Three-piece suits, fast cars, and bottle service are what most people think of when they talk about sports agents.
In reality, the life and role of a sports agent is so much more. The agent is the gatekeeper, for better or worse, to their athlete. They are responsible for their brand wellbeing, discovering and providing the best opportunities for their client to grow their own personal brand.
It takes long hours, both in and out of the office, to identify opportunities and take them from conception to execution on behalf of the athlete. Late night emails and phone calls made from dinners and sporting events are common.
But it’s also incredibly rewarding. In the end, knowing that your athlete is set up for as much success off the field as they experience on it makes the effort worthwhile.
Sadly, many athletes have been hurt, hampered, or even victimized by agents who were taking advantage of them, or simply weren’t right for the task.
After reviewing years of athlete-agent relations, here are three pitfalls sports agents should avoid.
The Locked Gate
When an agent keeps offers secret from their athlete because the compensation is perceived to be too small, or the agent won’t get a big enough cut of the deal, they are referred to as a locked gate. The biggest mistake agents make here is getting greedy and declining worthy opportunities because their percentage doesn’t meet expectations. At the end of the day, agents are responsible for evaluating deals to the benefit of their athlete, not themselves. One thing agents tend to forget: As athletes build their brand portfolio to access bigger offers, so does the agent.
Part of an agent’s responsibility is to keep things clear and concise for their talent. Problems arise when agents A) don’t fully vet or understand the contract themselves, or B) don’t fully explain deliverables and expectations to their athlete. Agents ought to make sure that each athlete they sign to a deal is up to date on everything that the business is expecting from them in each campaign they undertake.
In today’s world of NIL, many athletes and agents are signing deals without a second thought. This can be dangerous and jeopardize their athlete’s eligibility and the agent’s career. Take the story of TA Cunningham for example. Cunningham, a talented high school football player, moved to California after being promised lucrative NIL deals would be available to support him and his family. Instead, Cunningham was initially ruled ineligible thanks to several issues with compliance and eligibility. After becoming a national story, Cunningham’s predicament has been solved, but not without a lot of hassle, worrying, and headlines.
Ultimately, an agent is there to help the athlete navigate a complex business ecosystem, growing their brand and unlocking new opportunities. There are many fantastic agencies and agents out there that young talent should learn from. Studying what successful communication and strategy looks like is key to quickly succeeding in a competitive environment. Avoiding these pitfalls will set any new agent on a path where they can learn and grow quickly.
Progage came to life in early 2021, when NFL football player Kaden Smith and entrepreneur Kyle Fenner came together to create a sports marketing agency focused on helping brands win via creative storytelling and social media marketing.