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One thing I’ll admit I don’t know about the pre-draft process is the marketing side of things. With that in mind, I asked a friend in the business (who asked to remain anonymous) to give me a few pointers on the business for the benefit of draft prospects and new agents.

Today, he’ll discuss the pre-draft process solely. The following is what he provided:

Over the last 10-15 years, the NFL has seen an explosion in the marketability of its athletes. For many incoming rookies, especially at the skills positions (QB, RB and WR), marketing money can heavily subsidize or even supersede a rookie’s base salary. However, for many players coming into the league thinking they will make substantial money off the field, their rookie season can be a shocking reality check. Players are faced with many complex decisions and need to remember a few key things when considering how to capitalize on marketing opportunities.

Here are a few tips.

  • Choose the right marketing representative and choose one early: Marketing is primarily about relationships, and you want a marketing rep who has experience — a lot of relationships — and time to foster and grow your potential marketing relationships. For marketable players, many can make money immediately following the expiration of their college eligibility, and in some cases, that money will go away if not earned quickly. Once drafted, every NFL player is forced to sign a general licensing agreement (GLA) with the NFL Players Association that essentially signs over the player’s marketing/licensing rights to the NFLPA. A good marketing rep will know when a player should sign the GLA and which marketing opportunities to take advantage of prior to signing the GLA.
  • Consider hiring a marketing agent: The job of a marketing agent and a contract advisor are two very different ones. Contract advisors are used to dealing with teams, a situation in which decision-makers are well known, player contracts are a business necessity, contract details are public information, and there is a salary cap structure, including salary minimums in place. Because this is a rather involved situation, many contract advisors are simply not equipped with the experience or time available to devote to marketing. The marketing business is different. There, decision-makers are hard to locate, contract details are protected by non-disclosure agreements (and are not public information), player market value is extremely subjective (no salary structures or minimums), and athlete endorsements are definitely not a business necessity. Many of the most marketable players in the NFL keep their agent work and marketing separate for this reason.
  • Don’t get tied down: There are a couple situations that can complicate your career if you’re not careful. In some cases, agents or agencies will try to entice players by using marketing advances, which can be tied to money reimbursement or binding contracts that are difficult to escape and which can be harmful to players. Also, at times, agencies will leverage the marketability of their best players to enhance the marketing value of others, damaging the value of their best players. It is very important that when deciding on a marketing rep, you make sure your rep is dedicated to maximizing your marketing potential.
  • Get informed: It’s also important to educate yourself on realistic marketing opportunities. Skill-position players are going to make the most money off the field as rookies, primarily on trading card and memorabilia deals, while non-skills position players are going to have to be proactive and patient. For some players, trading card and memorabilia money will be the only marketing opportunities they have as a rookie, and can be quite lucrative. One of the most important things a rookie can do to maximize the money he makes off the field is to sign your trading cards and return them on time. In addition to trading card and memorabilia deals, there will be a few opportunities for certain players to initiate partnerships with shoe companies, NFL sponsors, team sponsors and other regional companies.