In December, I wrapped up my second year of teaching Sport Agency Management at Indiana University Bloomington. It has been a true blessing to have been given the opportunity to teach driven, intelligent students, which is something I hope to continue doing for the rest of my life.
The Sport Agency Management course is intended to provide students with a greater understanding of the current issues and laws related to the sport agent profession and focuses primarily on the legal and practical way to act in the capacity of a sport agent and/or operate a sport agency. In particular, the focus of the course is on NCAA, state, and federal rules and regulations, players’ association regulations, collective bargaining agreements, client services, and various duties involved in the representation of athletes.
My Fall 2012 students’ term papers required them to solicit practicing sports agents who had not formerly been interviewed for an article on Sports Agent Blog. Students were told to interview their chosen subjects and provide a write-up based on their discussions. With permission from the interviewee and the student, I have been publishing some of the results that were submitted to me for review (and grading). The following is a submission from Matthew Popper, who profiled agent Steve Rosner.
If one were to look at the American academic structure, from pre-school to college, it is evident that the ultimate goal for the majority of students is to use their knowledge and resources in order to lay a stable foundation that makes headway towards a successful, secure career. At Indiana University, although our means are plentiful and the opportunities are endless, I continually hear and concur with this maxim: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Accordingly, it is very auspicious that I live in northeast New Jersey, a suburb of New York City, where the potential for networking with chief figures within the sport and entertainment industries is frugal and improbable for those living outside the area, making it imperative to capitalize and take advantage of the potential prospects at your disposal. Thus, having the competence to learn from a close family-friend with more than twenty years experience as a top sports agent is a surefire way to seize the opportunity in front of you, a valuable lesson preached in my interview with Steve Rosner.
As a co-founder of 16W Marketing, Rosner is widely regarded as one of the most successful talent representation endorsement executives as well as an expert in event management and media consultation. Throughout the interview, he repetitively accentuated the numerous factors that he attributes to his great success within the industry, including a strong bond between the agent and the principal, a keen attention to detail, and the importance of execution. He stated that the most important quality in being a sports agent is being trustworthy. Having your clients’ know that you have their best interest at heart is the only way you are able to sign and keep clients. He also stressed that having a thorough understanding of your clients’ wants is crucial in the athlete-agent relationship; likewise, you must be able to analyze every individual situation and know how to approach the negotiation with what is presented to you. He also accentuated that the most successful agents are those who are strategists. The more creative you can be, the easier it is for both parties to come to an agreement. Finally, Rosner preached the importance of a fair deal: the agreement must be beneficial to both your client and the one you are shaking hands with. A mutual understanding and respect for the other parties’ wants is unequivocal towards a successful career in the industry.
Rosner played basketball and received bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College as well as a Master’s degree from Wagner College. At his time at Wagner, Rosner was offered a six-week trial period as the Sports Information Director. Seizing the opportunity, he secured articles in The New York Times, USA Today, and Sports Illustrated for the Wagner football team and used his business background to develop a soccer camp for the school that brought in approximately 300 players every summer as well as increased revenues for the school. He was then given the permanent position that included an assistant underneath him and a promise to have his master’s degree paid. When I asked Rosner what the he took away from his experience at Wagner, he said:
“If you get your foot in the door, you gotta produce. You gotta think outside the box. It got my foot in the door and it gave me some experience so when I wanted to move on to the next stage in my career, I could say that I had something and I felt confident that once I got those things done, I could do basically anything that I needed to do to be successful.”
After staying as Sports Information Director for another eighteen months, Rosner shifted his attention towards his career.
Rosner would go on to create Pro Asset Management, a sports marketing and management company based in New York City and fostered a superb roster of athlete and corporate clients including Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, and American Express. It was this first business where he built his acumen for matching athletes with corporate and group player events as well as media prospects. Starting out as a new agent, Rosner stated that the best way to breakthrough in the agency business is to experience as much as you can within the industry and develop a strong network of contacts. He said, “there is no athlete that is going to hand their career over to a brand new agent, so that new agent should try to gain an apprenticeship and study the agent’s work. You can only get better through experience.”
In 1993, Rosner co-founded of Integrated Sports International, which was eventually acquired by SFX Entertainment in March 1999. He served as head of talent marketing, where he led endorsement campaigns for athletes such as Steve Young, Kobe Bryant and Nomar Garciaparra. Rosner revealed that one of his most important times occurred about two months after the acquisition. Over the course of his career, Rosner mainly represented athletes in the major team sports; however, SFX was trying to build their tennis department at the time. Wanting to prove that SFX made the right decision in acquiring his company, he targeted the Williams sisters and Andre Agassi. In regards to the Williams sisters, his persistence landed him a meeting with their father Richard, which then led to a meeting with the sisters themselves. Unfortunately, he was unable to sign the twins, but was able to sign Agassi with the same presentation and although he only signed Agassi, SFX was truly impressed with his work. When asked about the differences between negotiating with a team in comparison to a corporation. Rosner said that team is going to make a strong offer for the client because they have limited options. On the endorsement side, he emphasizes that the company offering the deal has many options if the negotiations fall through. They have the ability to get the next player down the line, which enhances the agent’s accountability to close the deal.
Following his time at SFX, Rosner tapped into the potential between the player-corporate relationship; moreover, he was able to broaden his expertise towards broadcasting career placement and special event planning & production. As well as directing their talent representation division, Rosner co-founded 16W Marketing, LLC, in October 2000 and has become one of the industry’s top representatives for broadcasters, negotiating contracts for clients that include Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Howie Long, Cris Collinsworth, Cal Ripken, Jr. Thus, representing broadcasters has become his forte. When I asked him how he got involved with broadcasters, he said: “It was just at the right time. Two of my clients had an interest in broadcaster and I happened to be representing them at the right transitional point in their respective careers’.” These clients were Howie Long and Boomer Esiason. Rosner advised them to involve themselves with media outlets in order to prepare themselves for a broadcasting career. Furthermore, Rosner and his team put both Long and Boomer in a position to receive on the job training before their playing careers officially ended. Both did work for HBO, while Long was a weekly contributor to the Roy Firestone Show in Los Angeles on ESPN, and Boomer had a weekly spot on WFAN while playing for the New York Jets towards the end of his career. Although Rosner has had immense success with retired players for the past ten to twelve years, he claims that keeping them as high-profile figures as one of the most difficult aspects of his career. He admits that although his clients they are established broadcasting figures, players are always going to retire and eventually inquire about a career in broadcasting. He states: “the major networks have a large selection of younger, retired athletes who take on this work. So, I have made it my job to get my guys locked up for long-term deals. They’ll be around for the next seven to ten years at the top, which is why I like keeping a close-knit group. That’s another difficulty I have. I hate saying no to people, but I like to my group small.”
After about twenty minutes, we arrived at my final question: “What’s next for you?” He quickly responded, “Living on the beach”. Maybe that reverie was for when his career is over, but for the near future he says he is still in the mix on the high-network endorsement deals and that he likes the amount of clients that he has. He does not need to be representing tens of hundreds of clients. His guys are his guys.
“I know that most people who work are not able to say this, but I am incredibly fortunate that with all that is going on with my life, my business is the least of my worries. Long and Boomer are approaching twenty years with Rosner, Simms is coming on twelve, and both Collinsworth and Ripken are near ten. All have long-term deals. They are my core. They are mature enough to know that I get the job done. They don’t care if I’m sitting on the beach negotiating their deal because they know I have their best interest in mind.”
I am sure that one day we will be seeing his desk in the sand.