To Be Financially Successful, All NFL Rookies Need to Play Offense
The second biggest mistake most NFL players make, aside from not budgeting their 16 paychecks over an entire year— as per ”How Rookies Can Budget Their Earnings in The ‘Ballers’ Era” published in the August 24-30, 2015 issue—is not viewing themselves as their own brand. Until players realize that they, themselves, are the CEO of their own personal brand, they will struggle to develop the professional maturation needed to thrive once their football careers end. Enhancing and growing the player’s brand opens the door for more business endorsements and appearance opportunities which should lead to increased revenue and enable the player to have even more financial freedom.
Just like on the field, professional development is a process that takes a little trial and error for all players.
Here are some recommendations that players should consider as CEO of themselves:
Establish “Business Tuesdays”
During the NFL season, players typically have off on Tuesdays. This is a great opportunity to develop relationships with the local business community. Players should get out and meet with business owners or look for products they would like to represent. With their business team, the player should consider which public appearance and/or endorsements would enhance their brand. Set up in-person meetings with the company heads, of course provide one of the newly minted business cards to the business owner, and use these initial meetings to develop a relationship and build trust. Demonstrate how the business owner and the player can become mutually profitable from the alliance. The ultimate goal is to enhance both the player’s and the company’s brand. Ultimately, through appearance fees and endorsements, the player should see an increase in additional revenue. Some companies might provide equity in their business as an alternative to compensation as a way to partner with the player. The player would receive a “good payday” if the company then goes public or is acquired.
As the keynote speaker at a recent firm symposium, former NFL player Tiki Barber was asked about the strategy he used to build his brand while playing for the NY Giants: “Don’t hang with a posse,” he said. “Hang with the rich businessmen.” By associating with others who have the financial knowledge, Tiki was able to glean insight into the business world. They don’t teach this kind of stuff in school!
Give back to the community:
Wanting to give back to youth is common among players. What better way to do this than to establish a football camp? This can be done either as a for-profit or a not-for-profit company. Setting up this entity would require a business strategy to determine the most appropriate formation, but the best time to do it is while the player is on an active roster.
Monitor your Finances:
Now that the player has established a variety of business ventures, he needs to consider tracking revenue and expenses by entity—allowing him to maximize his tax deductions and keep more cash in his pocket. After earning more than $108 million during his 13-year career, Antoine Walker, former NBA player for the Boston Celtics, found himself filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy two years after retiring due to mismanagement of his finances and careless financial decisions. He teamed up with ex-NFL linebacker Bart Scott and the two now advise young athletes about the pitfalls of fame and sudden wealth. Walker admits in many interviews that his mistake was in creating a very expensive lifestyle—and that is a surefire way to lose your wealth. Walker and Scott urge starting athletes to think about their futures and preserve some of their hard-earned wealth for their families.
After all, average NFL careers last 3.5 years. By establishing relationships with the right people, while playing in the NFL, business opportunities are available, even to rookies, and can last long after a player’s NFL career ends.