In the early days of the NFL, draftees negotiated their contracts either by themselves or with parental guidance. This led to many unhappy players who felt exploited by their teams and a search for professional help. After a lengthy, uphill battle, they earned the guaranteed right of representation in a collective bargaining agreement. The National Football League Players Association, or (NFLPA), is one union-based organization established to provide players with formal representation when discussing contracts. During such negotiations, sports agents represent the interest of athletes.
There are several reasons why a professional athlete needs representation. In addition to being savvy about the legal issues, agents will also manage product sponsorships, an athlete’s brand, public relations, and future goals regarding post-career employment and financial planning.
When a professional athlete signs their first contract, they are often young and naive. Most of them are fresh out of college, not prepared with enough life experience to comprehend the small details involved in a sports contract. In addition, this is the first time amounts of money in the hundreds of millions are being discussed, which can be very stressful and complicated.
When looking for an agent, there are essential factors to consider. Representatives must have an acute knowledge of their client’s sport so they will be able to handle issues such as risk factors, career longevity, and branding. They need to have an extensive network within the industry and have an extroverted, charismatic personality. Agents are negotiating more than on-field time; they are also negotiating marketing potential and paid sponsorships, ticket sales, and merchandising.
Another reason for expertise is they are responsible for knowing their client’s worth in their chosen sport, and they must be ready to bring that to the table when facing the team’s general manager. Using comparable players as a baseline, agents should come prepared with the analytics to back up their financial demands.
Agents are also scouts searching for potential talent and salesman when the time comes to convince a player and family to entrust them with their child’s future, both physically and financially. Getting to know a player as a person is a massive part of how an agent guides them through their career, keeping them aligned with their short- and long-term goals.
Another big part of an agent’s job is reminding athletes that no professional sporting career lasts forever. As such, it’s essential to prepare them for what comes next, whether it’s retirement or a second career. Smart wealth management and positive relationships with sports professionals will benefit players if an analyst or broadcaster is the next chapter in life.