Sunday December 3, 2023

Learning the Ropes of Athlete Representation, One Sport at a Time

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This feature is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

Brian Blewis has found his niche as Basketball Operations Manager with The Neustadt Group. Photo via Brian Blewis
Brian Blewis has found his niche as Basketball Operations Manager with The Neustadt Group. Photo via Brian Blewis

Brian Blewis knew he wanted a career in sports, but outside of front office positions and athlete representation firms, he was not sure of what else the sports business industry had to offer.

To gain a better understanding of the industry, Blewis attended the sport management program at Syracuse University’s Falk College. From his research and studies, Blewis became more intrigued with the agency side of the industry.

“Growing up, I didn’t know too much about agents or what they do,” added Blewis. “I did a lot of research and focused on finding internships in my sophomore year that were tailored towards the agency side.”

Through his network of successful Syracuse sport management alumni, Blewis was connected with Gil Pagovich at Maxx Sports and Entertainment, where he landed an interview right there in New York.

“It was the most bizarre interview ever, with me just shadowing him for an entire day. We clicked really well and I scored the internship,” said Blewis. “Maxx does representation for broadcasters and analysts, and I got a taste of the representation industry. This opened my eyes to exploring other parts of the representation business, such as marketing and working side-to-side with the athletes. Gil and I have remained close and he has continued to be a great resource for me.”

After his time at Maxx, Blewis knew the agency business was the business for him. However, as he researched firms and internships available, he saw the competitiveness this side of the sports industry brings.

“I was getting a lot of interviews, but I was having trouble closing,” added Blewis. “There were some politics involved and I had a hard time because I didn’t have to many immediate connections in the industry.”

Luckily, his fortunes turned where on one day, he secured two different internships in California.

An opportunity arose at Beverly Hills Sports Council in their marketing department for the summer before his senior year, and then he would head back to California the following spring to satisfy an internship requirement for his degree program with Impact Sports Management.

“It really was a great day for me since I got two internships in a span of 24 hours,” said Blewis. “I actually had a family friend who connected me with Beverly Hills Sports Council, a baseball agency. Then, I reached out to Sean Kiernan, who was with Impact Sports Management as a football agent at the time, and found out that him and I grew up about five minutes away from each other in my hometown.”

Knowing Kiernan grew up only a few minutes from himself, Blewis used that commonality to build a rapport with Kiernan. That rapport led to Kiernan asking Blewis to fly to Los Angeles to fulfill his senior internship requirement in the spring, the football representation industry’s most busy time.

While Blewis may have previously struggled with closing during the interviews, he was quickly learning how to better relate to the interviewees.

“One thing that helped me land these internships was finding a common interest that connected me with these agencies,” added Blewis. “I was able to use that interest to form a connection and land two different positions.”

At Beverly Hills Sports Council, Blewis worked mostly in the marketing department. He was doing grunt work for the agency, but was learning valuable lessons about the agency business.

“People look at the industry and think it’s glamorous. But no matter where you are, you will have to do some things that aren’t glamorous, such as cold calling for marketing and appearance opportunities, and servicing everyday needs of clients.”

Blewis finished his time with Beverly Hills Sports Council, with experience in broadcaster representation and athlete marketing in his back pocket. Before he knew it, he was back in the City of Angels where he finally got a chance to work one-on-one with football players.

“I learned about recruiting, negotiations and all the ins-and-outs of player representation,” said Blewis. “While I was there, I really enjoyed it. The firm had one client for the draft that year and it was a Florida State running back named Devonta Freeman, who is now an NFL star. Although I kept seeing how competitive the business was, I really enjoyed the contract work and stuff like that. Working directly under Sean was an amazing experience that opened me up to so many parts of the business.”

Kiernan transitioned to a new company called Select Sports Group, and Blewis spent time with him there as his assistant, helping with the transition. Unfortunately, Blewis quickly saw how few positions are open in the industry.

“The one thing that’s hard is there aren’t many job openings,” explained Blewis. “You hear about so many kids applying for internships, which creates less of a market for others. But in reality, these agencies rarely have openings and probably aren’t interested in creating a new position. There really has to be a need for you.”

He enjoyed his time at Select Sports Group, but understood there probably would not be a future for him there. During this time, Blewis decided to go back to school, where he received his Master’s in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University.

“This program gave me a very hands-on approach to the industry,” said Blewis. “During my time in school, I was working part-time with an agency called PFS Agency.”

After Blewis finished up at Georgetown, he continued his work with PFS Agency full-time. However, the football agency business was changing and Blewis was unsure of his future. Transitioning from intern to a full-time employee exposed him to some of the downsides of the football agency business.

“There were talks of decreasing the fee football agents could receive,” explained Blewis. “At PFS, I was able to do a lot of stuff on my own, such as negotiate some marketing contracts, endorsement deals and working directly with the athletes on a daily basis. However, while as cutthroat and competitive as the other sports are, the football side has the shakiest relationship with their union, it’s the toughest sport to make money in as an agent and it has the least amount of upside.”

Blewis made some noise in the industry in October 2016 by electing to turn down the option of becoming an NFLPA Contract Advisor after passing the 2016 NFLPA agent exam.

“It felt very good turning down that certification,” Blewis proclaimed. “I still love football and knew I didn’t have to work as a football agent to still appreciate the sport, but none of it was worth it to me anymore. So, last summer, I began looking for new jobs.”

Blewis opened himself up to other opportunities outside of athlete representation. To help him find his next opportunity, Blewis reached out to an old professor at Georgetown to see if he had any connections or advice for him.

“My professor got back to me about an opening with a basketball agency, and I was all aboard,” added Blewis. “I told him basketball was always the sport I hoped to be working in after college, so I would love the opportunity.”

The opening was with The Neustadt Group. Blewis went through multiple rounds of interviews and in the end, it was a perfect fit. In his current position, Basketball Operations Manager, Blewis works hands-on with their clients.

“They liked that I had a diverse background with marketing, data analysis and negotiations, among others, but they really liked that I had a background within different agencies,” said Blewis. “Now I can bring my experience from my past agencies and apply them to one position. I started here last fall and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Looking back, Blewis knew he would face adversity getting into the agency world because he did not know any prospective professional athletes who he could bring to the agency. So, he had to pad his resume and challenge himself to creatively find new openings in the industry.

Now, Blewis can say he has successfully worked with broadcasters, baseball players, football players and basketball players. He knows he would not be in his position today without putting it upon himself to figure out ways to stand out.

“I became really knowledgeable in athlete marketing and endorsements, and then I took initiative to learn the most important aspects of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreements while working my way up in the football business,” explained Blewis. “I found ways to separate myself without someone telling me to do it and it seems to have paid off. Because of that, I can now be involved in any aspect of the company and help where people need help.”

“You need to go the extra mile if you want to secure any job in sports, not just with an agency.”

In the future, Blewis may take the necessary steps to become an NBPA Certified Agent. For now, he is perfecting his craft with The Neustadt Group and honing in all the skills he learned with the other agencies, in the other sports.

“I couldn’t be happier where I am right now,” added Blewis. “It’s the exact position I was hoping for when I was exploring opportunities in the agency business in college.”

For more information on The Neustadt Group, you can check out their website. To follow along with Brian Blewis’ #sportsbiz journey, follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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