In 2006, Per Hagen founded European poker agency, Poker Icons and this year was voted one of the most powerful people in the poker industry in a magazine poll. Per has left Icons, beginning a new chapter and setting up Poker Publicist, a PR firm dedicated to gaining exposure for its clients. We talk to Per about how players can use an agent to try and become sponsored.
“I don't think every player wants or needs to be sponsored to be honest. It all depends on what the goals and desires are for each individual. Either way I strongly believe that every player can gain a lot by using a publicist, agent and other advisors because of their acumen of the industry. Most of the bigger sites are very focused on having ambassadors from certain regions and countries and understandably this frustrates a lot of other players that have much more media exposure and winnings, but unfortunately come from countries where there are already many sponsored players – which is where we help out.”
“Another breed of players that currently finds it difficult to become sponsored is the young Americans. The main reason for this is of course the current legislations in the US, but I’m sure when this changes back (when, not if), we will see a totally different situation and these players will once again be in demand. Meanwhile they should keep doing their best at the felt and perhaps try building their brand simultaneously.”
With Annette Obrestad joining ranks with Hagen once again at Poker Publicist, we asked Per how she has paved the way for other online player sponsorships.
“She is a fantastic player and she’s got that X-factor which makes her very marketable in her own way. It might be hard to match her results, but I think other players who have similar things to offer will also be considered as potential ambassadors if they also are willing to put in the hours like she does. Players not willing to put in the hours and effort to be a good ambassador have a very slim shot at getting a sponsorship. They should also try to come up with their own ideas on how to make the brand they represent better from a player’s perspective and also make sure to keep in touch with the community at all levels and not just the high rollers. After all they too started at ground level and should offer their advice on how to make it to the same level as they have.”
With so many good young players these days, how do you determine which ones are potentially sponsorable?
“The challenge now is to find players that are willing to put in the hours it requires to be a good ambassador. When we consider signing a new player to Poker Publicist, we spend a lot of time explaining the importance of this and finding out if this is something the player is willing to do. When a player has the drive and ability to offer things back to the community, it makes them a lot more high-profile and open to the media. I think that it can be smart for a brand to have a team of winning online players with great personalities that perhaps comes with a twist. The twist might be that they hail from a specific country and/or have a lot of followers. There is no doubt that the online players have increasingly taken over in the live game as well – and that they are the future live poker stars. Most of the sponsored players are/should be role models for others and having them associated with your brand is a fantastic marketing tool which should be used to the fullest. Finally I want to mention that you also show your player base that if you do well online, they might sign you as one of their sponsored players later on.”
Agents are often seen on the rails of major tournaments ready to ‘patch up’ players poised to make a TV table, what exactly are those patches worth?
"They get a lump sum (anything from half to twice the buy in) for wearing it at a feature TV table and a potential bonus if they should win the event. Sometimes it also leads to sponsorship deals if it’s the right player. These sorts of patching deals can be extremely beneficial to players, both because of the money and also the exposure that they’re likely to gain from being in pictures and filmed wearing a major brand. We often make these patch deals even before the event starts in case the player should indeed make it to the feature tables."
So what exactly does a modern sponsorship deal look like, how much are they worth and what does the agent take
“A standard sponsorship deal should start at about $100K, but like with all deals there are many factors that weigh in that might increase the value of the deal. Again, if you have done good and built your own brand, you will get more - sometimes much more.”
“The usual cut from this is a (low) % of winnings, (higher) % from the bonuses, (mid) % from salaries and whatever the player makes from the sponsorship. This is a model I used during my time at Poker Icons, however I increasingly found myself not comfortable with this (and neither did the players after becoming sponsored), so after I left the company we have now begun using a model at Poker Publicist that is a much more fair and cost efficient for the player. We offer more or less the same as any other poker agency, but where we really stand out is that we specialize in building the player to becoming his/hers own brand. This means that we go deeper and create a strategy together with the player on how he can present himself in a way that makes him very interesting for a poker/other brand to align themselves with. Once this goal is achieved I am almost willing to guarantee that the sponsorship offers will come.”
For more information on Per Hagen, visit www.pokerpublicist.com
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