Professional athletes are increasingly seeking out the right agents to help them develop their off the court brands. Those agents are not always the ones who are negotiating their team contracts. The most recent example of this emerging trend is NCAA Basketball National Player of the Year and Top NBA prospect, Trey Burke. Burke’s father, Benji Burke, of Infinite Sports Concepts, will handle Burke’s NBA team contract, but The Legacy Agency (“TLA”), a full service sports agency that has positioned itself as a leader in talent marketing, will manage all of his off the court endeavors including marketing, endorsements, speaking engagements, and appearances.
When considering his off the court passions and values, both he and TLA see an opportunity to grow his brand as he embarks on his NBA career. Burke was impressed with TLA’s success with clients across different sports and felt like they were the right fit to help him achieve the same. TLA CEO Mike Principe commented, “We are thrilled to add Trey to the TLA team. After seeing what he accomplished during his time at Michigan we know he has great things ahead of him at the NBA level. As impressive as he is on the court, Trey is an even bigger role model off the court, a true testimony to his tight-knit family. We look forward to growing with Trey and the Burke family for years to come.”
Burke will be represented by Brandon Swibel in TLA’s Talent Marketing division, which includes Reggie Bush, CC Sabathia, Troy Aikman, Lolo Jones, and Ryan Tannehill. Swibel sees the advantage to hiring an agency who is spending day after day working on their clients’ brands and seeking out the right corporate partners to continue to build upon the existing foundation. His view is that the primary focus of traditional agents, and understandably so, is on team contracts. This reality ultimately inhibits the time agents can afford to spend on their clients marketing deals and brand development. However, even if more time could be put into athlete branding, agents often times lack the skill set to develop these off the court relationships for their clients.
So now that Burke has a marketing team in place, what is TLA’s strategy for continuing to build upon his brand? His accolades as a basketball player will certainly continue to grab the attention of many corporate sponsors— Burke was the consensus National Player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season, he took home the Wooden Award, Naismith Award, AP National Player of the Year Award, Oscar Robertson Award, NABC Player of the Year Award, Sports Illustrated National Player of the Year Award, and the Bob Cousy Award given to the Nation’s Top Point Guard. He was a consensus First Team All-American and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in the nation’s top-rated conference. Burke’s success from the regular season carried over into the NCAA Tournament where he led Michigan to its first Final Four and Championship Game since the Fab Five in 1993. The first real step for TLA, however, is getting to know Trey and understanding his passions outside of basketball.
Burke has been praised for his leadership and high character off the court as well. He has been active in the community during his high school and college years, making frequent visits to local hospitals in the Ann Arbor, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio communities. He remains very connected to his hometown of Columbus where he attended Northland High School and was named Mr. Basketball as Ohio’s most outstanding high school player in 2011.
His commitment to his craft coupled by the strong support system found in his family has helped him achieve amazing feats on the court while contributing to his community and holding true to who he is as an individual. “Trey’s values are what got him here,” stated Swibel. The combination also earned him quite a fan base, with over 87K followers on Twitter and over 124K followers on Instagram. “Corporate partners want to utilize social media in their marketing mix,” added Swibel.
According to Swibel, their strategy for Burke will be to continue to get to know Trey and help him further discover his off the court passions. They will be in communication with corporate partners and create brand partnerships for Burke that are of interest to him and that he can relate to. At the same time, his corporate sponsors will be ones that share similar values with the rising star. It is Swibel’s hope that these partnerships will serve as the building blocks for more lucrative deals in the future. The vision for Trey is to secure commercials and bigger endorsements down the road.
It will be important for TLA to create symbiotic partnerships between corporate brands and Burke as they begin to explore new opportunities for their first active NBA client. As the brand-athlete relationship continues to move away from a pure business and financial one to one wherein the relationship is rooted in two like-minded individuals coming together with a shared passion, it seems as though Burke will have plenty of suitors in the near future.