
Matthew Vuckovich: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
Zach Aaronson: The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone is to never give up. As cliché as it may sound, this is the truth, and persistence does pay off. If this is what you really want, put your mind to it, go after it, be persistent, and in time, you will get to where you want to be.
Matthew Vuckovich: Does your agency provide internships for people looking to break into the industry?
Zach Aaronson: Yes they do provide internships. The process is tough, and internships are limited, but they are out there.
Matthew Vuckovich: What are some of the things an agent can offer their clients besides the negotiation of contracts, getting endorsements, and others along those lines?
Zach Aaronson: There are many things that come to mind. An agent can be much like a career-advisor, especially with their experience to younger players/rookies. They can serve as a mentor of sorts, and try to guide a player in the best possible direction. Ultimately any decision is made by the player, but offering the best advice you have can be helpful at times. Often times, players and their agents become extremely close, and this tends to help a relationship tremendously. Through time, as you become closer, you learn the likes, dislikes, habits, tendencies, etc of a player. That will later help you strategically align that client with the proper fit when looking at endorsements, charities, etc.
Matthew Vuckovich: What are some of the perks you benefit from being part of a big time full service agency?
Zach Aaronson: Some of the perks involve existing relationships and contacts that the agency has already established through time. In a start-up company, it takes time to form those, but a larger, established firm has many resources and contacts already in place, ready to be utilized. I’d also say credibility with a large, established firm is huge, and can get you pretty far in itself. Other random perks of course include free clothes, free/cheap hotels, access to places that are otherwise not accessible, free drinks, etc. Basically, there is quite a bit of free and cheap stuff out there, though it may be easier to come by when you’re already established.
Matthew Vuckovich: On behalf of SportsAgentBlog.com and all of our readers, I would like to thank Zach Aaronson for sharing his knowledge and experiences with us today. You can check out his website at OCTAGONFOOTBALL.com. Till next time, be safe and act ethically in the business that you love.