Now that the drafts for the major professional sports leagues have passed, and we continue our mid-summer grind toward the start of the NFL, NBA, and NCAA seasons, I felt it was a good time to release the first edition of the Sports Agency Power Rankings. As more and more agencies merge into larger conglomerates and others continue to rise and fall in an already crowded and extremely competitive market, it seems only natural to try and identify which agencies wield the most power and respect.
First of all, an agency must have multiple representation or business divisions to be considered for the Power Rankings. In order to determine why one agency deserved to be ranked above another, I created several criteria for judging purposes. Listed below, in order of relative weight of importance, are the criteria.
- Quality of athletes in each division
- Track record and respectability of division’s agents
- Recent success in NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL drafts
- Quality of overall agency leadership
- Recent growth, acquisitions and startups
- Future growth potential
- Quality of services provided by each division
- Number of athletes in each division
- Number of divisions
- Quantity of athletes lost to other agencies
Notice that much more weight is given to qualitative factors rather than quantitative. It can be agreed that representing two 1st round draft picks is worth more then representing six 7th round picks. Almost as important as the actual clientele are the agents and management that run the firm. Agencies who are well known for their negotiating talent, respectability amongst industry peers, and visions for the future fair much better then ones who have gotten their clients terrible contracts and are loathed by clients and competitors alike.
Sport Agency Power Rankings
#1 Wasserman Media Group
To say that Wasserman Media Group (WMG) has had incredible success over the last year is a true understatement. With already strong baseball and soccer divisions, WMG was able to expand and then position itself to dominate its own niche in action sports representation. More importantly, and due largely in part to the hiring of agent BJ Armstrong, Wasserman’s basketball division has absolutely exploded, and has become THE premiere basketball representation division in the country. WMG’s leadership is second to none as Casey Wasserman, arguably the most successful young executive in all of sports, heads the company.
Notable Clients: Sammy Sosa, Ben Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Derrick Rose, Landon Donovan.
#2 Creative Artist Agency
In terms of sheer quantity and quality of athletes, one would be hard pressed to find a better and more prestigious agency than Creative Artist Agency (CAA). With strong divisions in all major sports and entertainment and an instantly recognizable client base, it is difficult not to give CAA the top spot in the rankings. What has dropped it to the #2 spot, though, is the bad reputation of some of its agents, a ‘relative’ lack of success in the recent NBA draft (notably losing Derrick Rose to WMG), and its sheer size, which for most athletes and personalities is just too big. Leon Rose, Tom Condon, and Ben Dogra amongst other agents of the firm are far from admired by most of their colleagues and industry peers.
Notable Clients: Derek Jeter, Lebron James, Payton Manning, Sydney Crosby, David Beckham, Tony Hawk.
#3 Blue Entertainment Sports Television
During the course of the last year, the sports and entertainment subsidiary of venture capital firm Blue Equity, Blue Entertainment Sports Television (BEST), has positioned itself as one of the top players in the sports representation industry. With acquisitions of Black Wave Media (Basketball), Joel Segal (Football), Game Seven (Coaches) and SFX (Tennis), BEST has surpassed (or just brought up) many firms who have been around for decades more, and is poised to give both WMG and CAA a run for its money. BEST did not see great success in this past year’s NFL and NBA drafts, but strong leadership by COO Michael Principe most definitely insures that BEST will be on the track to future growth and success.
Notable Clients: Reggie Bush, Michael Vick, Rasheed Wallace, Tom Crean, Andy Roddick, Justin Henin.
#4 International Management Group
International Management Group is the grandfather of all agencies and is considered amongst the old guard of athlete management and representation firms. For sheer monetary value, IMG and its respective properties cannot be matched by any other agency. Recent estimates have put the company’s worth at over 2 billion dollars. IMG has divisions in sports and modeling representation, collegiate and professional sports franchise marketing, and corporate and media sports consulting. IMG has moved away from team sports representation in recent years, its football division most notably ending up at CAA. Regardless, IMG represents the most financially successful athletes and personalities in the world and is by far the largest mover and shaker in the world of sports marketing and representation.
Notable Clients: Tiger Woods, Freddy Adu, Jeff Gordon, Tom Coughlin.
Also considered amongst the older guard of agencies, Octagon has set itself apart from IMG by continuing to be a strong player in not only sports marketing and consulting, but athlete representation as well. With solid football, basketball, Olympic sports and golf divisions, Octagon remains one of the elite management firms. Octagon will soon expand to both the MLB and NHL and has strong leadership under CEO Rick Dudley and Phil de Picciotto, President of Athletes and Personalities. There is little doubt that Octagon will continue to be a major player in the representation industry and one of the premiere leaders in the sponsorship marketing and consulting sector.
Notable Clients: Chris Paul, Rudy Gay, Aaron Rodgers, Bill Cowher, Mike Hulbert.
CSMG marks a drop off from the larger agencies with unlimited budgets and millions of dollars invested in intellectual properties and events. CSMG’s areas of strength include its basketball and baseball divisions. The firm also has a ‘masters’ division, which includes many of the top baseball coaches in the country as well as many notable play-by-play announcers. CSMG has not had recent success in the NBA draft, but its MLB division continues to grow and is one of the largest amongst all agencies.
Notable Clients: Dwyane Wade, Anthony Parker, Felix Hernandez, Ken Macha, Neil Everett.
#7 Career Sports & Entertainment
Career Sports & Entertainment has one of the more prominent basketball coach representation divisions in the nation, which includes many of the most celebrated NBA and college coaches. Along with their coaches, Career Sports has a respectable baseball and golf division and one of the leading sports broadcasting divisions around. Interestingly enough, as their broadcasting division continues to gain strength, their coaching division has taken a substantial hit as of late with the losses of Billy Donovan, Tom Crean (now at BEST) and the scandal laden Kelvin Sampson.
Notable Clients: Doc Rivers, Eddie Jordan, Clark Kellogg, Erin Andrews, Bobby Cox
# 8 Premier Sports Management
Premier Sports Management was a mid-size but relatively low-key football representation firm until this spring. It joined forces with the law firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker to create Premier Stinson, a firm that represents over 75 elite level coaches. With hands down the largest multi-sport coaches division in the country, combined with a respectable football division and several broadcasting clients, Premier has launched itself into the Top 10 of the Agency Power Rankings.
Notable Clients: Drew Bennett, Willie McGinest, Laila Ali, Pete Caroll, Roy Williams
#9 Athletes First
Headed by David Dunn (of Steinberg, Moorad, and Dunn infamy), Athletes First’s concentration is football with a small but respectable baseball division, and a handful of football coaches on both the NFL and NCAA level. Athletes First has not had incredible success in either the NFL or MLB draft as of late, but represents several recent late first day and second day draft picks.
Notable Clients: Joey Harrington, Matthew Hasselback, Ray Lewis, Dennis Erickson, Bill Musgrave.
#10 The Agency
The Agency Sports Management & Marketing has continued to build a legitimate sports management practice by creating partnerships with larger firms and independent agents. The Agency only exclusively represents a few of its clients, notably its coaches and some of its broadcasters. At any rate, they have become proven leaders in sports and client marketing, which in turn has allowed them to build a deep network of agencies willing to outsource work to them.
Notable Clients: Troy Aikman, Carmelo Anthony, Ben Howland, Mike Brey, Stephon Marbury.
This article is a guest contribution by Jason Belzer. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of any SportsAgentBlog.com contributors.<–>