When I first saw the headline about Saquon Barkley leaving Roc Nation for CAA for marketing my initial reaction was extreme skepticism. How long will it last before he considers leaving Roc Nation as a whole? How did that conversation go with Roc Nation? How much did CAA guarantee in marketing dollars that led him to make the switch?
Then I stopped and really thought about it.
This is an epic move for the world of sports. Why in the world am I saying that? Because for once someone is realizing that everyone wins when you focus on what you do best. By no means am I saying that Roc Nation doesn’t do big marketing deals (Todd Gurley is the face of a lot of significant ads right now), but it’s not what you immediately think of when you hear them mentioned. You may think of Jay-Z, who owns the agency, or some of their very big name clients. CAA on the other hand does have a reputation of being a leader in sports marketing and has spent years building up relationships with the top brands and companies across the world.
This is an issue I have personally faced in the industry for years. Everyone wants to be a “jack of all trades” when they work in sports. They forget that the second half of that quote is “master of none”. So many individuals are so insecure and scared of people stealing their clients that they try and say that they do “everything” - as in negotiate contracts, run their social media, handle all of their marketing deals, build their brand, run their charities, handle crisis management, deal with adversity, manage the “groupies”, and of course a laundry list of a million other things. It’s the very reason why over the years I have had very real (and not so easy) conversations with some of my clients’ agents and their internal marketing teams. It’s also the very reason why a handful of meetings with full-service agents often end in a discussion about how they actually do what we do. We’re often viewed as a threat even though the reality is that what we do (building and protecting the athlete’s brand while focusing on authenticity and sustainability) can actually make the agents and their marketing teams a significant amount of additional income, while also saving them from potentially losing dollars by keeping things in check. In one sense, what we do actually acts as an insurance policy.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re moving into a wave of agents and marketing reps placing a larger focus on what is in the best interest of the client, as opposed to what’s in it for them. Because what I have found is that by staying in your lane you actually end up profiting more since you’re focusing your energy towards what you love and what you’re good at. We all know that we either resist doing the work that we’re not in love with or we save it for last, sometimes never getting to it. It’s one big issue of overpromising and under delivering which leads to an unhappy client who may just leave you entirely. Trust me, I get it, because I used to do this. When we first got started we were definitely operating on a “jack of all trades” model. Not only did it spread us thin and de-value our work, but it also led to certain work not being delivered to the standard that we typically operate on. In one instance, it actually cost us a client. I never want to lose clients or money, but I am grateful because it’s something that we will never do again. Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.
This upcoming season will actually be the first that we have NFL agencies on retainer in addition to individual clients. They handle the contract negotiations and we handle all things personal brand related. Hopefully it's a new wave and just the beginning. Looking forward to seeing where Saquon Barkley's face ends up off the field this season.
-Lauren Walsh, President & CEO