10 years. That’s how long I have been writing for Sports Agent Blog. Over this time I’ve made many connections and friends, but it is time for me to depart.
For my last post, I thought I’d take a look into the future of athlete representation and where it is headed. The business is constantly evolving, thanks to new technologies, sports and entrants.
So without further ado…
1. Yeah, We Know Esports Are Here, But Where Will They Go?
No longer is esports the challenger. It’s here, with sponsorships and prize money now running into the millions, and it will only get bigger. The question is, how will the landscape of esports representation develop? There are agencies popping up everywhere as playing contracts start getting larger and more complex. However, with hardly any formal regulations in place, it’s still somewhat of a wild wild west, which doesn’t bode well for the players.
So how do we fix this? Do we need esports agents to be licensed by a central body, similar to FIFA? With different leagues and games across the world this would prove incredibly difficult. Riot Games has introduced minimum contract requirements for it’s league, and many may follow suit. Creating a standard representation agreement is paramount to protect players. The Leagues need to step up and take control.
2. The Logo Counting Era Is Over, But Will It Hurt Endorsements?
Equivalent Advertising Value (EAV) has long been a metric used by agents to sell sponsorship. Quite simply, an agent or analytics company will count how many times a logo appears on a player and apportion some algorithm that spits out a value. Then offer a discount, touting that the sponsor is getting a bargain by sponsoring the athlete.
These days are coming to an end.
While there can be positives to having the logo front and centre, apportioning a value based on views is a fallacy. With marketing budgets becoming tighter and more accountable, athletes needs to do more than just wear the brand. A well executed sponsorship will see the logo as merely a part of the overall association with the athlete.
This in particular will have an effect on sports such as tennis and golf. As an agent, what you need to do is think outside the box with what you can do with the athlete, talk to companies, and find innovative ways in which both you and the sponsor’s objectives can be met.
It’s not difficult. Sponsorship fees are only increasing as consumers turn away from traditional advertising, which puts athletes in an advantageous position.
3. Sports Agents Now Become The Creators
Prior to the rise of new media, a sports agent would often procure sponsorships and opportunities with third parties. Now, with the changing landscape, agencies are now creating properties themselves with their athletes. An example of this is Octagon, who recently created a web series following their NHL clients as they are entering the draft. As the process of creating and sharing content becomes increasingly easier, look for more agencies to create and distribute content with their clients, rather than source externally.
4. Athletes Want To Know The Whole Nine Yards
The old endorsement and contract process used to be purely the focus of the agent – rarely would the client care where or how they were getting their money.
This has now changed. Never have athletes been more interested in the business side of things than now. Attribute it to the rise of business reporting, or athletes focusing on their long term finances, but when discussing deals, the athlete wants to be involved.
5. Influencers Are Taking Athletes Money
Athletes were the original influncers, however with the rise of social media, this has all changed. Brands are increasing pouring money into this area of their marketing budgets, which spells good and bad for athletes. There are now influncers in many different areas that can help brands, meaning that the stronghold athletes once had is gone. However, with the uptick in marketing spending, athletes can benefit. Developing audiences in now paramount to an athlete’s success off-field.
6. Insurance Is Critical
The good news for athletes today is that insurance is available for virtually any part of their career and earnings. Scared you’ll drop in the draft and lose the slotted value? There’s insurance for that. Missing 6 months with an injury? There’s insurance for that. As agents, it is vital that all applicable insurance be taken out to protect the client. While some clubs and leagues take care of this, it’s an agents job to ensure that no stone is left unturned.
7. Data, Data, Data
Thanks initially to Moneyball, teams and brands are now fully utilising data when making decisions on athletes. To counter this, agencies are now hiring data analysts themselves. This is the new frontier. No longer can an agent ask for a contract without having the data to support their numbers.
The agents that will be successful will be the ones who can figure out the good data vs. the bad data, and highlight the strengths of their clients in the face of weaknesses put forth by the team. This might be a metric that an agent has found attributed to their clients success, and can use in negotiations.
8. Niche Businesses
Superstar athletes are going to continue to start their own agencies. We have seen this with Rory McIlroy, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Sally Fitzgibbons to name a few. These athletes have sensed that they can achieve their goals by creating their own teams who work for them. As the money for athletes continues on a steady uptrend, they will cut the normal commission structure at agencies and form their own companies.
9. The Key To This Business? Fulfill A Need
If this business had to be whittled down to a three word phrase it would this:
Fulfill a need.
Your sole purpose as an agent is to find a need and captialise on it for your client. Brands looking to hit their marketing objectives? Fulfill the need with your client. Team needs a new point guard? Fulfill the need. You get the drift.
The most successful agents will be those who can utilise their clients in a variety of different and creative ways. It’s all about the opportunities.
10. What The Future Holds For Me
I’ve left this one for the conclusion, and a bit about where I’ll be headed. For anyone who is reading this looking to get into athlete representation, I’ll tell you this. It’s tough. I have spent countless hours/months/years searching for a way in. Being in a country (Australia) where the industry is largely contract based does not help. I get emails from many involved in or who what to get involved in the industry asking for advice from everything to how do I get more clients, how do I get internships and so on. I’ve even been mistaken for an agent many times. I’ve met and connected with many agents across many continents. Yet still, I am on the outer.
So I will be taking a break from the business in a ‘working’ sense in the short term. But I will be back. Later this year, I will be launching a new business that facilitates the industry. I’m keeping it under wraps for now, but the hope is that it will benefit many agents across the globe, and put my skills in front of prospective employers. So stay tuned by following me on Twitter. I’ll still be sharing content in regards to the industry.
I’d like to thank Darren in particular for giving me a shot off one email back in 2006, D’Bria and Cameron for their countless hours as editors and fixing my mistakes, and the rest of the Sports Agent Blog team. We all do this because we love the industry. Thank you.