Is Creative Artists Agency Unstoppable?
After reading the article I wrote yesterday on CAA’s acquisition of CSMG’s President, Henry Thomas, and all of his clients, I realized that I did not spend enough time talking about the implications of this move on the sports agent industry as a whole. CSMG wis probably gone for good, but what exactly does it mean for CAA?
Let’s look at CAA’s basketball division, first. Before hiring Henry Thomas, CAA already boasted three strong basketball agents: Leon Rose, Andre Buck, and Steven Heumann. Heumann mostly deals with the high profile overseas players and those born outside of the U.S. who now play in the NBA (think Omri Casspi). Andre Buck is up-and-coming, and serves as the primary agent for guys like Jason Thompson, Aaron Brooks, and Renaldo Balkman. Then there is Leon Rose, who has LeBron James, O.J. Mayo, Jonny Flynn, Allen Iverson, Richard Hamilton…the list goes on. The key thing that I notice with Henry Thomas’s arrival is that LBJ and D-Wade are now under the same roof. The two most marketable basketball players (you can throw Dwight Howard in at #3 in my book) are at CAA. Interestingly, though, LBJ has his own marketing company, so CAA, the sports marketing juggernaut, does not reap rewards from that account. D-Wade will bring in some nice profits, though. He recently switched from repping Converse to the Jordan Brand (both owned by Nike).
In yesterday’s post, I alluded to Jason Belzer’s Sports Agency Power Rankings. The list was created a year ago, and I think that he would agree with me that the pecking order should be changed. I believe that the top 4 are now CAA, WMG, Octagon, and BEST. WMG, Octagon, and BEST are not all that far from one another, but all 3 are a giant step below CAA, in my opinion.
A key question is: How does one compete? One thing is sure, you are not going to beat CAA by playing its game. The company does not have unlimited resources, but something close to it. They have more connections to producers, directors, potential sponsors, etc, so you can’t out-promise Creative Artists Agency on providing more avenues outside of the field/court. What you can beat CAA at (possibly) is personal care. CAA is the largest sports agency in terms of quality of clients and track-record of agents, but they are not interested in players who are going to be taken Day 2 of the NFL Draft, beyond the 10th round of the MLB Rule 4 Draft, or un-drafted basketball players (for the most part). In fact, even if you are a 2nd round NFL draft pick, do you want to be splitting time with Matt Stafford? If you are a 4th round pick, will you get the same attention as Derek Jeter? LeBron Jame and Dwayne Wade might get a few more phone calls then a 2nd round NBA draft pick.
A lot of athletes crave attention. They also want someone that they can relate to. Personal relationships mean a lot in this business. Just because CAA is growing by the day and seems like it is a company that is beyond competition, does not mean that it is immune to losing some big potential clients to a boutique firm that knows what it is doing and can connect with the athletes. Don’t fight CAA at its strengths, find out what your own strengths are and use those to impress future clients.
All of that being said, CAA sure got a lot stronger with its latest acquisition.