In my previous blog post, Let’s hear it for the WPT, I discussed the many difficulty associated with obtaining sponsorship from mainstream companies, even for the most long-standing and reputable poker entities.
Today I will be writing about individual sponsorship for players. Numerous poker players have enjoyed sponsorship deals from online poker sites and hopefully the future will provide even more opportunities.
Big poker names like Phil Hellmuth – in the Carls Jr. commercial – and Phil Ivey – in the new ad campaign for the 2015 Chrysler 300, called The Kings and Queens of America – are demonstrating that it is possible for poker players to be prominent brand ambassadors.
“The Chrysler brand celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans who refuse to give up, dedicate themselves to a craft, and have the guts to turn dreams into reality,” said Olivier Francois, Chrysler’s chief marketing officer.
Great examples for budding poker players and professionals alike, hopefully ads like these will motivate and open new doors for poker players across the globe.
Mainstream companies often veer away from signing celebrity poker players as brand ambassadors, their main concerns revolve around being too closely positioned with gambling. They believe being associated with poker will alienate prospective Christian-right customer base groups and others who may view poker and gambling as immoral. With casino gaming, fantasy sports and lotteries gaining popularity nationwide, it’s blatantly clear that millions of people love to gamble. So why not market it? And there’s no better group to market to than poker players.
Let’s assume, though you know what is said about assumptions, corporate America wakes up in the near future and decides to more frequently sign poker players. Let’s say, hypothetically, they prioritise this aspect of their marketing, poker players joining the ranks of endorsement opportunities that other star athletes and celebrities benefit from. Let’s go one step further and say a major company, like Nike, Under Armour, Apple, Coca-Cola, has decided to go “all-in” on using poker players as brand ambassadors.
Now suppose you have just been hired as marketing director for a company in search of a poker-player ambassador. The board of directors has approved a three-year contract (with the option to renew) for this player, including the following: a $1,000,000 signing bonus, a $250,000 yearly salary, $500,000 in yearly tournament entry fees and all expenses (first-class air travel, suites at hotels, and $200 per day in food allowance) taken care of. Obviously this is a lucrative offer, quite an opportunity which could, potentially, lead the way to deals for other players.
What would be required from the player? The company would expect this person to wear corporate branding at all poker tournaments and take part in a few corporate outings, where he might host a poker tournament, ‘meet-and-greet’ shareholders or play golf with company execs, do two TV commercials a year and be available for media interviews at tour stops. If the player failed to meet these obligations, his contract would be terminated.
So you’re the marketing director and the pressure is on to find the following: a male professional poker player from America, age 21 to 36. (Sorry ladies, these companies are looking for a man this time, but your future opportunities could be even larger). What characteristics would you look for? If it were me, I’d be looking for the following:
- Someone who is highly respected in the poker community and has enjoyed recent success
- Someone you think will enjoy future success
- Someone who is intelligent and has communication skills (or someone you feel could develop good communication skills)
- Someone who will be a great ambassador for poker and your company
- Someone who conducts themselves well on and off the table at all times
- Someone who has a good “Q” rating (i.e., is likable)
- Someone who is fan friendly and doesn’t mind signing autographs and taking pictures with fans
- Someone who is reliable, responsible, dependable and willing to do interviews with the media at tour stops
- Someone who is eager to assist in charitable activities
- Someone who is not disrespectful, combative in nature, and would never embarrass the company at live events or on social media
- Someone with a creative mind who would enjoy coming up with ideas to help promote the brand
- Someone who wins and loses with class
Here are some players that I would definitely interview. (If you feel like someone should be on this list and isn’t, they’re probably deficient in one or two of the required character traits). I believe all these candidates are good ambassadors for poker and will be for the foreseeable future.
Moshin Charania, Asher Cuniff, Tony Dunst, Darren Elias, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Galfond, Garrett Greer, Anthony Gregg, Jeff Gross, Christian Harder, Jonathan Jaffee, Faraz Jaka, Kane Kalas, Byron Kaverman, Bryn Kenny, Jason Koon, Andrew Lichtenberger, Jonathan Little, Jason Mercier, Dan O’Brien, Mukul Pahuja, David Peters, Brian Rast, Ryan Riess, Noah Schwartz, Shannon Shorr, Dan Smith, Jason Sommerville, Kevin Stammen, Yvginny Timeshenko, Matt Waxman, Dylan Wilkerson, David Williams, and Anthony Zinno.
Congratulations to all those who made the shortlist. Oh yeah, one more thing – if you get the gig, don’t forget about my 10% agent fee.