Office Hours: VaynerSports’ Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk on Agency Life, Ups and Downs, and the Future of Sports

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Welcome to a new episode of Office Hours: a podcast with Front Office Sports CEO Adam White and figures from the sports industry centered around three basic questions: “What’s on your mind today?”, “What are you excited about?”, and “Any big ideas or theories you want to share?”

On today’s episode we’re joined by Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk, founders of VaynerMedia, a social-media focused digital agency, and VaynerSports, a full-service athletic representation agency.

Gary Vaynerchuk has had a long career as a successful entrepreneur since taking over the family liquor store, renaming it Wine Library and launching online sales in 2006. He is the chairman of VaynerX, a communications and holding company that oversees several properties, including VaynerMedia, which was started with AJ in 2009.

The Vaynerchuks have their sights set on the sports industry as the next target for disruption, and they sat down with FOS CEO Adam White to discuss the sports industry, the business of being an agent, what things leagues are doing well, and the future of men’s makeup.

Edited highlights appear below:

On how VaynerSports came to be (4:32)

Gary: I mean, I don’t think people would ever believe how random VaynerMedia is itself. We almost built a fantasy sports business. When you go back to the 11 year age difference, like when AJ was coming out of college, we kind of thought there’d be an opportunity to do something.

At that point I’d kind of put the w on the board that I wanted to in the family business and fantasy sports, the Groupon living social thing that happened. We were right about that movement. I think a lot of things in life are macro planned but micro serendipitous. And I would argue that VaynerSports is one of those things.

AJ: I would agree.

Q: Has it been as easy as you expected it to be?

AJ: Yes and no. You know, for example, I think a lot of agents try to create this myth that negotiating a contract with an NFL team is rocket science and it’s just not right. Like at the end of the day, if you’re capable and you have negotiation skills and you understand numbers, you know, all the data for all the players is public and accessible for agents, right? The NFLPA database: I can look up every contract for every player and every little tiny stipulation.

And so from that perspective, it’s been as easy as I expected. I think the thing that’s probably been the hardest is when it comes to recruiting some of the younger guys. I think that I underestimated how much smoke and mirrors would rule the day.

Unfortunately a part of this business for the 21-year-old kid coming out in the family that is supporting him, this is all their first time jumping into this thing whereas the agent has done this countless times and so they’re at a disadvantage. And I definitely underestimated how much the smoke and mirrors would win.

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The interplay between VaynerX and VaynerSports (11:45)

AJ: We’re very careful with it. There is a church and state aspect of it. Obviously, with Vayner X, they have a fiduciary to their clients and there’s, there’s lines that need to be there.

But yeah, there are instances where there’s that collaboration, but I think less about the actual work between the two companies and more about just the fact that, you know, I’m the CEO of VaynerSports, and I used to be the COO of VaynerMedia. So just the, I think the outsider’s perspective and understanding of media marketing and then obviously Gary, his personal brand I think brings tremendous value. 

On the value of esports (19:21)

AJ: Yeah, I think it’s on the horizon. I think that we’ve had a lot of active conversations over the last two to three months about it. We haven’t laid it on anything specifically, but you’d have to have your head in the sand to not recognize where e-sports is going.

I think Gary and I both- a big part of our own success both together and individually is the ability to see what’s next. You know, we had a great run and continue as investors and things of that nature. So yeah, I think e-sports is very much on our radar. And something that we’re considering and then all the other sports too.

But we’re being mindful, we’re taking it, we’re not in any rush. We’ve got plenty to do on the football side and we want to make sure that when we branch out, we branch out correctly.

What leagues are doing it right (31:45)

Gary: The NBA is end all be all. Yes, because David Stern was more Vince McMahon than Pete Roselle. He understood creating superheroes always wins.

Last night I went to RAW and I got to spend time with Triple H and we were talking and like, they think of it like Marvel. I bought a Jimmy Snuka wrestling 1982 all star card this week. They create characters and that’s what the NBA does. The NBA is the closest thing to superheroes. To me when I look at it, that’s what I see. But the NFL can’t do that. Helmets matter, like 40 NFL superstars could walk in here right now and a lot of people just wouldn’t know who they are.

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