This Interview with the Agent’s subject is not the typical contract agent who negotiates contracts with teams on behalf of his athlete clients. Instead, Ryan Totka of AthletePromotions.com works with many of those contract agents to provide opportunities off the field/court/ice while the athlete is a professional and well into the athlete’s retirement. Ryan has supported this website since its early days, and I thank him for that. The following is an interview that was recently conducted.
Darren Heitner: What prompted you to start AthletePromotions.com?
Ryan Totka: The combination of my passion for business, sports and the Internet. There comes a day when you realize you may not make it to the pros in sports, so taking my knowledge of the Internet and being around sports on any everyday basis was the best way to fulfill this dream. Many agents don’t recognize the marketability of retired athletes because they aren’t getting that big contract anymore. Our company specializes in marketing recently retired players in all sports building them official websites and booking them for corporate appearances, speaking engagements, autograph signings and other events.
Darren Heitner: What are the positives and negatives of running your own company, specifically in the sports business?
Ryan Totka: The positives are of course working with athletes and celebrities you grew up watching and idolizing. Like I tell people, if you love what you are doing for a living, you don’t work a day in your life. Being able to bring them paid opportunities is rewarding. As far as the negatives, there really aren’t too many. I would say just screening through the numerous requests you get from people. Like any business, when you put yourself out there on the Internet, it’s just something that you learn to deal with.
Darren Heitner: AthletePromotions.com brands itself as a full-service sports marketing agency, speakers bureau, and PR agency. Since you work in a variety of capacities, does it ever make it difficult to work alongside others in the athlete’s business team?
Ryan Totka: If the athlete and their management team are smart, they realize we are bringing them opportunities that were not there before. Often times, we create new revenue streams that weren’t there before. We get numerous agents and managers that are looking for a company to really market their clients on the web and that is our speciality, making sure they get maximum exposure from potential clients as well as loyal fans.
Darren Heitner: How did you get access to thousands of retired and current athletes and how do you manage to stay in contact with such a large number of clients?
Ryan Totka: Years of building relationships. These things don’t come overnight. We only really contact the athlete or celebrity when we have a paid opportunity for them. We don’t waste anyone’s time asking them for a donation, autograph request, etc which you get everyday. Occasionally you get a charity that they may be close to and pass along to their team. There are some athletes that we work very close with and like to pitch more often to potential clients, because we know what to expect.
Darren Heitner: What is the most successful division of AthletePromotions.com?
Ryan Totka: We pride ourselves as the best out there when it comes to getting an athlete exposure on the Internet. Website development, search engine marketing, athlete branding and of course appearance booking is our core. Athletes have spent years getting where they are today from hard work along the way and we pride ourselves as doing the same. Nothing is ever handed to you. We truly understand what it took to get to the top, which is why it makes it easier to show them the attention they deserve.
Darren Heitner: AthletePromotions.com has to be one of the most extensive Search Engine Optimized sites I have ever seen. Did you build the site yourself? Do you also build sites for athletes? How did you learn about SEO?
Ryan Totka: I’ve spent over twelve years working on the Internet, building web businesses and learning how search engines work. Technology changes everyday and you gotta stay on top of it. Building sites for athletes is our specialty. We built, market and manage websites for names such as Spud Webb, Steve Garvey, William “The Fridge” Perry, Dan Fouts, Ray Lankford, Brady Anderson, Pat Williams, Dwight Howard, Nick Anderson, Dan Hampton, Danny White, Sam Fuld, Sheryl Swoopes, Thomas Hitman Hearns and more.
Darren Heitner: You have booked appearance and speaking engagements for Mark Cuban, Spud Webb, and Steve Garvey. What is it like dealing with such a variety of personalities on a day-to-day basis?
Ryan Totka: Just like the real business world, you deal with all types of unique personalities. That’s what makes life fun.
Darren Heitner: How much time do you spend traveling for business? What type of work do you accomplish on your travels?
Ryan Totka: I would say at least twice a month I am traveling. Along with our appearance bookings, I try to hit the major sporting events. Constantly being around the game creates opportunities. There is a time to be in front of a computer screen and a time to hit the field. Everyday is an opportunity to network and that’s how I’ve build my businesses along the way. You gotta move and shake.
Darren Heitner: What other businesses do you operate other than AthletePromotions.com?
Ryan Totka: My first business out of college was TornadoPromotions, a website development / search engine consulting firm. This let me work in a number of industries until I truly found my passion. Back in 2006, I also founded, RedCarpetMonday, a social business network bringing together like minded entrepreneurs and business owners, both online and offline. We host live networking events in markets such as Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta and Dallas.
Darren Heitner: For those looking for advice regarding breaking into the sports business, what can you offer?
Ryan Totka: I recently wrote a blog on my site, RyanTotka.com. This outlined the best ways to get involved in sports and possibly make it a career. This was based on my experiences along the way. Enjoy: http://www.ryantotka.com/tips-for-finding-your-dream-career-in-sports/