TLA Worldwide is a leading athlete representation, event management and sports marketing group led by CEO Mike Principe since 2011. With a diverse client base representing a large variety of sports and broadcasting TLA has earned the respect of sporting bodies, media outlets, clubs and sponsors alike. I had the unique opportunity to speak with Mike and hear how he’s been able to provide exceptional value to his clients. Here’s how it went:
Jay: You’ve been involved with the world of sports at an executive level since the late 90’s. In your current role as CEO of TLA, what is the primary focus of the agency as a premier player in the sports agency space?
Mike: Our mission is to identify opportunities that bring the most value to our clients – whether they are athletes, personalities, brands or properties. Like you mentioned, my history in sports is a combination of building agencies, leveraging relationships and exploring creative ways to connect our clients with opportunities. I’ve always felt that it’s important to provide clients with advice, guidance and counsel that will help them maximize and leverage their abilities, their own brand or the market. Specifically, with respect to talent, the window of opportunity which athletes have during their careers is extremely small and as an agency we look to help our clients reach far beyond their prime earning years so that they can remain active and find fulfillment for years to come. The relationships and experience that players amass through their careers in professional sports is enormous and the skills they acquire will serve them extremely well for their future if they are honed properly.
Jay: Finding fulfillment is crucial for everyone. For players who are so accustomed to a rigorous regimen during their careers, what opportunities are a smart fit for them after they retire?
Mike: You’re absolutely right Jay, and for a professional athlete it’s very difficult to replicate the sense of ambition, competitiveness and fulfillment that they enjoy while playing sports. Keep in mind, players who make it to the professional level have been deeply invested in perfecting their craft from an extremely young age, which is why in many cases the transition is difficult. Rather than being thrown into a panic when that time comes we assist our clients during their careers with different options that will help them develop their interests and cultivate their talents in other areas. Whether it’s becoming a corporate spokesperson or partner , or developing the skills they’ll need to become a broadcaster or a coach, at TLA we aim to provide that entire suite of services to our clients.
Jay: Has the advancement and proliferation of social media helped players connect with opportunities which are not at all aligned with sports?
Mike: Yes, it absolutely has. Social media has enabled athletes to use their personality and persona to reach a wider demographic of fans, and interact with them in a way that was never available in previous years. Their ability to create a brand for themselves and understand the responsibility of safeguarding their reputation is extremely valuable in many different areas of business. The years they invest in sports allows them to build connections with so many people and create relationships that last a life time. Their work ethic and ability to work as a team are all characteristics that bring tremendous value to any venture in life. As an athlete the playing field is always changing and their ability to calculate quickly and adapt is a skill that translates extremely well in many areas of business.
Jay: Has that same prolific element of social media enabled TLA as a company to grow into other markets as well?
Mike: A resounding absolutely yes! We are a global enterprise with ten offices around the world including three different continents with nearly 170 full time employees. The world has gotten so much smaller because of social media which has allowed us to grow far beyond any location boundaries. We continue to locate opportunities around the world to grow the business of sports and find locations whose fan base will support that growth. One of our locations where we’ve exercised extreme focus is in Australia. They are extremely passionate about sports, they respect high quality sports and are extremely well-educated in sports. We’ve brought top European soccer clubs to Melbourne, Australia which was received very well, in addition to introducing American football which was lots of fun. In fact, this past year for the first time we had the NCAA open their football season a week early when Cal-Berkeley played Hawaii in Sydney, Australia – and we’ve just announced that NCAA football will be back in town as Stanford will be taking on Rice in Sydney to open up this year’s college football season. In reciprocation, we look to bring quality sports from other countries to the United States as well. A prime example is how we successfully brought Rugby to the States as our initial foray in that thesis and have since sold out Soldier Field twice – and with USA Rugby, we’ll be bringing Ireland over to play USA in NY this June. The expansion of sports is definitely a global opportunity and we’re glad to be able to play a meaningful part.
Jay: With baseball season just around the corner and your extensive experience with so many baseball players in particular, what’s your take on the sport? Does the game need to change? Is baseball losing fans?
Mike: I’ve been fortunate to work in many different sports and I can tell you, first hand that baseball is alive and well. Just looking at the explosion of MLB’s media contracts which have doubled to $1.5 billion on the national level are proof positive to the upward growth of the sport. We love the business of baseball and at TLA we’ve already negotiated more than $220 million in off-season contracts for our players. Much of the credit to its growth is the MLB itself who, through MLB Advanced Media, has positioned themselves well in the digital space, in terms of streaming and fan engagement. From everything I’ve seen there’s tremendous growth locked in to baseball for many years to come and we’re excited to play our part.
TLA Worldwide is a leading athlete representation, event management and sports marketing group quoted on AIM-LSE in London. The Group derives revenues from long-term agency relationships with many prominent U.S. and international sports stars, broadcasters and media personalities associated with major sports including the MLB, NFL, NBA, PGA tour, AFL and Olympians and Cricketers. In addition, it also provides a range of services in respect of media consultancy, sports sponsorship and event creation and ownership, including the International Champions Cup tournament in Australia. TLA Worldwide serves its clients from 10 locations worldwide including its offices in London, UK; New York, Newport Beach and California, USA; Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, Australia. For more information, please visit www.tlaworldwide.com.