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Volume 21 No. 34

Labor and Agents

L

ike a Pro, an athlete equipment and memorabilia company, has launched a digital division so that fans may buy social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by the company’s more than 200 clients.

Fans can buy a post from an athlete on one of the social media platforms for $50.

“We put an initial price on all the posts at $50,” said Jonathan Ressler, Like a Pro president. Prices may increase based on market demand.

The social media posts are the latest business line for Like a Pro, launched in July 2016 by entrepreneurs Scott Schaible and Bill Sedgwick. The Denver-based company has 11 employees.

For the last year, the company’s main line of business has been selling shoes, apparel and equipment that professional athletes, in a variety of sports, wear and use themselves. The company has a partnership with Amazon that helps to provide access to the items.

The idea to branch out into social media posts was Ressler’s, Schaible said. “Autographed photos or trading cards are still cool, but in terms of today’s social currency, a custom birthday or anniversary message from a favorite athlete is really compelling,” Schaible said. “We teased out the opportunity onto a few profiles on Like A Pro and received a number of inquiries, so it is time to open it up.”

More than 230 athletes have profiles on Like a Pro, including New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson and Miami Marlins pitcher Dan Straily, as well as retired athletes including Pete Rose and Phil Simms.

Athletes have an equity stake in Like a Pro and the company splits the profits with them 50-50, Ressler said. He didn’t provide details on the size of the stakes.

If a fan sends in a request for a social media post, the athlete can accept or reject it. The athlete can also change the post to put it in his or her voice, which the fan has the choice of approving, Ressler said.

Kelsey Cline is director of athlete relations for Like a Pro. “My whole role is to be air traffic control for our athletes, so I am speaking to them every day,” she said.

Cline said her guess is “about 50 percent” of the athletes will want to post initially. “Some of them are all about fan engagement,” she said.

Cline said she thinks the most popular posts will be birthday wishes, followed by athletes congratulating fans on their athletic achievements, such as making their school team’s roster. Cline will work with the athlete’s agent, public relations or social media representative to make sure the tweets or posts are true to the athlete’s voice.

“The posts will not be marked as an ad, as they are not advertising anything,” Ressler said. “They are not talking about a brand where we might need to do that. These posts are completely customized for the individual, so they are not an ad in any way.”

Both Cline and Ressler acknowledge that it may take a lot of time and work for a relatively small payoff — $50 to start — but say the business has the potential to grow and be a profit center.

Addressing the private company’s overall financials, “I would say we are earning money,” Ressler said. “We are not profitable yet, but we are getting close.”

Bruce Bowen is now with ICM Partners.
Photo by: ESPN IMAGES
ICM SIGNS BOWEN, DOES CLIPPERS DEAL: ICM Partners has signed former NBA player turned broadcaster Bruce Bowen and negotiated his deal to become the new color analyst for the Los Angeles Clippers.

ICM Partners head of broadcasting Lou Oppenheim is representing Bowen, who was formerly represented by CSE Talent.

> WASSERMAN SIGNS TEHERÁN: Wasserman has signed Atlanta Braves right-handed starting pitcher Julio Teherán for representation.

Adam Katz and Andy Mota are representing him. Teherán was represented by ISE Baseball.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

The Novo Agency, founded by veteran NFL agent Jeff Sperbeck, is being folded into Rep 1 Sports.

Both Sperbeck and NFL agent Haig Abnous will join Rep 1 Sports, the Irvine, Calif.-based company that has been known the last few years for signing top quarterbacks and is owned by cousins Ryan Tollner and Bruce Tollner.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Titles for Sperbeck and Abnous had not been worked out, but the deal was confirmed by Sperbeck and Ryan Tollner.

“This was a unique opportunity for Rep 1 to add quality people with exceptional experience to our effort, with clients that really fit our approach,” Ryan Tollner said.

Sperbeck has been certified by the NFLPA since 1994 and has worked at Sullivan & Sperbeck, a firm he started with Mike Sullivan, a former agent who is now the Denver Broncos’ director of football operations. Sperbeck also worked at Octagon before starting Novo.

“It makes sense at this juncture of my career,” Sperbeck said of joining Rep 1. “They are a group I’ve respected for a long time. The one comment I’ve heard often throughout my career was how similar my approach and philosophy was to theirs.”

Abnous was certified by the NFLPA in 2015.

Among the clients expected to come with Sperbeck and Abnous to Rep 1 are Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton and Denver Broncos defensive end Billy Winn. The Novo Agency had represented New England Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks, but he left that agency for Rep 1 earlier this year. Such agent changes often result in bad feelings between firms, but in this case it seemed to bring the firms together.

The Tollners founded Rep 1 in 2006 and have had success signing top quarterbacks in the NFL draft in recent years. They represented Mitchell Trubisky, who was taken No. 2 in April’s draft by the Chicago Bears. In 2016, the agency represented Jared Goff, who was taken No. 1 by the Los Angeles Rams, and Carson Wentz, taken No. 2 by the Philadelphia Eagles.

The firm represents more than 50 players in the league, including Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.