NEPD Contributor: Evan Brennan
As the NFL Draft season approaches, agents by nature will seek to promote their players as much as they can through the media. The reasons for such endeavors are: to gain publicity for the possibility of possible off-the field revenues and opportunities, to provide a means by which those in the scouting world can better grasp who the player is and what he is about, and so that the public at large can also do the same.
Like large and well-run corporations and brands know, a good public relations effort can generate good will and support from diverse factions that can prove fruitful down the road.
Agencies will often seek out websites (such as this one), print media, and other media outlets in which their players can be interviewed and their good qualities broadcast and championed. Some agents even use the transcripts of these interviews to be sent to NFL teams, in a hope to garner some more attention and understanding of who the player is, what he is about, and what qualities he can bring to the table. One example of a proactive agent can been seen here by Jason Dilliard.
A good management team will try and prep a player for said opportunities, letting a player know the types of questions to be asked, who the interviewer is, and what the publications’ goals and intentions are with this interview. If it one that will include an auditory or visual rendition of the client, efforts in the proper coaching of how to appear on them are necessary. Any interview or media appearance that makes a player seem nervous, unintelligent, indifferent, rude, bigoted, obscene, or disinterested are not in the player or agent’s long or short-term interests.
Agents also will work to help players appear endearing in the community as caring and benevolent individuals. It is not unheard of for management groups to have their players engage in community service and other humanitarian efforts in an attempt to garner media attention, good will, and team interest from the players’ perceived benevolence. This is especially true if the player has had a particular issue or issues in the past in which his character, discretion, work ethic, may be questioned. Do these attempts work? Depends on the expectation, the genuine nature of the player before the effort, and means by which it is broadcast.
Particular positive notoriety can be a catalyst for a player to achieve popularity and acclaim with which he can use to accomplish a great deal. For instance, Les Brown V formerly of the Dolphins was a former college basketball player and accounting professional at a private equity firm. He rode an amazing work out at BYU’s pro day to star in the limelight of HBO’s Hard Knocks last summer, while appearing in publications and new stories coast to coast and beyond. While he did not ultimately make the Dolphins team, he was successful in remaining in camp all summer, a feat with which many others were not as successful. While it is not inferred that his success while in Miami was attributable to his public relations outreach or anything less than his freakish athleticism and drive, it was by no means a hindrance to his arrival. The fact that so many people know now who he is and what he is about will aid him in his quest to make a team in subsequent seasons.
Agents will attempt to network themselves with prominent media members, and have a call list for any number of media members when ever an interview is needed on their or their client’s behalf. Strategic efforts are also made in markets where a potential professional player played collegiately. For veteran players, agents make contacts with media members in those markets as well, for the same overall reasons.
Social media has become a large focus for management groups now. Many provide coaching, start up support, and other items to enable an athlete to reach his current collegiate followers, and prepare to engage new ones as he heads into his pro career. Social media provides a pulpit or soapbox by which a player can showcase his finer points to all who will listen. As prominent sports media groups keep tabs on these accounts, a highly coveted player could easily see his posts and tweets mentioned by said media if newsworthy. Training recaps, insights into the all-star games, combine invites are all things that the media and public in general are highly-interested in, and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other provide a means by which to display it. These also serve as a platform to link and connect other media efforts for a player as well.
Great care and management by the player and agent must be taken. Illicit, crude, or flippant activity on these social media platforms are irreparable, and harm of unquantifiable nature could ensue if the wrong message is nonchalantly displayed without proper contemplation and discretion. Coaching therefore by his management group is therefore key. A player through an inappropriate or inopportune display on social media will find himself in particular hot water with a team, as former Lions WR, Titus Young recently found out. As a player moves from being a rookie and into his veteran years, these accounts can also be particularly useful in garnering marketing and endorsement opportunities.
Overall, a player that has an agent pushing for them to engage in said activities can do far worse. The benefits to be gained are good, and the losses therefore practically non-existent. Are these efforts essential to players? It is likely that more help is done to players that are going to already go high in the NFL Draft, as lower round or UDFA players are not going to be picked up by teams simply due to their working in soup kitchens or great speaking abilities in an interview.
Lastly, for rookies, while media outreach does have its benefits to a career, an agent and his client cannot lose focus of what is the most important aspect of their relationship and the principal purpose for its existence: actually making an NFL team and playing. Perhaps the most important advice to give an NFL hopeful early in the process, is that media and public relationship opportunities will come the more and more you success on the field you have. Take care of that business first.