SBJ/March 7-13, 2011/Labor and Agents

Octagon broadens golf/outdoors division

Firm to no longer pursue athlete representation in golf but will still run events

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The division of Octagon that runs golf and outdoors has been renamed “global events,” and the group is shifting away from golfer representation.

Octagon has been active in running golf tournaments, pro-ams and other corporate events for close to 20 years, going back to its days as Advantage International, and recently it has expanded to include other types of events, such as the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and the WTA Mercury Insurance Open tennis tournament.

“We’re not stepping away from golf, but we are expanding beyond those borders into other sports where our logical skill set from running events will apply,” said Chris Higgs, managing director of Octagon’s new global events division. “Events are events and that’s been 80 percent of what we do. Even if you move into a fishing event or a tennis tournament, you’re still managing crowds, selling sponsorships and selling tickets. There are obviously nuances that come with each event, but the basic principles apply.”

Octagon has responsibility for six golf tournaments across the LPGA, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. In all, Octagon has 23 events budgeted in 2011.

But Higgs, who joined the company in 2009 from the LPGA, said Octagon will no longer pursue athlete representation deals in golf. The company has a small group of four golfers, including Champions Tour player Bobby Wadkins, who came over with agent Vernon Spratley when Octagon acquired Pros Inc. in 1999. But as Higgs surveyed the golfer representation landscape, he decided there wasn’t as much opportunity there.

“That landscape has changed quite dramatically when you look at the players, the fee rates and what the endemics [equipment companies] are paying to the top players,” he said. “They’ve taken most of the money out of the middle and moved it to the top. … You’ve really got to have strength in numbers.”

Higgs said he thinks those dynamics will lead to further consolidation in the golfer representation business. “I wouldn’t say that we’ll never get back into it, but we’re definitely stepping to the side,” he said.

Higgs reports to Octagon President Phil de Picciotto. Global events on occasion will work with Octagon’s consulting clients in golf, which include MasterCard, BMW and Kodak, and is run by Scott Seymour, senior vice president. But the global events division also works with a client list that includes Sybase, SAS, The Ace Group, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and Toyota.

Asia is expected to play a large role in the growth of the global events division. Higgs’ group has hired Jung Jee from Velocity to open an office in Beijing and lead Asian business development. That brings global events to 11 offices in four countries.

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