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Making an Industry Personal: The TPG Sports Group’s Sports Agent School

Tyler Endebrock



This article is powered by the SMU Sport Management Program.

By: Tyler Endebrock, @tjendebrock


Pete Philo, Owner of TPG Sports Group, speaking to the audience about contract negotiations. Photo via TPG

Pete Philo, Owner of TPG Sports Group, speaking to the audience about contract negotiations. Photo via TPG

TPG Sports Group’s 2016 Sports Agent School was a weekend full of networking, teaching, and learning from some of the most powerful sports agents, both in boutique and “conglomerate” type agencies, who represent athletes in multiple sports. Representation for the likes of Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Darren McFadden, Felix Hernandez, Dragan Bender, Baron Davis, and Manu Ginobli, gave their views on the business, and the ins-and-outs of contract negotiation, as well as what it is like to balance being an agent with having a family.

The start of the two-day event took place with a networking mixer at a nearby restaurant. There, attendees could speak with other attendees, agents, and the owner of TPG Sports Group, Pete Philo. Philo, a former basketball player, scout, and NBA executive made it a point to speak with each and every attendee at some point during the weekend.

“Our goal at TPG is to educate and connect the future industry leaders of tomorrow,” said Philo. “To have all of these ultra-successful sports agents under one roof at the same time, all very open and giving, is something that I cherish and believe is very special.”


Fran Fraschilla, former college basketball coach and current ESPN Analyst. Photo via TPG

Fran Fraschilla, former college basketball coach and current ESPN Analyst. Photo via TPG

With former college basketball coach and current ESPN analyst, Fran Fraschilla, serving as the event’s moderator, day one began with a panel focused on introductory athlete management. Before the lunch break, attendees were able to hear from two more panels on, “Successfully Representing An Athlete: Creating Opportunities for your Client,” and “Recruiting Talent and the Importance of Relationships.”

A common theme throughout the day was the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people and realizing that in order to do the best job for your client, having help is okay.

“I’ve surrounded myself with people who are really, really good at certain tasks that I know I’m not perfect at,” stated Lou Nero, Senior Client Manager of Baseball, Octagon. “It’s recognizing who can get the job done to the highest level at all times, and if it’s not you, understand what your weaknesses are and fill in that void with a partner who can fill it in at a higher level than you could imagine yourself doing it.”

The second, and final day of the conference, offered two breakout sessions titled, “Path to Agency” and “Contract Negotiation,” before the final panel of the weekend, “Building an Agency.” In a world where starting your own agency has become more and more difficult, these final sessions were meant to set the record straight and show those looking to get into the business that it isn’t all flashing lights and diamond rings.

“Sports Agent School provided a tailored experience for me that taught me it’s not all about the opportunity of the lifetime, but the lifetime of the opportunity.”

— Ryan McGinty

For those attending, The Sports Agent School offered two ticket packages: the regular Sports Agent School experience and the all-access Sports Agent School experience. All-access attendees were given extra networking opportunities, one-on-one sessions with the agents, and a mock presentation as if they were trying to close the deal with a real NBA athlete.

One all-access attendee, Timothy Maroder, said, “I wasn’t sure if the all-access experience would be worth it at first. However, it turned out to be a wonderful experience where I met very successful agents, as well as like-minded young professionals. On top of the great networking that this event provided, I was able to learn valuable information on the industry I hope to have a career in.”


The recruiting pitch round, featuring one team trying to recruit John Wall. Photo via TPG

The recruiting pitch round, featuring one team trying to recruit John Wall. Photo via TPG

One perk for the all-access attendees was to have an exclusive interaction with the speakers. In a room of about fifteen attendees, four agents, a former general manager, a former executive, and a current international head coach, the information shared was geared towards telling cautionary tales of the agent business.

All-access attendee Khadija Segura gave her thoughts, saying, “As a recent graduate eager to break barriers in sport industry as an aspirating agent, I learned a lot along with networking with some influential people. The atmosphere was one I will never forget.”

In an industry often maligned by negative perceptions and bad reputations, Sports Agent School was successful in bringing about a positive two days in which those in the industry gave back to those looking to break in, and thats something TPG Sports Group should be proud of.

Tyler is a contributor with FOS. He recently graduated from the St. Thomas University School of Law, where he received a joint JD/MBA in Sports Administration degree, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida. He has held positions with Select Sports Group, Sure Sports, the University of Florida Athletic Association, Gatorade, and more. Tyler can be reached at


Decoding 2.0: Receptivity Theory and the Power of Niche Sponsorship Strategies

New study unveils unique findings when it comes to sponsorships.



Earlier this year, global lifestyle marketing agency MKTG and sister agency, marketing analytics company, SRi, released The Receptivity Story, as part of Decoding 2.0.

Decoding 2.0 is a unique study, as it acts as one of the few sponsorship-specific studies in the industry. To date, it is also one of the most intensive ones as well.

There’s a ton of great stuff here, but I’ll focus on a couple of my favourite findings, and one thought:

  1. Receptivity Theory
  2. Niche Sports
  3. Firm-Level Differences

Receptivity Theory

Initially unearthed in the original Decoding study in 2012, Receptivity Theory is the idea that, more than the passion associated with a property, the receptivity of fans towards branding is more predictive of sponsorship success.

While this seems like an intuitive finding, the industry, without the necessary data, could only use passion or exposure as a proxy for predicted success.

Really — what we are doing here is shifting the inflection point. Rather than having brands place a premium on number of passionate fans, we can now shift to a brand-specific view, where meaningful attention to branding is being measured.

Niche Sports

Through this study, SRi discovered that there are three types of fans: Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives. Niche sports, which suffer from a lower total number of fans, benefit from a greater percentage of Receptive fans.

From a sponsor’s perspective, the math here has always been simple: would you prefer to reach many, but impact a lower percentage? Or, alternatively, would you prefer to reach few, but impact a greater percentage?

What’s easy to determine is relative exposure at the extremes — i.e.: the NFL is clearly more popular than swimming. The middle is more difficult to measure, and even tougher, the relative willingness to pay of fans.

For instance, assume the following, for average brand X:

  • Sponsorship for Sport A will reach 1,000 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 1
  • Sponsorship for Sport B will reach 500 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 2

Under this scenario, if return is value, X would be indifferent between the two options at the same price.

Scenarios like these are where receptivity is powerful. It provides perhaps one of the best estimations of reach — just because your branding is at a baseball game, does not mean that everyone will see it!

In addition, it lays the groundwork for potentially being able to measure predicted value of sponsorship, or “willingness to pay” — which would vary, whether you are a Receptive or Non-Receptive fan.

Borrowed from economics, willingness to pay is the idea that each consumer has a maximum price that they are willing to pay for a good. For this application, I will treat attention as price — the scarce resource.

Thus, the equation becomes closer to this:

Where i would act as categorical variable for category of fan. n would represent number of fans falling within the given category. Return would represent willingness to pay.

Because fans are heterogeneous, the brand will experience a different return for each “unit view” — meaning that even if one person’s receptivity differs from another, there will be subgroups within categories of fans, separated by willingness to pay. While we can assume that the return from a Receptive fan will be greater, meaning that variable return exists, we would still be uncertain as to the degree that this exists.

Importantly — this study clearly shows a greater percentage of surfing fans falling under the “Receptive” category than the NBA, but does the willingness to pay for Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives differ between the two sports? It’s still early, and there will be ongoing studies, but these are questions that immediately come to mind.

One interesting note: if receptivity proves as powerful as this study suggests, it may become an arbitrage opportunity for the first brands who successfully adopt it. And, while the long-run equilibrium should theoretically be one in which all brands adopt this strategy, it may take some more time for sponsorship to get there — meaning that the early adopters could reap massive gains.

In speaking with Julie Zdziarski, VP of SRi:

“Brands do recognize that the scope is much smaller. But the key piece here is that the smaller sports are more lifestyle focused… they’re a more intimate environment”

Firm-Level Differences

Plenty of this is dependent on the firm, as well. In my earlier example, I assumed that a fan’s assigned value for branding (or willingness to pay) being greater was always a good thing.

For some firms, this isn’t necessarily true — and in fact, many firms pursue strategies in which they are unconcerned about reaching high-value customers. This leads to an advantage in number of customers, rather than one in revenue per customer. Think Google, or the telcos.

For these firms, receptivity still matters. Even if you want to be everywhere, you want to be sure that people are noticing you. But what matters less is the degree to which fans are willing to pay, whether they are Receptive or not.

Good Data Is Always Good

In an industry that suffers from a dearth of public data and dispersed data sets, this study acts as one of the true landmark pieces of research.

But here’s the thing: marketing data is tough, and it will never be as easy as it is in industries like finance to find information. And that’s why stuff like this is important.

To be sure, firms like MKTG enable people like me, who study the industry, to make better and more informed analyses, but it also benefits companies and other stakeholders. And understanding the consumer does more than just help brands make money — it provides consumers with an opportunity to gain more as well: leading to (hopefully) an optimal outcome.

It’s still early days, but MKTG has promised to release more stories in the future. When it comes to research and available data, sponsorship looks more promising than ever.


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Building Brands Through Content

A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

Front Office Sports



A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

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College Football Playoff Turns to Exclusive Packages to Deliver for Fans

The Playoff Premium service gives fans the chance to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Front Office Sports



*The College Football Playoff is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

Next to the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff National Championship has become the most sought-after ticket and eagerly-anticipated game day experience in football.

With a showdown of this magnitude comes the opportunity to deliver activations fans can’t get anywhere else. To do this, the College Football Playoff has turned to Playoff Premium, a service that creates unique experiences including everything from sitting in a game day suite, to pregame hospitality, to the opportunity to go on the field after the final whistle blows.

According to a 2017 survey from Populous and Nielsen, two in three fans want a unique experience and are willing to pay extra for it. Given that immense demand, the CFP knew they had to, at the bare minimum, give fans the option to receive more. Playoff Premium was born.

“When the College Football Playoff was created, there was a conscious effort to make sure that we had a product that could accommodate fans, whether they were individuals or part of companies that wanted to come and have a more than normal experience at our National Championship game,” said Alfred White, Senior Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. “That’s Playoff Premium – exclusive packages that allow fans to experience the weekend of activities in new and exciting ways.”

Last year in Atlanta, packages sold out quickly.

“Last year was very successful for us. Our packages sold quickly,” White said. “Unfortunately we had to turn potential buyers away. There is only so much inventory and the demand for this game is now off the charts. College football is more popular than ever and fans want to be there when the confetti cannons go off.”

The momentum should only increase as the College Football Playoff National Championship heads west the first time.

“I’m excited to have a game purely on the West Coast,” White said. “We’ve gotten a great response already. The Bay Area and football — what better way to start the New Year.”

With a new coast comes a new set of challenges, but also a new set of opportunities — the biggest being able to deliver experiences tailored directly to the location of the game. Among the unique offerings this year, a gifting suite that will look similar to what the players experience during the week leading up to kickoff.

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“Our top-level package holders typically get a gift bag as part of their purchase,”White says. “This year, we’re going to do a gift suite. When our clients are at the game or at their pregame hospitality, they will be able to go to a designated area and there’ll be multiple gift options that they can choose from. We will have a point system and everyone who buys a package will be given a certain amount of points to ‘shop’ with.”

Once in a lifetime opportunities are always prized. With the CFP doubling down on its Playoff Premium service and its capabilities, expect to see the continued growth of moments that allow the fans to get closer than ever before to one of the most iconic events in all of sports.

*The College Football Playoff is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

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