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Athlete Representation and Intellectual Property Insights

“Show me the money meme!!” 

After nearly three decades, Jerry Maguire would be shouting a different message to his client on the phone. However, his goal remains the same.  

The financial return is important, but athlete agents face increasing obstacles each passing year. These obstacles are online and offline, and they challenge a multitude of skills.  

Sports agents now must focus on more than just managing behaviour and public relations. They must also advise on intellectual property, entertainment strategy, content creation, licensing, and global expansion and opportunity.  

So, what are some key areas to consider:  

Your Athlete is no longer just an Athlete 

Australia is starting to recognize sport as a form of entertainment. However, it is not as advanced as other countries. 

Athletes have commercial representation because they are part of an entertainment product (competition) that appeals to consumers (fans). Those who try different forms of entertainment can attract more viewers. This audience will truly optimise their connection with their audience on behalf of those they represent, including a brand, team or franchise. 

Get an experienced representative 

Athlete representation is not just about good deals, but also about protecting intellectual property rights in a changing entertainment landscape.  

An experienced sports and entertainment expert will help athletes navigate complex contract negotiations beyond just their sport. Finding the right person for legal or strategic advice and assistance will save time. It will also ensure that everyone involved remains focused on what is important.   

Get used to trading in “Intellectual Property” rather than talent hours 

Within sport, intellectual property covers elements like content, music, media rights in addition to meeting time commitments for the team. Commercial deals encompass not only the individual’s persona but also their image, brand, and any associated trademarks the athlete might own – think of the specific trade marks that the top tennis players have like Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Lawyers specializing in intellectual property law are critical to protect an athlete’s rights, particularly in an era where social media and real-time communication can significantly impact an individual or sport’s public image.  

Giving and getting a “license” 

Whenever you give rights away for a period of time, you are “licensing” the rights. This concept applies almost every commercial deal in sport or entertainment.  

For example, you license your image rights to a commercial brand (e.g. Adidas), or you license music from a band to use in your content (e.g. adding a song to your TikTok video).  

Licensing agreements are key components of athlete representation, allowing for the authorized use of an athlete’s intellectual property by a brand or event organiser.  

This may include the licensing of images or media rights for merchandise or endorsements.  

Sport and entertainment experts help create and provide advice for licensing arrangements to make sure they reflect what the parties want, and you do not sign a contract that licenses something to someone by mistake.  

It doesn’t always go to plan – how to include a productive dispute process 

Agreements never go as the parties intend. Sometimes, the parties work better than expected and unfortunately, sometimes they don’t.  

If disputes arise, parties rely on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to efficiently resolve conflicts without resorting to legal action.  

Athletes and their representatives will feel confident and informed about the process if they have good legal advice. They should also receive information about the cost, even before any problems arise.  

Experienced advice from a lawyer will save you time in the long run 

To succeed in the sports and entertainment industry, you must have a good understanding of various aspects of the industry and how they work together, not just singular elements. These include the law, agency, intellectual property, contract negotiation, media rights and dispute resolution.  

With the help of sport and entertainment advisors, athletes and their representatives can understand and deal with the dynamic challenges of the current industry. They can negotiate favourable terms and safeguard their intellectual property in a competitive environment. Ensuring your team are across both sport law and entertainment law principals, regulations and practices will ensure you are ahead of the game. 

We have experienced Gild Legal advisors who can support you in navigating sports, entertainment and intellectual property matters. To receive the best legal or strategic advice, please get in touch with our team!