It’s no surprise that athletes can make a killing off of endorsements. Making money for the athlete you represent — and therefore for yourself — is one of the primary concerns of a good sports agent.
However, it definitely shouldn’t be all a sports agent is interested in.
Not all endorsements are created equal. How much money is involved is only part of the equation that needs to be considered when you’re trying to guide your athlete toward the right products, companies, and services to build him or her a bigger paycheck and brand.
Guide Your Athlete to the Right Endorsement
From weighing values to remembering to thinking locally, here are five ways a sports agent can more effectively guide an athlete toward the right endorsements.
1. Be Values-Centered
Not every athlete has the same worldview. Some are passionate about travel or animals. Some love the finer things in life; be it food, drink, or luxury living. Others have simpler tastes and would prefer eating hot dogs to eating foie gras. The athletes in your charge have values specific to them, and a good sports agent will help them find the endorsements that most accurately reflect those values.
Continually being outfitted in the hottest new sports apparel may appeal to one of your athletes, while the newest gadgets in tech might appeal to another. Get to know your athletes well enough to seek out endorsements that are in line with who they really are, and you’ll have happier athletes and happier sponsors.
2. Think of the Future
Not all athletes will enjoy a lengthy and injury-free career. Golfers can play for decades, while professional football players rarely go beyond 10 years. Because of the disparity in how long an athlete will be able to stay in the spotlight, it’s important to consider the future both in terms of gaining endorsements that could conceivably continue after retirement and in terms of endorsements that will pay a hefty sum during the athletes’ active years.
3. Think Local
Yes, it’s always a good idea to at least try to go after the biggest endorsements you can (provided they aren’t at odds with your clients’ values). Pepsi, Coke, Nike, Adidas, Under Armour — the biggest corporations tend to mean the biggest payouts. But don’t skip out on smaller and more local opportunities in your haste to win the largest and most lucrative prize.
Whether there’s a luxury car dealership in the city where your athlete went to college that could provide a sizable check or a mom and pop franchise they happened to love in their hometown, building a complex portfolio that has a local and personal element can actually aid in building your clients’ brands.
4. Don’t Be Passive
It’s pretty common for a sports agent to start representing athletes when they’re barely into their 20’s. While many young athletes know they need guidance in maneuvering the world of money and sports, some athletes — or their parents — have ideas that may prove detrimental to their careers.
Don’t be passive when faced with an athlete who’s certain that an endorsement from Hooters is all he’s every cared about. Give advice respectfully, but in a no-holds-barred manner. If there comes a time when you and a client can’t see eye-to-eye anymore, don’t be shy about that either. In every way you can, be assertive and truthful. The sports agent-athlete relationship is one that needs a healthy amount of honesty in order for both parties to be best served.
5. Be Realistic
Very few of the athletes you represent will ever reach the level of legacy that Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm have reached, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get great endorsements and earn a decent amount of money. Yes, you need to be realistic about what your clients can accomplish, but you need to work hard to avoid aiming too low, too.
As much as you can, be realistic about their talent, personal charisma, character, and other features that affect endorsement opportunities and payouts. This realism is central to your success and theirs, because, without it you and the athletes you serve may be underperforming.
A great sports agent isn’t just someone who works with great athletes. A great sports agent also helps his athletes find the right endorsements in order to best benefit their careers and financial situations, presently and well into the future.