Interview With The Agent: Michael Jennings
Michael Jennings is currently the President of Football at Spire Sports Group, LLC (Spiresportsgroup.com), a metro-Detroit headquartered firm that handles CFL playing contracts as well as marketing initiatives for NFL clients. Jennings is a CFLPA Certified Advisor with over 15 years of experience in management and negotiation and he is a University of Michigan class of 2013 graduate with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Government. Jennings is now pursuing a PhD in Sports Management at his alma mater with research focus in Race and Sport as well as Sport Marketing and Consumer Behavior.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What factors played a role in you deciding to become a sports agent?
Michael Jennings: Well for one I love football. I’ve been around the game for basically my whole life and it was traumatizing to me when my playing days ended years ago. I guess I still never got over that. But being an agent allows me to constantly be around the game and also to do something that I love to do; advocate for athletes. I feel as though many of our young brothers are exploited, and it troubles me. As a result, I chose to become a sports management scholar over law school, B-school, and other educational endeavors because those were boring to me and I love sports.
D’Bria Bradshaw: How do you manage being a graduate student & an agent?
Michael Jennings: Well, I’ve spent years of my life in various states of chaos. What I mean is, I’ve seen it all, and I come from very humble beginnings, so pressure is something that I thrive on. I have 5 children, I coach youth football, and I’m a graduate student at the best university in the world (GO BLUE!), so I wear many hats. It also helps that my studies are pretty much centered around my work. As I pursue my PhD in Sports Management, I’m constantly speaking to athletes and keeping my ear to the street, so to speak, so that I can better serve my clients. It really does make me a better agent, and taking on entities like the NCAA in the name of athletes and their families gives me a thrill.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What skills have you acquired while pursuing a graduate degree in Sport Management that has helped with your career?
Michael Jennings: Most of what I’ve learned in relation to what has made me an agent was learned outside of school. I’ve been in a lot of tough situations, and have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of smart people along the way. However, graduate school has made me a better agent. My research and scholarship is centered around the needs of athletes, so I get the opportunity to figure out what makes them tick more than most agents can. Oftentimes they can negotiate a contract, yet are clueless to the true wants, needs, and values of current and prospective clients. If I can’t help my clients and their families on a personal level, then what am I doing this for? Just money? I can’t live like that.
D’Bria Bradshaw: Where do you see yourself and the industry going in 5-10 years?
Michael Jennings: Spire Sports will inevitably grow, granted we stay true to our ethos of authenticity and expertise in the sports field. I see the sports management/marketing industry as a whole continuing to grow as well. I mean, it’s essentially a recession-proof industry, which is great! More specifically, there are sports management programs sprouting up everywhere these days, so it’s obviously growing from an academic perspective. As far as the actual agent business, there may be more people interested in the profession in the years ahead, but I expect the numbers to stay relatively stable. This game isn’t for everyone.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What advice do you have for young professionals that want to pursue a career as an agent?
Michael Jennings: I remember some years back when I saw Rosenhaus’ answer to this question in his book, A Shark Never Sleeps. He was spot on. Whether it’s in interactions with players, executives, coaches, or whatever, you have to be a networking machine, and you must immerse yourself in the game. Not in a fake, slimy, desperate, slithery way. You have to genuinely care about people and their lives. You have to know your game, and love it. I coach football, I ran a football website for years, I played for a long time, and I breathe the game. This makes any interactions I have with football people, genuine. Be genuine. Be confident. And know what the hell you’re talking about.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What is the most difficult aspect of being an agent in today’s society with the advancement of social media and the industry growing rapidly?
Michael Jennings: If anything, social media has made being an agent easier. But it can be a crutch too. You can only be so genuine online. Look, I’m from the old school. You have to talk to people, look in people’s faces, shake their hands. This is a people business, and people aren’t piles of stats, or machines that tackle running backs. I think we forget that sometimes.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What tasks occupy your time in a given week for your clients & how much traveling takes place to fulfill client needs and recruit new talent?
Michael Jennings: My clients are like my brothers, so I talk to them, or spend time with them many times a week. We do things like play Madden, NBA 2K, and watch games together over some of my famous barbeque wings. How can you serve someone you don’t really know or connect with, and why would an athlete want an agent like that? Unfortunately, it happens though. I physically recruit for about half of the year, and recruit overall even more than that. I also make it a point to get to my clients’ games and important events as much as possible. I spend more time on the phone and in front of the computer for my NFL clients, as their marketing needs are larger than my CFL guys. Spire will be a full service agency for NFL clients in 2015, so I’m sure it’s bound to get more hectic, and the travel more frequent. But that’s what we’re here for.
D’Bria Bradshaw: On behalf of Sport Agent Blog and its readers thank you Michael for taking the time to provide us some insight on the industry. You can follow Spire Sports Group on twitter here: https://twitter.com/SpireSportsGrou