Sports agents represent the interest of athletes, particularly in contract negotiations. They also handle sponsorships, public relations, and financial planning. Professional athletes often are signing their first professional contracts in their late teens or early 20s and rarely have the experience or education to fully understand the legal complexities involved. In the case of high-profile athletes, those contracts often are for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, and athletes need guidance handling those finances.
Sports Agent Duties & Responsibilities
Sports agents need to be proficient at the following tasks to be successful at their jobs:
- Having expert knowledge of their clients’ sports
- Collecting data
- Analyzing statistics
The biggest responsibility for sports agents is typically negotiating contracts for the players they represent. To do that effectively, agents need to fully understand their clients’ worth in the market, which means knowing the sport as well as the general managers or other team officials negotiating on the other side of the table.
Agents need to be able to identify comparable players whose contracts might serve as a baseline for what their clients are seeking. Sports agents should be able to present complete statistical analyses that show their clients are deserving of the contracts they are seeking.
In many ways, agents are selling their clients’ worth to teams in the leagues where they play and find the general managers in those leagues who value what their clients offer. This worth comes in the form of play on the field, the court, or the ice, and it also comes in the form of marketing potential for the team. A popular or successful player can boost ticket sales or jersey sales. An agent also can help players boost their income through endorsements.
Sports Agent Salary
While a few agents can make millions representing high-profile athletes who sign contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, most agents are working with athletes on a smaller scale.
- Median Annual Salary: $59,829
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $90,000
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $27,000
Education, Training, & Certification
Contracts can be complex, so agents need to have the legal and financial experience and skill to craft documents that best fit their clients’ needs. Sports agents come from a variety of backgrounds.
- Education: While not entirely necessary, a law degree often is the best path to a career as a sports agent. Because contract negotiations are such an important aspect of the job, it is important for agents to have a legal foundation. Many sports agents are graduates of sports management programs at the undergraduate level who then go on to add a law degree. Agents who do not have a law degree generally need to work with someone who does have the legal expertise to review contracts and advise accordingly.
- Certification: Different leagues or players associations often require agents to be certified in order to represent players. These certifications vary among leagues.
Sports Agent Skills & Competencies
Being a sports agent blends business and sales skills with a passion for sports. Not everyone loves the business side of sports, but agents need to have the sales and marketing skills to help their clients get the best possible financial returns for their athletic abilities.
- A love of sports: Agents need the highest level of knowledge about the sports their clients play, and the best way to be good at gaining that knowledge is to really enjoy analyzing the sport, its players, and its teams.
- People skills: Professional sports involve a lot of pressure and a lot of very strong personalities. To do their jobs well, successful agents need to be able to communicate effectively and professionally with athletes and team executives.
- Sales skills: Getting an athlete a better contract or an endorsement often is about making an effective sales pitch. That involves doing the necessary research and showing the team why the deal is good for them as well as the client.
- Persistence: The best deals don’t come together overnight, and building a client base also takes time. The early work on contract negotiations often begins as much as a year before a new deal is actually reached, and agents just starting out typically need to put in years of work in the business before securing their own clients.
Job growth for agents representing athletes and entertainers is projected at 3 percent for the decade ending in 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is significantly less growth than the 7 percent average projected for jobs as a whole.
The work environment varies depending on whether an agent works independently or as part of a larger agency. Someone just starting out as part of an agency might be tasked with doing research to support negotiations being overseen by a more experienced agent. An agent working independently is going to be in charge of the entire process. Staff may be available to assist, but the independent agent still will have broader responsibilities.
Being a sports agent is a highly demanding job that often involves being available at all times to serve clients’ needs and maintain their professional images. When not working directly to address a contract negotiation or solve a problem, agents need to be analyzing statistics and preparing for future negotiations.
Comparing Similar Jobs
The skills necessary to be a good sports agent translate well to other professions that are applicable to the other areas of professional sports management. A few of those positions and their median annual salaries include:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics