As top athletes have evolved into valuable commodities off the field, so have the people who represent them.
A good example is a partnership recently announced between top tenpercentary CAA and Cleveland-based sports management and marketing giant Intl. Management Group.
The pair will work together to find entertainment opportunities for such IMG-repped notables as Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Annika Sorenstam, Peyton Manning and Jennifer Capriati. (Woods and some of his higher-profile golf competish could soon find themselves in feature film roles as a result of the IMG-CAA alliance.)
The partnership had been in discussion for some time. “It’s no coincidence that we have four movie scripts with golf themes in pre-production right now to see how IMG clients will fit in,” says Andy Pierce, IMG’s senior international VP and head of global consulting. “Both of us had an occasion to need each other. IMG didn’t want to be CAA Lite. CAA didn’t want to be IMG Lite. This was a way to solve that problem and collaborate on a formal basis.”
Such crossover agenting is in its nascent stages, with firms such as ICM still confining their represenation to on-air sports announcing talent, such as Cheryl Miller and Tim Green. But the major Hollywood agencies are taking big steps toward a happy marriage of sports and the biz.
At the William Morris Agency, Jill Smoller, a former pro tennis player, oversees a sports marketing department that reps Wimbledon champ Serena Williams and Lakers forward Rick Fox. Her clients also include TV sports personalities such as Fox Sports Net anchor Van Earl Wright.
Meanwhile, Paradigm has aggressively gone after pro athletes of late, with the talent and literary agency signing on to represent Lakers guard Derek Fisher, Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor and running back Eddie George of the Tennessee Titans.
According to Paradigm agent Sara Ramaker, the successful inclusion of musicians in TV and film projects the last five years — particularly particularly hip-hop performers — has led to greater speculation that well-known athletes might make good actors, too.
The interest in sports stars among Hollywood agents and agencies — and vice versa — has also been accentuated by a tightening economy, according to Peter Caparis, exec VP of sales and marketing for Impact Sports, a marketing and PR firm owned by top sports agent Scott Boras.
With endorsement money at a premium, players need the exposure that TV, film and speaking appearances provide. “Because of 9/11 and the economy in general, the traditional corporate market (for endorsements) is dwindling,” Caparis explains. “So you look for other avenues. You look for PR opportunities to get the player and the image out there.”
“The business is getting tougher and tougher,” Smoller adds. “You have to deliver for your clients more than just the nuts and bolts. You have to come up with more nontraditional deals.”
The interests in sports personalities among powerful Hollywood agencies comes at a time when powerful sports figures, such as reclusive billionaire investor Philip Anschutz, have become increasingly involved in entertainment.
Anschutz, whose Regal Entertainment Group is the No. 1 movie exhib, operating 6,159 screens at 567 theaters in 39 states, has been particularly influential in the Los Angeles sports market for years.
After buying the then-bankrupt Los Angeles Kings hockey franchise for the bargain price of $114 million in 1995, the media-he partnered with Lakers owner Jerry Buss in 1997 to build the $300 million 20,000-seat Staples Center, home to the Kings, and Lakers and Clippers basketball teams.
Among his five Major League Soccer franchises is the defending-champion L.A. Galaxy, which began the 2003 season in April playing in a new million 27,000-seat facility in Carson, Calif., part of the $140 million Home Depot Center, a multisport training center just built by Anschutz Entertainment Group.