by Kéran Billaud and Ryan Wolis
The 2017 Entertainment And Sports Law Society’s annual symposium drew speakers from across the country Friday, bringing light to important trends and methods of practice within the industry.
“I hope that we can inspire you the way I’m inspired to be up here speaking to you,” Andrew “Buddy” Baker, president and CEO of Exclusive Sports Group, told the symposium audience Friday morning during the first keynote speech.
Baker helped kick off the Symposium with an inspiring speech on finding direction in the sports and entertainment law industry, hitting the audience with hard-hitting introspection. “Ask yourself: What does it take to be in the sports world? What do you want to hear from a sports agent? And what is successful? Don’t ask ‘what do I want to do?’ Ask yourself, ‘who am I?'”
It is all about having a moral compass and knowing what you want, he said. “It makes me a better agent, but also a better man and a better father…. I found who I am, the people I want to represent, and how I want to represent them.” Baker said. “The over-used cliché in this business, “Family approach,” will be true.”
Panel 1 – Sports Agency & Litigation included Baker; Trace Armstrong, Athletes First; Darren Heitner, Heitner Legal; and Michael Huyghue, Michael Huyghue & Associates.
Athletes expressing themselves was one of the main points of discussion in the first panel, bringing up examples like Colin Kaepernick, who gained national attention last year as the quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers when he decided to sit during the national anthem as a protest.
“Freedom of expression doesn’t equal freedom from consequence,” Baker commented.
The panel agreed that the reason the player is expressing his/herself may be worth the fine.
“When you have a player who just lost his mom, and he writes ‘Mom’ on his shoes, you’re going to get fined. But go ahead and do it. As long as you understand the consequences of what you do, you can do it,” Huyghue explained.
The panel emphasized approaches like these as critical to the relationship with the athletes. If one approaches this industry like a business, the player is going to notice it. General advice followed:
What the player is looking for is the relationship. Put the money aside, and build the relationship. If you don’t, when you get to the negotiation part of the contract, you’re going to lose the player. You’re always recruiting your existing players and your new players. You can never get complacent and say you have these five players. That can change overnight.
But how might one draw a line in how players affect the market, their teams, and institutions? That is where big data comes in. Big data, the use of quantitative research to determine correlations between people’s actions and their environment, can play an important role in negotiation. Armstrong put big data in terms of objectifying a university and maybe finding ways you can monetize your client’s performance beyond the market. He pointed to UF as an example.
“Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan’s run in the 2000s. Enrollment went up. Capital contributions went up. Many of these things can be attributable to sports.” Big data helps people understand these trends, and all of the large organizations are using it, according to Armstrong.
Baker said big data can be the leverage one needs and even dictate a negotiation. The true value isn’t just in rankings, but also in the effect on ticket sales, sponsorships, shoe deals, etc. Big data is everywhere.
Panel 2 – Sports Business & Entertainment Law included Daniel Visoiu, Court of Arbitration for Sport; Ana-Klara Anderson, Golf Channel and Telemundo Deportes; Kristi Dosh, Forbes and SportsBizMiss Enterprises; Madhu Goel Southworth, AMC Entertainment, Inc.; and Andrew Brandt, ESPN Business Analyst, columnist for the Monday Morning Quarterback, and Sports Law Director at Villanova University.
Brandt, the second keynote speaker, started at a firm that specialized in “Tennis Law” after attending Georgetown Law School. Brandt’s time spent as an agent was rewarded with relationships that led him to become one of the youngest general managers of any professional sports organization. Executives from the National Football League hand-selected Brandt to head the Barcelona Dragons.
The panel focused on the evolution of media relating to the distribution of sports related content. In past years, the vehicle for sports related media has shifted from mainly television based content to information sent through streaming services.
Ana-Klara Anderson discussed the expansion of streaming services. The panel noted that consumers are more open to streaming sporting events on their mobile devices in order to meet their schedules.
Fantasy sporting events were also a major topic.
The panel discussed how fantasy sports and media content have transformed the way the average fan may have interest with a sport. An issue in today’s legal climate is the regulation of fantasy betting sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel. Andrew Brandt discussed the upcoming NFL vote to relocate Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas and the potential legal challenge that may present the franchise once it moves to the gambling capital of the United States.
The majority of the panel focused on the contract making process of many of the deals. Many sports organizations have streaming deals with social media websites. The NFL recently had a live stream of a Thursday night NFL game on Twitter for the first time. Adapting to social media was crucial for sports executives. Darren Heitner discussed how 50 percent of people would have preferred to watch the NFL’s Super Bowl through an Internet streaming service, as opposed to normal television. The panel discussed how they focus on advanced analytics to see who and what type of consumer is watching their content by looking at the Nielson ratings.
Panel 3 – General Counsel included Lauren Amato, Jacksonville Jaguars; Zach Daniel, NASCAR; and Nyea Sturman, Orlando Magic.
Moderating, UF Law professor Daniel Sokol started by asking the panelists what made them stand out.
Being a jack-of-all-trade, knowing people, and having trusting relationships were key, according to Daniel, NASCAR.
Amato pointed out that unique backgrounds can be especially valuable too.
“For me it was HIPPA and healthcare experience. When I worked in the health industry, I never thought that that would be the thing that gets me in the sports industry,” she said. It was the turning point that made her boss suggest she apply for her current position at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sturman cautioned, however, that planning ahead is vital. “Make sure you do the networking ahead of time, so that when you apply for jobs, you have that network.”
Building credibility brings these skills and assets together, especially in the sports and entertainment industry.
“The relationship building that you do in the organization turns you into a business asset, because you’re involved in the decision-making and strategizing. Build the credibility up on the front end,” Sturman advised.
In counseling, Daniel said one of the most challenging business units NASCAR has is the racetrack. “We have an independent contract with most of our tracks.” The track workload has been immensely challenging. They try to scrape every dollar out of their events, which only happen several times a year.
Daniel has seen some crazy things offered at the tracks, like Taser stations. “You can go to those, have you and your friend sign a waiver, and then ‘tase’ each other.” The Risk Department has to make sure that these kinds of events are handled correctly. They sit down with clients instead of just handing a piece of paper across the table.
Today, Daniel said technology is the selling hook. The traditional model of the motor sports being attractive because of the new and attractive car one drives has gone away. Now, it’s technology. “We’re trying to create a new fanbase with the technology we put in our cars.”
The panel also touched on e-sports and international trademark.