Dennis Blake is currently the Chief Executive Officer with Blake Sports Group. He oversees all day-to-day operations of athlete representation, corporate consulting and event management, the three divisions of Blake. Before the development of the Blake Sports Group in 2006, Dennis was an influential leader in the public relations and marketing departments for the Callaway, Odyssey, Ben Hogan, and Top-Flite golf brands.
1) Before founding Blake Sports Group in 2006, you worked in PR/Marketing with Callaway, Odyssey and a number of golf-specific brands. Why the switch to the athlete representation/corporate consulting business?
I had the amazing opportunity at a young age to work with/recruit the best current and up-and-coming players in the world on all the Tours while at Callaway Golf. Getting to know all the players and building good relationships with them created the opportunity to run Pro-Tour for Top-Flite and Ben Hogan Golf after Callaway bought the brands out of bankruptcy. My greatest opportunity in my new position came when I was granted the ability to negotiate all contracts on behalf of Top-Flite and Ben Hogan with the players and their agents. After three years of negotiating deals from the manufacturing side, it gave me the experience and credibility to transition to managing the players that I built the great relationships with. In addition to giving athletes the guidance they needed, I was able to convert my years of experience at Callaway, Top-Flite and Ben Hogan into helping other corporations, big and small, grow their brands through the great game of golf.
2) What does any given work week look like for you from a high-level perspective – i.e., meetings with clients, negotiation sessions, internal meetings at Blake, travel schedule, etc.
When I first started the business, I was traveling 30-40 weeks out of the year generating new business and activating current business. I have developed a great team over the years divided into three divisions including athlete representation, corporate consulting and event management. Having a great team behind me enables me to travel less and focus on new business development and overseeing current business. My main focus on a weekly basis is to meet with my team and to study and analyze the sports landscape. We look at what our corporate clients’ competitors are doing, we review how our athletes performed over the week and we make recommended changes or stay the course based on our results.
3) What is the most difficult/toughest aspect of your current role as CEO of Blake Sports Group?
Throughout my career, I always had one job description and one main focus. Now that I am running a company, I have a number of jobs, and I am focused in many areas. With that said, the hardest part of my job is managing my time and making sure every aspect of the business gets my attention. Having a great team alleviates some of that pressure, but I still need to have a role in everything. Generating new business opportunities, overseeing current business and making it better, managing a staff and doing everything a leader needs to do to make a business successful takes a tremendous amount of focus and time management.
4) If there was one part of the agency business that you could change, what would it be and why?
Just like every other profession, I believe that there should be a level of education that you should have to complete to become certified in the industry. In the early days of the sports agent world, it was extremely common to have your law degree. I don’t necessarily think that an agent should have to get their law degree, but there should be a level of certification that one would need to practice in the space.
5) Since you started in the agency world in 2007, how has this specific niche changed over the past 7-8 years?
The business is too easy to get into now. Too many people like sports and want to be a sports agent because they think it is very glamorous. Athletes are hiring their friends, colleagues, family etc that don’t know the business. With that said, these agents/business managers don’t have the background or the experience and too many athletes are not getting the expert advice and guidance that they should be. Too many athletes are not paying attention to what is going on behind the scenes and finding themselves with a lot less than they had when they retire.
6) In 100 words or less, what advice can you give aspiring sports business professionals who want to work in the agency business?
When I interview a potential employee or intern the very famous response to my question of “why do you want to work in sports marketing?” is very commonly “because I love sports”.
Through my years of experience in the space, I find that the best employees are not always the athletes growing up or the sports fans. Too many of the “athletes” or “sports fans” get wrapped up in the glamour and excitement of being around athletes. The more you treat the athlete as a normal business executive and the more you treat the sports world as a business, the more successful you will be.