ActLetes – Professional Athletes, Endorsements, and the Entertainment Industry

Braylon EdwardsBraylon Edwards (pictured left) is one of the most promising young receivers in the game of football. Leading his team to a 10-6 record, one win short of making the playoffs, he helped revive a dismal Cleveland Browns offense with 80 catches, 1,289 receiving yards (Single Season Franchise Record), and 16 touchdowns (Single Season Franchise Record) in a breakout season. That’s not bad for a player who will be entering his 4th year in the league. Even after his fantastic season, topped off by making the Pro-Bowl, he still doesn’t consider himself a top five receiver in the NFL, and feels he has a lot of room to grow and improve.

Yet, Braylon Edwards, like many other professional athletes, dreams of bigger and better things, inside and outside of football. In a recent article in ESPN The Magazine, writer Carmen Reneé Thompson followed Edwards around for a day of meetings with the higher ups who hold his pass to silver screen stardom. Edwards claimed that “Outside of a Super Bowl ring, my definition of success is making more money after football.

Of course, Edwards was not alone. His agent, Creative Artists Agency’s Howard Skall (who also represents Brady Quinn), accompanied him throughout the day. Edwards represents a growing percentage of athletes who are getting more and more interested in off-the-field pursuits in the entertainment industry. Along with hoping to make cameo appearances on shows like HBO’s Entourage or being a guest on Oprah, Edwards feels that he is capable of being a lead actor in a film and hopes to lock down a major endorsement deal this summer.

While CAA and other “powerhouse” agencies are doing a great job of getting their athletes, such as Peyton Manning, major endorsements deals (Manning scored an estimated $13 million in endorsements in 2007) and cameo roles (Manning hosted Saturday Night Live), where does this leave the smaller, “boutique” agencies? While agencies like CAA, IMG, and Octagon have divisions in the agencies dedicated to entertainment talent management and are well established in Hollywood, how can smaller firms open up the door and help their clients pursue their off-the-field interests without having to refer them to different agencies?

Some of these difficulties can be seen even with some of the largest “boutique” firms. KCB Sports Marketing is the firm that handles marketing for all of Drew Rosenhaus’ clients (Over 90 players including some of the NFL’s top players like Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson). Except for a few players like Johnson or Jeremy Shockey, it doesn’t seem like a lot of KCB’s high end clients (Tommie Harris, Willis MaGahee, Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore, etc.) have had their names linked with specific brand endorsements. That is not to say that this is for a lack of effort or forgetting that many other factors exist like player marketability, demand for athletes to endorse products, or even the players’ interest in endorsing a product play a factor in these endorsement deals. It just seems to me that when your organization represents around 5% of the NFL, more than 2 or 3 of your clients should have recognizable endorsements with major products and brands.

With endorsements being a major market for athletes, and as more professional athletes look to get into the entertainment business, how are the “boutiques” going to get their slice of the pie? Just a little food for thought.

Am I missing something? Feel the need to put in your two cents. Please leave your thoughts and comments below. The Sports Agent Blog Community would love to hear what you have to say on the topic. Thanks!

  • I mean after all, who wouldn’t want to see Tommie Harris modeling Calvin Klein Underwear? I don’t want to sound ignorant on the subject, I just feel like the major agencies have a distinct advantage in this area of representation. Of course there are players who command the star power to pick and choose their endorsements (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, LeBron James, Tiger Woods) that don’t need a powerhouse agency, but how about all the other athletes? I know we have a lot of agents from smaller agencies on here, and I would love to hear your take on this topic. Thanks!

  • Very very few athletes command the huge endorsements, which are the ones that you would be noticing. Sure, Papelbon will get his local dealership deals and others will get regional sponsorships, but the big ones are going to a select few like Peyton and Brady. It does not take a CAA to get those guys the deals they have; however, CAA is well connected in the industry and may open up a few more doors. CAA isn’t taking on the guys who don’t command the big deals. It’s more of them being picky than them making any Joe Shmo player appealing to a corporation.

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