“Show me the money’ – For athletes, investors not just talking

Madison, the founding principal of Madison Financial Group and Madison Strategic Integration (MSI), which oversees the finances of celebrities in entertainment and sports, boasts a client list that includes US musicians Usher and Lil Wayne, and sports stars such as NFL running back Arian Foster and NBA forward Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis.

Madison looks for clients who are highly marketable and opens doors for them that increase their earning power. For the past 18 months, he has been the business manager for Daley Jr, the young phenom with a decorated career in local karting. Driving since age eight, Daley Jr. has won championships in every single age group. Madison’s aim is to help develop the youngster into a black F1 superstar, following in the footsteps of British driver Lewis Hamilton.

“I hope and believe he will turn into a Formula One driver in the future,” Madison said of his client.

“Imagine what’s going to happen if he becomes the next big black driver?” he added.

Madison reasoned that companies would be drawn to the value proposition of being associated with a minority talent in a white-dominated sport, showering him with endorsements as they have done with Hamilton.

Hamilton is ranked 24th on Forbes magazine’s list of the highest paid athletes in the world, with total annual earnings of US$28 million (J$2.8 billion), of which US$3 million comes from endorsements.

Group-A Racing last year announced the signing of Daley Jr to a testing and a racing programme, including testing days along with a round of the F2000 Championship Series at New Jersey Motorsports Park. He became the first Jamaican driver to race in the series and for the team.

Madison was in Kingston this week to make a presentation at “The Business of Sport” conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel. He was a guest speaker at a forum aptly headlined “Put your money where your mouth is — invest in athletes!”

Madison founded MSI some 20 years ago after signing a street musician to a million-dollar deal, which led him to quit his job on Wall Street. He later broadened his scope to include athletes.

According to the celebrity business manager, the Jamaican market for investing in marketable sporting talent has huge up-side potential as it is way less competitive than in the US. But he added that there exists a challenge given the fact that the popular Jamaican sports, such as football and track & field, which attract the best local athletes, are not among the most marketable in the US, where they do not attract anywhere near the same level of interest as in other parts of the world.

That’s why one of Madison’s first clients in Jamaica is a driver, he revealed. Another local client of Madison’s is film writer Cess Silvera.

Critical to the business of investing in athletes is seeking out and grooming young talent, Madison explained during his address.

“Usually around 14 years old, 15 years old, people start identifying who are the next potential stars,” he said.

Using NBA superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as examples, Madison noted that “by 18 years old, they were already commodities or investable assets, so if you were a sponsor, agent or business manager, you couldn’t just show up in Cleveland or Lower Merrion (High School) at the high school prom and try to cut a deal with LeBron James or Kobe Bryant”.

Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) chairman Michael McMorris suggested a similar approach to event sponsorship, with value (brand recognition) growing as the particular competition gains popularity overtime. VMBS is renowned for its long-term lead sponsorship of the Boys’ and Girls’ Championships, Jamaica’s popular track and field event for high schools.

“We were title sponsors for 14 years, during a time when Jamaica’s junior track & field championships structure moved from a purely domestic institution to one of great international acclaim,” McMorris noted.

VMBS ended its sponsorship of ‘Champs’ in 2006 — Grace Kennedy has since taken over — and are now title sponsors for the annual Intercollegiate Track & Field Champs and also endorses the St James football league, among others.

Investing in individual athletes is riskier than event sponsorships, as the latter allows for the spreading of the risk by aligning success with the overall execution of an event, said the VMBS chairman.

Meanwhile, former West Indies cricketer-turned ESPN commentator Ricardo Powell noted that the media has a role to play in the brand development of Caribbean athletes. In an international market where consumers are attracted to off-the-field stories about sports people, it’s important that media gets behind Caribbean athletes to “show people how did I get there and what it takes to get there”.

At the conference, much to the amusement of audience members, Powell told his own story of taking the bus daily from St Elizabeth to Sabina Park in Kingston for cricket practice while he was a student at Holmwood Technical. He triggered laughter when he told of how he had to hide his enormous gym bag at the back of the bus stop, from the view of the bus driver, who would have likely refused to carry Powell up if he saw the big piece of luggage.

Powell said ESPN will be highlighting more stories about Caribbean athletes, going forward. But the former batsman noted that more needs to be done by managers and trainers in the Caribbean towards developing athletes off-the-field, noting that preparation should start from a young age.

“Many (local) athletes now would not even want to come here and listen to a presentation on player development off the field,” said Powell.

The Business of Sport conference is a product of Carole Beckford & Associates and Strategic Corporate Interventions. Organizers said the forum presents “an opportunity for movers and shakers to exchange ideas regarding a sector which has now been recognized to be an industry”, and also provides managers and athletes an insight into their own business and how they can best leverage talent, expertise and value to achieve personal and corporate success.


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