Top 5 Pioneers of Sports Management

While their title may not be quite as glamorous as the people they represent, sports agents are a critical part of any professional athlete’s health, wealth and financial security. The field of sports management encompasses everything from marketing and promotions to accounting and retirement planning. In recent years, world-class athletes have turned to an elite group of pioneers in the arena of sports management and marketing to guard their interests and maximize their earning potential in the notoriously short-lived and fickle field of professional sports.

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JB Bernstein

JB Bernstein began his career working in brand management at the consumer products conglomerate Proctor & Gamble. He became involved in sports management after his stint as a director of development for the memorabilia division of The Upper Deck Company. Bernstein was the co-founder and president of the Access Group of Miami, representing such renowned players as baseball’s Barry Bonds and retired football greats, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders. He is currently the chief marketing officer of Seven Figures Management, a firm he co-founded with entrepreneur and investor Ash Vasudevan. Bernstein is perhaps best-known for the resounding success of his reality show “The Million Dollar Arm.”

Denise White

As CEO and founder of Entertainers & Athletes Group (EAG) Sports Management, Denise White has made enormous inroads into the once male-dominated field of sports management during her 16-year career. Envisioning a firm that would bridge the gap between contract negotiations and the marketing and public relations demands placed on modern athletes and sports analysts, White has built a stellar reputation in the field for her holistic approach to building and preserving wealth. Among her best-known clients are retired NFL greats Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow.

Thomas P. McCarthy

In 1987, Thomas McCarthy founded Progressive Sports Management, Inc. (PSM) to oversee the careers and meet the financial needs of Olympic athletes. He was one of the first agents to recognize the importance of helping clients capitalize on marketing opportunities in the wake of medal-winning success, as with elite skier Picabo Street. In recent years, McCarthy has expanded his empire to include singers and songwriters, NFL athletes and notable military heroes. He is frequently featured in the media as a sports analyst and keynote speaker.

Leigh Steinberg

A true legend in the field of sports management, Leigh Steinberg was the inspiration for the hit movie “Jerry Maguire” starring Tom Cruise. Steinberg began his career as an agent and attorney over forty years ago and has worked with professional athletes in football, basketball, boxing and baseball, among others. He has been instrumental in negotiating over $2 billion in contracts for his clients, including eight top NFL draft picks. Through frequent media appearances and his own best-selling book, “Winning with Integrity: Getting What You Want Without Selling Your Soul,” Steinberg has become almost as famous as many of the top athletes he represents.

Mark H. McCormack

As the sole owner and chief executive of International Management Group (IMG), Mark McCormack revolutionized the field of sports marketing. Although he passed away in 2003, his influence can still be felt and seen throughout the industry. McCormack’s early focus on the sport of golf earned lucrative contracts with pro-golfers Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. IMG went on to manage tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova. The firm has several successful spin-off divisions that include IMG Models and IMG College.

By definition, elite athletes are the best in the world at their chosen profession. The fame and money that accompany this level of athletic achievement require highly-skilled and effective sports managers to ensure financial security and sustainability. The best agents are well-trained to protect their clients’ interests while helping them capitalize on the abundant opportunities that present themselves.

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