Johnny O’Shea, Sports Agent
Name: Johnny O’Shea
Position: Platinum One Group Sports Agent
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BSc (Management) from DIT Aungier Street and in my final year I did a thesis on the area of sports sponsorship which gave me some insight into what was then a fledgling industry in Ireland.
How did you become a Sports Agent?
I left college in the summer of 2001 and started work with Drury Sports Management (as it was called then) in January 2002. At that time the business was very active in professional golf and I worked on the commercial management of a number of events that year including the WGC American Express Championship which was held at Mount Juliet and the Smurfit European Open. Between 2002 and 2006 a huge amount of work went into the planning of the Ryder Cup, which came to the K Club in September 2006, by which time the business had changed its name to Platinum One.
Whilst working on the various golf events and several other projects across a number of sports I become more active in the management of our stable of professional rugby players. I was lucky that I was exposed to so many aspects of the professional sports industry – sponsorship, sports PR, event management, BTL (below the line) campaigns, athlete endorsements – so early in my career.
What does your role within Platinum One involve? What are your day to day / week to week responsibilities?
We’re fortunate at Platinum One to have a team of experienced and really talented executives involved in the business. This ensures that we work across a lot of projects together and use our collective experience and expertise to get the right results for our clients. My own role within the organization is primarily focused on working on behalf of our stable of professional rugby players and the management of our sponsorship projects by sourcing partners for rights holders.
Who does your role interact with?
We have 20 professional rugby players in our stable and a lot of time is spent in direct dealings with these players on a myriad of different issues. For some it’s about managing their commercial partnerships and dealing with media queries but for most of the players it is about guiding them through their professional careers and ensuring that their off-field requirements are met. With professional rugby players’ careers lasting on average less than ten years, key decisions are required in order for players to maximize their earnings and ensure that they fulfill their potential.
The role also interacts regularly with the management at clubs for feedback purposes and during contract negotiations. Sponsors, PR agencies and the media are the other cohorts that I would have regular contact with.
What skills are needed to be a Sports Agent?
I think a fair bit of being a sports agent is about being able to relate to and communicate effectively with professional sportspeople. They work in a highly pressurised environment where results very much determine success or failure and where much of this is played out in the public eye. As rugby is a team sport you find that players discuss their various successes and failures with each other but sometimes a fresh voice is needed and it’s important to offer clear guidance at those times.
Looking through the endorsement prism, you need to have an understanding of how brands view sports and sportspeople and you need to articulate how your client, an athlete, can help a brand connect more effectively with that brand’s target audience. Negotiation skills are also a prerequisite – both for endorsement deals and contract talks.
What do you find fulfilling about your role?
First and foremost you have to look after your clients’ interests. When we have completed a deal for a player – be it a new contract with a club or an endorsement deal with a leading brand – you feel satisfied that your client has received the best service possible. We work in the business of sport so clearly a key function of our role is to generate revenue for our clients. Concluding deals does just that.
It’s also very rewarding seeing our clients use their profiles to benefit those less fortunate. In recent years Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D’Arcy have generated masses of media focus on GOAL’s work in Calcutta through trips that they both made to the region. That is a hugely important role for leading sportspeople and one that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.
Why would you recommend being a Sports Agent as a career path?
For anyone with a passion for sport and an interest in or a flair for business there are great opportunities in the sports industry. I would recommend becoming a sports agent but I would also counsel the need to get as much experience as possible across all aspects of the sports industry. The industry is growing in Ireland but it is still quite small so specialising on one area comes with attendant risks. Working in this industry is understandably desirable, particularly for sports enthusiasts, but experience is key and exposure to different strands of the industry will allow you to focus on one particular job profile as your career develops.