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SBJ/March 31 - April 6, 2003/Labor Agents
Octagon: Nothing wrong with touting Super Bowl trip to potential clients
Published March 31, 2003
Octagon director of football Mike Sullivan says there is nothing wrong with advertising to potential rookie clients that they will receive an expense-paid trip to the Super Bowl if they sign with the agency.
Sullivan acknowledged that the agency may have shown potential clients a marketing brochure that includes a statement that they could go to the game and surrounding parties during Super Bowl week.
The page from the Octagon marketing pamphlet, obtained by SportsBusiness Journal, is titled "Super Bowl."
"Flight for two to San Diego," it states. "Hotel and accommodations from Friday thru Sunday. Attend Super Bowl parties. Attend game."
Although the Super Bowl page was included in some specialized pamphlets for certain players, it was not part of Octagon's general brochure sent to college football players, Sullivan said.
Some agents said that although many major football agents take their clients to the Super Bowl, they have never seen anyone advertise it before. "The potential problem is: Is it an inducement?" said one agent who asked not to be named. "It is not an easy question."
NFL Players Association regulations prohibit agents from offering inducements or anything of value to a player or his family to influence him to sign a representation agreement.
When asked whether the Octagon Super Bowl statement would be a problem, NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said the union's disciplinary committee would have to review the matter. Berthelsen had no further comment.
Sullivan said the brochure merely explains to potential clients what their life will be like if they sign with the agency, and it is no different than telling them about the company's predraft training program. The training program is part of one-on-one presentations by Octagon to rookie clients.
"What about all the others who bring their players down there [to the Super Bowl]?" Sullivan asked rhetorically. "This has never been an issue and it's been going on for years and years.
"We are just doing what other agents have done for years, and if it's a problem for us, it's a problem for everybody."
He said NFLPA officials are aware that rookie clients are being brought to Super Bowl week festivities at their agent's expense.
Bringing rookie clients to Super Bowl week festivities is a good player representation practice, Sullivan said, because it gives the players a chance to meet sports marketing executives from companies like Nike and Reebok in a relaxed setting.
Octagon threw a swank Super Bowl party on the rooftop of the W Hotel in San Diego this year, where players mixed with sports marketing executives.
"It's the beginning of marketing your new clients," Sullivan said.
He declined comment on how many players attended the festivities this year, or the amount of money spent on the courting.
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Liz Mullen can be reached at email@example.com.