One major aspect of active player representation is marketing. When an agent attempts to brand a player that he represents there are many things that one can do to help facilitate the branding process. A strong relationship with the media is absolutely crucial while attempting to market a player. I know with respect to my company, I have an unusually strong relationship with the media given the small size of my company. I always felt that everyone involved in television and print media could help my company grow more so than if I attempted to go about this journey alone. There is no way I could envision my career being what it is without the major contributions for many members of the media. For the purposes of this article I am only going to focus on marketing up and coming prospects and not established stars.
A trend amongst some of the younger and newer agents within the industry is that they seem to think that social networks are not only excellent tools in generating exposure for their clients, many even go so far to use them as recruiting tools. I am assuredly not a part of the group that believes sites like twitter, myspace, and facebook can help make a player famous nor will they aid them in any way, shape, or form. To some degree, these social networking sites have knocked down the wall that used to exist between the players and the fans. Fans are closer to the players now than ever before and while the overall fan experience is much more involved these days than it was say 25 years ago, the players personal lives away from the field is getting encroached upon more and more. Strictly speaking from a marketing point of view, I completely fail to see how these social networking tools could actually benefit a player. The agents that tend to utilize these sites in hopes of creating a fan base for their players fail to realize that the only thing fans tend to care about when following a specific player or prospect is their statistics or their on field contributions to their respective team. Creating an artificial fan base via a facebook fanclub or have tons of followers on twitter is not an actual benefit and if anything, it only invades a players privacy to the absolute extreme. If a specific prospect is hitting .220 in the florida state league and has 5,000 followers on twitter and 5,000 fan club members on facebook would that player really be in a better situation than say a prospect who hit .330 anonymously? Absolutely not, and it would be ignorant for any agent to think otherwise. You cannot mask the reality of a players situation because now more than ever the fans are ridiculously educated about every facet of the game now. Full disclosure: I do post on several message boards and that is a total personal preference. I personally enjoy interacting with fans whether it be online or in person. I always answer all my emails and private messages. I do not consider what I do on message boards work and it is something I choose to do on my down time.
Beyond statistics and on field contributions, good old fashioned media exposure is the only way to help capitalize on a players success. Radio, television, and print media all offer sufficient means of exposure that could potentially aid a players career. It is the job of the agent to not only assist a player in dealing with all forms of media, it is also an agents job to capitalize financially on that exposure. When I first started in this industry the very first industry members I befriended beyond the scouts who got me started were the local beat writers for my hometown teams. I asked them hundreds of questions and contacted them incessantly and I thank them dearly for putting up with me. As my company grew and I signed players from all over the country I made it a point to contact every local writer I could from my clients home town in addition to contacting every major media member that covered my clients major league affiliate. Every winter meetings I attended I made more and more media contacts and in 2003, in a stroke of absolute dumb luck, I befriended John Buccigross of ESPN. This will take the story way off course but its pretty awesome and I think its worth telling.
I had the ultimate good fortune of attending the 2003 NHL all star game in addition to attending the All Star player party held the night before the game. I was on a mission that weekend and if I failed this mission I probably would have never emotionally recovered. All I wanted that entire weekend was to meet John Buccigross. I am a massive hockey fan. I played for 13 years, I went to tons of games with my father as a kid, and I always felt that a guy like John Buccigross just understood better than anyone what it was like to truly love the game. He was like your local drinking buddy who just happened to make it big but after making it he tried to take all of his buddies along for the ride, except his buddies were his entire audience. I was part of that group and I wasn’t going to be satisfied unless I got to meet him.
The night of the player party, I brought 1 silver paint pen, my camera, and 1 hockey puck. I got to the event early in hopes I catching him. Hour after mind numbing hour I failed with astonishing regularity. At the time, ESPN had a hockey program called NHL2NIGHT. I somehow managed to meet the entire cast that night except Buccigrorss. Steve Levy, Barry Melrose, and the eternal Bill Pidto. Each time I ran into someone I would ask, “Have you seen Buccigross?” Each time the question was asked I was greeted with a look of absolute annoyance (It was quite funny to watch Steve Levy come to the realization he had no fans). Finally at the end of the night I was going to the escalator getting ready to leave when I literally ran into John Buccigross.
I have only gone speechless around celebrities three times in my life. When I met Dominik Hasek when I was 16 years old I went completely numb and rambled like an idiot while he signed a hockey card for me. The second time I ever got star struck I literally almost got struck by a star. When I was walking back to my office in 2003 Larry David almost hit me with his rental car. Yes, Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm almost ran me over, I looked at the at the car after it almost smashed into me and said “Oh my god, that was Larry David”. I waited for him after he got out of his car and had him sign a hockey puck I had with me. He asked me how I recognized him and I told him I had Jewdar. I can pick out other jews from a crowd. Larry David laughed at that comment. I made Larry David laugh, game over and thank you for playing I can now die in peace.
The very last time I was star struck was when I finally met John Buccigross. I somehow spit out the words “Bucci, can you sign this puck for me please I have been searching for you all night?” His response was twofold “ Why and whats your favorite band?” I told him and he promptly signed the puck which I still hang in my office to this day “What Kurt Cobain was to Nirvana Josh is to John Buccigross” His presence relaxed me and we ended up chatting for about three hours that night. When it was all said and done we had exchanged emails and cell phone numbers. I made sure we stayed in touch and he graciously did the same and while I was in college he even used several of my emails in his weekly column. After I had graduated, John allowed me to use his image on our website and he had hired me to help assist him with whatever he needed with regard to his career, so basically I am on call for him as he needs me. When John hired me I felt a tremendous sense of validation and without guys like him believing in me at such a young age I’m not sure I could have survived in this business. I started out as a fan but I ended up as his agent and friend totally by accident.
With John Buccigross as a client, more members of the media began to take me seriously and it allowed me access and opportunity that I normally never would have had. As my clients progressed and became more well known I made it a point to make all of them available to the media for everything. Any time someone in the media needed a quote or wanted interview I made it a point to make my clients available in a flash.
But what does an agent do with all these raw materials? The interviews and stories? Well, my company has a file for each client that the agency represents. Each file contains every piece of media that I can get my hands on. Those files are scanned and eventually power point presentations, brochures, and even full blown books are created for each one of my clients. These materials are then sent to absolutely every company on earth in hopes of securing endorsement contracts for our players. Without the media, it would be significantly more difficult in marketing my clients. If I were to contact a company and all they had to rely on were statistics and the my word I don’t think I would have close to the number of endorsement contracts on the books that I have now. And those contracts that I have been able to secure for my clients have probably kept me in business more than anything because when a player is in the minor leagues he needs to generate as much off the field revenue as possible to stay financially afloat. Not every player signs for a 6 or 7 figure bonus so aside from their salary, all a minor league players has to survive on is off the field revenue. Aside from on the field performance, this process is heavily added and starts with the media. So with all that being said I believe it is imperative to have a positive relationship with everyone involved in the media whether it be radio, television, internet, or print.
The media can make players a great deal of money but they can also prevent a player from making money. An agents relationship with members of the media can greatly assist a players career by potentially helping that player earn additional off the field revenue. If an agent has a poor relationship with the media or even simply ignores them, it can very negatively affect a players career. It is very important to note that an agent should never ever try to outshine his clients. No player ever wants to compete with his agent for the spotlight. If an agent is able to walk that line in addition to assisting the media with their job, a player can greatly benefit financially from that agent/media relationship. And as one dear friend told me several years ago when I told him I’d make him famous, “I don’t want to be famous, I want to be rich”.