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November 27, 2013

An Agent's Take

The Art of Making Endorsement Deals

by Joshua Kusnick


Joshua Kusnick is an MLBPA-certified agent who periodically writes about his experiences representing professional players. You can subscribe to his podcast on iTunes, and he can be reached via email at JoshuaKusnick@aol.com and on Twitter @JoshuaKusnick.

Thank you to everyone who read and responded to my first column, which was about my day-to-day responsibilities during the offseason. Today I’ll delve into the marketing side of representing players, and share a story about MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, who passed away last week, and who was a hero, a friend, and an absolutely amazing human being.

In addition to handling winter ball and free agency, I work year-round to acquire endorsements for all my major league and minor league clients. For pitchers, this means shoes, gloves, cleats, autograph signings, and baseball cards. For position players, it means shoes, gloves, batting gloves, cleats, turfs, bats, dry fits, autograph signings, baseball cards, and in the case of catchers, catching gear. It is a very competitive marketplace with a vast array of companies all competing for the same player pool.

Some players are financially compensated in exchanging for endorsing certain products. Others get free gear, and some even get both. Endorsement opportunities pop up for almost all players at all levels, and it’s up to the agent to filter through them all and use their knowledge not only to make the endorsement offers materialize but to finalize them as well. Failure to do so can get you fired in some cases, but the majority of players are aware of their circumstances and are quite cognizant of their endorsement value, which depends on their level, their parent club’s market, and in the case of major leaguers, how skillful they are.

How prepared a player is for dealing with endorsements, money matters, fan interaction, and even arbitration and free agency varies from agent to agent. I choose to make my players active participants in each process as often as possible. Each decision can potentially affect the rest of the player’s career, so it is very important for him to be proactive and involved.

The aspect of my career that requires the most marketing know-how is the baseball card contract. I’ve been a card/autograph collector all my life, and I credit many of my negotiating skills to the baseball card shows I attended as a child up until the baseball card bubble burst in the late 90s. The MLBPA controls the trading card license with respect to players’ likenesses, which means that a card company cannot use player images on its cards unless it strikes a deal with the MLBPA first. The team logos are managed by the MLB offices, and are a totally separate deal. Topps has held the exclusive contract for logos and images for several years, but now companies such as Leaf and Panini are making cards without the approval of MLB and releasing images of players with their uniforms airbrushed and their team names replaced by cities.

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Related Content:  Michael Weiner,  Baseball Cards,  Agents,  Endorsements

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Replaci... (11/27)
<< Previous Column
An Agent's Take: Appro... (11/14)
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Premium Article An Agent's Take: An Ag... (12/27)
Next Article >>
The Lineup Card: 8 Unf... (11/27)

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