Jeremy Snyder has gone from walk-on kicker at Syracuse to working in private equity before working in the NBA’s marketing department, helping a start-up agency get off the ground and then building his own company – The Factory Agency. Snyder’s agency has a heavy focus on the representation of Olympics and Paralympics athletes, which can be difficult outside of the small window just before, during and immediately after the Games. But after two-and-a-half years of existence, Synder is beginning to expand into other sports and says he will not wildly spend money to penetrate any market. The following is the result of an interview with Jeremy Synder. Enjoy.
Darren Heitner: What is your background? How and why did you get started in the world of representing athletes?
Jeremy Snyder: My start in the sports industry dates back to my days as a walk-on kicker for the Syracuse Orange Football team from 2001-2004. After finishing off my career at Syracuse in 2005, I knew that I wanted to carry over my degree as a double major in Marketing and Finance into the Sports Industry and one-day work my way up in Football Operations. Having several connections in the Collegiate and NFL ranks, they all told me that it would take many years and a lot of moving around the country to fulfill my dreams. After sending out hundreds of letters and emails over the first couple years out of school while working in Private Equity at E&Y in NYC, I realized that I better broaden my search in the sports industry and opened it up to other opportunities outside of just operations and began building my network within the top sports leagues, agencies and brands. After spending 2 ½ years out of sports, I finally landed back on my feet working in the marketing department for the NBA. After a short stint at the NBA, I ended up helping a start-up agency, Legacy Direct get off the ground and build their presence with professional athletes and it was there that I finally realized where my passion lied in the industry. I was finding myself as a young 24 year-old sitting in board meetings with some of the top professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR. I was able to connect with these athletes because they saw a young, hungry and determined associate willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for the agencies clients. After helping Legacy Direct build out their business for a couple of years, I found myself wanting a new challenge and a change in direction, as I saw an immediate opportunity within the Olympic space. It was 2010 and only 2 years out from the 2012 London Games and I realized that with some of the connections and relationships that I had built up over the years, it was either now or never that I go off on my own and start The Factory Agency.
Darren Heitner: Many of your clients are in the Olympic space. How difficult is it to market those athletes when outside of the window during and just outside of the Olympics?
Jeremy Snyder: Every two years the world comes together to focus all of their attention on the Olympics/Paralympics, which as we know only last a combined four weeks. For those four weeks in total, everyone is living and breathing the Olympic/Paralympic movement. We at TFA live and breathe the movement every single day because we strongly believe in the core values of inspiration, respect, courage and determination. With that said, all of our clients have amazing stories to share with the world and we are constantly looking to find creative and innovative ways to which we can share these stories through our marketing partnerships, endorsements, speaking engagements, appearances and media opportunities. It is widely known that the window to market these athletes is a short window before and right after the Games, however we feel strongly in building a sustainable brand not only in their profession, but outside as well so that we can help generate substantial revenue in non-Olympic years. Those opportunities can come from speaking engagements, philanthropic partnerships and media opportunities.
Darren Heitner: How competitive is the Olympic athlete agency space? Why are there not more agents competing to represent those athletes?
Jeremy Snyder: There are some major players within the Olympic athlete representation space including Octagon, Wasserman, PMG Sports and CAA Sports. There are also a few others that focus on niche sports, such as Track and Field, Swimming and Gymnastics. We feel strongly that with our current client base, as an early-stage agency that we can become a major player within this space, as we’re trying to attract like-minded athletes that have strong core values and are of high integrity. I think a lot of agents shy away from the Olympic space because of the simple fact that athletes aren’t competing on National TV each night of the week. It makes our job a lot harder because we really have to get a lot more creative in our marketing pitches to organizations, however with our current client base, we’ve been able to establish some very strong corporate relationships early on in the business that have helped support our initial growth.
Darren Heitner: You boast of a 100% athlete retention rate. What do you attribute that success to? How do you plan to keep your perfect streak alive?
Jeremy Snyder: As we are still an early stage agency, we’ve prided ourselves on pouring ourselves into our clients and their families and gaining their trust very early on in the relationship. Too often in this industry athletes are being told what they want to hear and not what they should be hearing. We work with each of our clients early on to manage expectations to ensure that we’re all on the same page with the direction that we are working to take our clients in from Day 1. The other key to our success so far has been communication with our clients. While it’s certainly a little easier with a smaller client roster, I’ve always wanted to place a heavy emphasis on constant communication with our clients to give them not only positive news about the various opportunities that are coming to fruition, but also share with them any potential negative feedback that we might be receiving. All of our clients appreciate the honesty and I really do believe that this helps strengthen the trust in the business relationship. All of our clients are extremely important to the success of the agency and our current team is focused heavily on providing the best service possible each and every day. I can rest easy at night knowing that we are giving our all every day to each of our clients. I think it’s the competitive mindset of mine from back in my playing days as a collegiate athlete that kick in that wants to keep this streak alive. We have to continue to stay focused on our mission in becoming a preeminent sports agency within the Olympic space.
Darren Heitner: The Factory Agency is a fairly young agency and appears to be expanding into other non-Olympic sports. What divisions are you currently working on building? What is planned for the future?
Jeremy Snyder: While TFA is still only about 2 ½ years old, we are focused on expanding the business into other areas of the sports and entertainment industry. We’ve recently expanded into the sports lifestyle space in signing one of the top Celebrity Fitness trainers in the country. We found ourselves heavily immersed within the health and fitness space and it was a natural progression to bring on a fitness trainer to help grow her brand through endorsement and media opportunities. With that said, we are constantly looking to improve upon our initial success within the Olympic/Paralympic space and looking to continue building and strengthening key relationships with athletes and corporations in both the Summer and Winter Games. Our next big project over the past few months has been to focus on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and we’re currently in the process of bringing in a few key Winter Olympic/Paralympic athletes to represent.
Darren Heitner: Why do you believe that you will be able to compete in the very competitive and costly practice of representing professional football players? What will separate your company from the competition?
Jeremy Snyder: Through our partnerships we have a team that has an extensive and complete football background, from playing, to contract negotiation, to marketing representation. By combining my experience on the field and in the marketing industry with our VP of NFL Representation, Floyd Morris’ legal background and his experience working as an NFLPA Contract Advisor, I believe that our team’s approach will allow our clients to feel comfortable getting complete representation. TFA’s success has been built on building relationships and organic growth instead of wildly spending money to penetrate the market. Similarly, our growth in the professional football space will be built on working with those student-athletes that fit our vision. The nature of this industry is shifting more to a focus on those agencies that can provide marketing revenue to their clients. Because of our accomplishments in the Olympic area, we have developed great relationships with brands that will allow us to enter into conversations with potential sponsors and rival or exceed the marketing opportunities that can be provided by others.
Darren Heitner: Where did the name “The Factory Agency” come from?
Jeremy Snyder: The name was derived from the understanding that athlete brands aren’t built over night and many in fact have strong image perceptions in the market, but need support in building out other areas of their brands. In identifying that need, we’ve developed a seamless brand-building approach that is unique for each client. We carefully piece together the five pillars of a brand (Professional Career, Philanthropic Initiatives, Business Interaction, Resources/Infrastructure and Public Exposure) to develop and then execute a strategic plan for each client in the appropriate areas to monetize the opportunities throughout a vast network of corporate, media and personal relationships.
Darren Heitner: How have you been able to develop relationships with big brands such as BP, Visa and P&G? What’s it like negotiating deals with such large companies on behalf of your clients?
Jeremy Snyder: The relationships that we’ve built with brands such as BP, Visa and P&G have taken years to forge. We’ve been able to strengthen our relationships with these brands and their executives by spending an immense amount of time learning about their core strategies and objectives and ensuring that when we’re pitching our clients for various opportunities that they always align with their objectives. Our relationships appreciate the fact that we don’t like wasting their time, as we know how valuable their time is and have spent the time really getting to know their business. I find that many don’t take the time to understand the sponsors objectives and goals and spend their time constantly pitching their clients to companies that aren’t the right fit. We’re always about quality over quantity and have found great success early on with that approach. In terms of negotiating deals on behalf of our clients with these large corporations, I don’t find it any different than dealing with smaller organizations, as we approach each negotiation the same. We are working to ensure that the organization understands the market value that each client brings to the partnership and their level of commitment required is commiserate with the compensation being offered. While there are no algorithms that can provide exact market value figures for each and every deal, I feel that it’s important to over communicate with our sponsors to ensure that we’re constantly on the same page in regards to the value that our clients are bringing to the partnership and the requirements that the sponsor is looking for from our clients are equitable, which will always provide for a positive start to a successful partnership.
Darren Heitner: What suggestions would you give to people who are interested in breaking into your industry?
Jeremy Snyder: It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Know what you stand for, your morals, how you want your image to appear. Make sure that each and every athlete or client you chose to work with represents what you believe in and shares the same values and morals.