What Players Should Look for in an eSports Agent
By Roger R. Quiles, Esq.
It is only a matter of time before player agents are commonplace within the eSports industry. Full disclosure, in addition to my law practice, I founded an eSports player agency, 1337 Sports Management. Player agents, as we know from professional sports, are trusted advisors and managers that protect their clients, assist them throughout their short playing career to maximize revenues, and establish opportunities to benefit their clients long after their playing days have ended. Although the eSports industry is far from professional sports’ guaranteed six-figure contracts (at the minimum), agents are already appearing within the industry. This article discusses some of the main points that player’s should look for in selecting an agent.
Experience with contracts
Agents must have a strong understanding of contracts. It is important to remember that the eSports industry does not have standard player contracts like professional sports. The lack of standard player contracts in eSports can be used to the player’s advantage by an agent through the implementation of creative contract terms. Remember, the only requirement (in addition to adhering to any league rules, if applicable) is that a legally binding contract between the parties is created, so almost anything can be included to that contract. For example, let’s say the player is seeking a higher salary than the team is willing to offer. Instead of negotiating the salary to an impasse, a creative agent may negotiate a variety of other incentives, like performance-based bonuses and salary increases. These performance-based incentives need not be tied to the team (like tournament placements) but can be individually based (like meeting certain statistical thresholds).
The lack of standardized player contract also means that agents not only need to understand what is in the contract, but perhaps even more importantly, what isn’t in the contract. It is up to the player and their representatives to ensure that protections are placed into the contract. Those protections will vary based on the player’s needs, but identifying those protections and ensuring their presence in the contract is essential.
In addition to player contracts, sponsorship agreements can be negotiated and entered into to establish sponsorships and generate revenue for the player. These contracts are wholly different than player contracts and require different considerations. Since an agent would serve as the voice of the player in any player or sponsorship agreement negotiation, players should ensure that the agent has a high level of understanding of contracts, how they operate, key contractual terms, and even more specifically, has experience with contracts in the eSports industry.
Agents are involved in marketing their players in two ways. Either the agent’s role is limited to marketing (while another serves as the player’s agent for the player contract) or the agent assumes the duties of marketing and negotiating the player contract.
In professional sports, many athletes (especially high profile athletes) are choosing to have separate, specialized agents for their player contracts and for their marketing deals. Such specialization is also possible with eSports players. Certainly, eSports marketing companies abound to varying levels of effectiveness. However, many eSports marketing companies focus on representing eSports teams and events. A player seeking to utilize a dedicated marketing agent should determine, in addition to the other points raised in this article, what experience the marketing agent has with players, since representing a player and a team are two entirely different matters.
Additionally, many agents (and their agencies) are also involved in the marketing of their players, insofar as acquiring sponsorships and negotiating sponsorship agreements. In this kind of arrangement, it would be important for players to determine what marketing experience the agent or agency has. Neither the separate marketing agent nor the agent who also markets his/her players is a better or worse choice than the other.
Connections, Reputation, and Industry Experience
One of the most important qualities any agent can have is experience within the industry. It is important to recognize that agents are player managers, and that necessitates that they guide their players through the eSports industry towards personal and financial success. Without a deep understanding of the industry, how it operates, who the key individuals/companies are, and player movement, it would be extremely difficult for an agent to be able to effectively guide the player throughout their career. Players should absolutely inquire about any prospective agent’s history and work in the industry.
Closely tied to experience within the industry are the connections that the agent has built within the industry. These connections make it easier for the agent to acquire deals on the player’s behalf (whether player contracts or sponsorship agreements). However, it is difficult for a player to determine whether or not a prospective agent is well-connected within the industry.
Lastly, the agent’s reputation within the industry is extremely important. Is the agent known as someone that provides value to those they serve? Is the agent trusted? Is the agent respected by others? Simply put, an agent with a good reputation will help create opportunities for their clients, while an agent with a bad reputation can help destroy opportunities for their clients. There’s no better method of determining this than asking around.
Player agents can be extremely beneficial to a player’s career. However, as we know from professional sports, not all agents are honest and/or effective at what they do. Pro sports has found ways of regulating agents that the eSports industry has yet to adopt. Until such measures are put into place, it is up to the players themselves to determine signing with a particular agent would be worthwhile. The above points should assist players in making that determination.