The following “Six Questions” short interview with Carlos Fleming, VP Talent Management at IMG Worldwide, was conducted by Belmont University Law School student and aspiring sports/entertainment agent Mark J. Burns. Connect with Carlos on Linkedin.
1. First, how would you describe the sports agency industry to someone in 75 words or less?
The sports industry is constantly evolving as advertisers are looking for opportunities to capitalize on the excitement around sports as well as opportunities to differentiate their brands. The impact of traditional advertising is becoming increasingly diluted, which is causing some advertisers to take a serious look at marketing their brands through affiliations in sports. The passion points that attract fans are becoming vehicles to target core consumers. The result has been a growing industry where sports marketing has changed from a “nice to have” for many companies to an important part of their overall brand strategies.
2. You are currently the VP of Talent of Management at IMG. How have your different positions/roles evolved over the years with IMG?
My day-to-day job has changed as my client list has diversified from tennis to multiple other sports. Throughout this evolution, the core principles of managing high profile talent remains the same. Planning long term and the ability to sell are likely the most important fundamentals.
3. Who was your first very well-known client with IMG? As a follow-up, how were you able to start managing that person’s career off the court/field?
I was the junior agent on the account when Venus and Serena Williams first signed with IMG — in my second year at the company. It took several years before I had developed the know-how to take a more senior role on the account. James Blake was the first client that I signed and managed from the outset.
4. What has been the most unique marketing/endorsement deal that you have negotiated during your career? What made it so unique?
Launching Venus’ clothing line, EleVen, with now-defunct Steve & Barry’s was an interesting project because we created something that Venus was passionate about with an infrastructure in place that allowed us to establish the brand with committed national distribution. Developing the Williams’ Sisters Tours in the US and Africa have also been rewarding projects that checked many boxes in terms of being creative, developing personal passion projects, having learning experiences, supporting people in need, and running profitable projects.
5. What is one big challenge you had to overcome in regards to progressing in your career? What did you learn from that challenge?
Managing the careers of 20-year-old millionaires, who are also celebrities and control the success of significant organizations has its inherent challenges. The athletes are on a steep learning curve in an intense media spotlight and will make mistakes. Our job is to advise and help the clients anticipate, but also let their personal character and spirit shine through. This is oftentimes a lot easier to say than to do.
6. In 140 characters or less, what advice would you give to aspiring sports/entertainment business professionals who want to work in the agency world?
Make sure you are passionate about the industry and be willing to work tirelessly.