Many professional sports players start their careers as early as their late teens, with little to no experience in the financial aspect of things. Meanwhile, once they’ve started working, they spend most of their days either practicing, training, traveling, or playing their respective games. These athletes require the services of an experienced Sports Agent to help them land favorable contracts, both starting out and as they grow and progress.
Sports Agents manage their clients and look after their best interests in all things related to finances and public relations. After all, many players essentially become very lucrative brands in their own right. Thus, their public image has to be carefully groomed and marketed. Savvy Sports Agents are always on the lookout for endorsement deals, sponsors, merchandising opportunities, and other ways to expand their clients’ money-making potential.
- Negotiating fair, equitable contracts for players
- Reaping financial rewards alongside clients
- Being involved in the behind-the-scenes world of sports and engaging with famous players, teams, coaches, managers, and owners
- Sports Agents work full-time and often “overtime.” They may be employed by agencies or work independently. Their schedules must be flexible to accommodate the needs of their clients and stakeholders. Frequent travel is necessary, as players traverse around the country.
- Analyze existing player contracts to determine reasonable baselines based on “current market value”
- Present clients’ long-term value to interested teams
- Utilize statistical data to justify a client’s requested compensation
- Negotiate personal services contract terms between players and teams
- Explain standard player contract details to younger, inexperienced players and their families
- Help clients build a well-crafted public persona that can be embellished through savvy branding, marketing, and PR
- Collect payments on behalf of clients, as needed
- Look for promotional opportunities for clients, such as endorsement or paid appearance contracts, sponsors, etc.
- Plan out short- and long-term success strategies
- Set up meetings and events; arrange travel and plan itineraries
- Consult or hire personal trainers or performance coaches
- Inspect areas or environments where clients are scheduled to appear, to ensure safety and to understand what the client will be doing
- Negotiate fine print items such as renewal terms or “do not trade” clauses
- Be familiar with state-specific athlete agent forms and laws, including NIL — “name, image, likeness” collectives and rules
- Under NIL, players may make money via:
- appearing in ads
- launching sports camps or other business ventures
- paid appearances and speeches
- selling ad space on their social media accounts
- selling merchandise
- signing/selling memorabilia
- Show clients how to invest wisely and save money while mitigating tax liabilities
- Prepare clients for future retirement or downtime due to injuries or trades
- Keep clients “out of trouble” and help to manage their moods by decreasing stress factors
- Ensuring clients abide by any contract covenants (i.e., refraining from certain acts such as dangerous activities that could lead to injury and prevent them from playing)
Stay up-to-date on trends and changes in the industry, in particular, the “Big Four” — NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. Note, agents may also represent golfers, Olympic sports players, and extreme sports players
- Attention to detail
- Communication skills
- Negotiation skills
- Networking skills
- Sound judgment
- Thinking on one’s feet
- Creative and technical writing skills
- Deep understanding of relevant sports, unions, and contracts
- Familiarity with financial software
- Familiarity with social media platforms
- Knowledge of advertising and marketing principles
- Project management
- Sports Agent agencies
- Labor relations
- Human resources departments within private organizations
Sports Agents are trusted by young players and their families to land the best deals possible and to “watch their clients’ backs.” They’re also trusted by experienced players who are hustling each day to stay on top of their game and need someone else to take care of the financials and PR.
Agents are often on standby, ready to respond as needed when a situation or opportunity arises. They might work nights, weekends, or holidays, often traveling around to meet with scouts, recruit new clients, and manage their talent rosters. An agent’s total compensation is based on that of their clients, so it pays for agents to find the best players to partner with and to develop their careers over time.
Social media has transformed public relations and now the words and actions of sports players are scrutinized 24/7 by fans, critics, and media hounds. Sports Agents need to help their clients successfully navigate their careers under this constant limelight, where brand reputation is critical and financial stakes are higher than ever.
GlobalNewsWire reports that the “global sports market is expected to grow from $354.96 billion in 2021 to $501.43 billion in 2022.” The incomes of individual players continue to grow in tandem, as noted in Forbes’ article, Top 50 Sports Stars Combined To Make Nearly $3 Billion In A Year.
The cutoff salary to make it into that top 50 list was $37.6 million a year. Sports Agents not only help negotiate those lucrative contracts, but also help find sponsorships, endorsements, and other ways to help their clients increase earnings. Consider Michael Jordan’s estimated net worth of $1.9 billion (of which only $90 million came from his sports salary).
Naturally, most Sports Agents probably loved watching or playing sports growing up. They may have wanted to become professional players themselves, or in some cases perhaps they did but had to leave because of an injury.
Sports Agents have the “gift of gab” and can negotiate deals because of their power of persuasion and deep knowledge of contracts. They may have been good at math, economics, and statistics as well as technical or legal reading. Of course, they also have a knack for branding and marketing and may have been involved in their own entrepreneurial endeavors in their youth, too.
- There is no particular college degree needed, but many Sports Agents major in law so they can understand the nuances of contracts
- Some earn an undergraduate degree from a sports management program, marketing, or business administration, then go on to study law or business in grad school
- Contract law is an especially useful area of study for this field
- Internships related to sports management, sales, marketing, finance, or contracting can all provide valuable practical work experience
- Players often have their pick of agents to choose from, making this a competitive field. Many Sports Agents earn optional certifications to enhance their credentials. Another way to demonstrate their connections is to obtain a union franchise agreement, committing them to uphold the union’s standards
- Intelligent.com offers a helpful guide for The Top 52 Sports Management Degree Programs. While sports management programs are a common major of choice for this career field, many students opt instead for law, marketing, or business administration
- These majors are all conducive to online or hybrid learning, but when possible, in-person classes are good for honing your debate skills
- Try to find programs featuring an active student life and campus activities that allow for plenty of networking
- As always, look for programs that are accredited!
- Ideally, your college will have sports teams, with opportunities for you to get to know the staff and perhaps even players
Sports Agent students have plenty of educational opportunities, ranging from online and hybrid courses to full-time, on-campus programs at great schools around the country. U.S. News Best Law Schools for 2023 provides an excellent starting point if you want to go the legal route.
- Stock up on classes related to economics, business, math, English, speech, debate, psychology, and marketing
- Try out for sports you have an interest in and aptitude for
- Learn about NIL collectives and ways that players can monetize their names, images, and likenesses
- Volunteer for school activities where you can learn about teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, and project management
- Apply for internships in sports, sales, marketing, finance, or contracting
- Read up on sports news related to contracts and sponsorship/endorsement deals
- Ask a working agent if you can shadow them. See if they’ll trade work in exchange for mentorship
- Watch videos and read books, journals, and online content about the field
- Visit or participate in sports clubs and get to know people
- Consider knocking out additional certifications such as the National Football League Player’s Association certification for agents
- Many Sports Agents start in entry-level jobs for sports agencies
- Internships are a reliable method of landing a temp gig that could before a full-time job later
- Sign up for alerts on popular job portals like ZipRecruiter, SimplyHired, Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor
- Read through job ads carefully. If you’re missing qualifications, go back and work on those so you’ll be competitive
- Polish up your LinkedIn profile
- Launch your own website to advertise your work and experiences
- Write posts about sports topics and share them across multiple channels. Try to build up a strong followership
- Ask people in your network for tips about job openings
- Reach out to former professors and supervisors to see if they’ll serve as personal references
- Knock out a professional certification to beef up your application
- Find out what resources your school’s career center offers, such as help with resumes, doing mock interviews, or locating job fairs
- Promote yourself just as fiercely as you would one of your own clients!
- Check out Sports Agent resume samples and make sure your resume is error-free
- Review Indeed’s How to Dress for an Interview
- If you work for an agency, the best way to climb the ladder is to land great clients and make amazing deals for them
- Be a go-getter who isn’t afraid to aim high and go for big endorsements and sponsorships
- Know your business inside and out, and keep honing your salesmanship and negotiating skills
- Demonstrate your ability to tackle increased responsibilities by showing leadership and offering to mentor others
- Stay up-to-date on developments and current market rates
- Sign up for additional certifications and consider completing a graduate degree
- Ensure you are listed in Sports Agent Directory and similar sites, so players can find you!
- Hold clients accountable for compliance with contract terms. Keep your players out of trouble!
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect, and build your reputation on integrity
- Have discussions with your supervisor and ask about promotion opportunities. Plan very carefully before leaving an agency in an effort to climb your career ladder
- American Hockey League (AHL)
- Canadian Football League (CFL)
- Europe Basketball
- Major League Baseball (MLB)
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- National Football League (NFL)
- National Hockey League (NHL)
- Sports Agent Blog
- Sports Agent Directory
- Sports Management Worldwide
- Major League Baseball Players Association
- Major League Soccer Players Association
- National Football League Players Association
- National Hockey League Players’ Association
- NBA Players Association
- Women's National Basketball Association
- Becoming a Sports Agent (Masters at Work), by Gary Rivlin
- Behind in the Count: My Journey from Juvenile Delinquent to Baseball Agent, by Kurt M Varricchio and Michael Ashley
- The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game, by Leigh Steinberg and Michael Arkush
Being a Sports Agent requires a ton of enthusiasm and commitment. The job requires a true love for sports and dealmaking and revolves around building long-term relationships in an evolving industry. Not everyone has the energy to be out there hustling every day, which is why it’s good to have a few alternative career options lined up, such as:
- Accounts Manager
- Advertising Sales Agent
- Corporate Partnerships
- Athletic Administrator
- Event Coordinator
- Financial Management
- Marketing Manager
- Parks and Recreation
- Public Relations
- Resort Management
- Sports Camp Director
- Sports Writer
- Talent Director
- Youth Sports Coordinator