Robert Griffin III’s agency, Creative Artists Agency, normally limits marketing exposure for their NFL-rookie clients in order to allow them to focus on football and gain traction in the NFL. CAA broke that mold with RG3.
Mark Heligman, Griffin’s marketing agent at CAA, provided some insight and explained their thinking during an interview Wednesday. Here’s the full Q&A:
Q: CAA normally limits marketing exposure for their NFL-rookie clients. Why did you all take a different approach with Robert?
MH: “A variety of factors came into play as to why we decided to put him out there a little bit more than other rookies in the past. Truth be told, the primary factor is that Robert had the desire to do it. He was interested in marketing from Day 1. He always wanted to ensure that any partnership was authentic and something that he truly believed in and something he had genuine interest in pursuing.
“Coupled with that was the fact that there was never a concern on our part or Robert’s part that it would ever interfere with his preparation for his rookie season. From Day 1, any discussions we had with Robert about any deal revolved around ensuring it didn’t interfere with his preparation for football. Unequivocally that was vital in every discussion that we had. At certain times it was preparing for the combine, and then it was his on-campus pro day and preparations for the draft, and most importantly preparations for the season. That was an issue that was always at the forefront of discussion we had with Robert or any company. The partnerships that we arranged were set up in a way where the services were all completed so they didn’t interfere with his football scheduled. Nothing at this point will interfere with training camp or his preparation for the season.
”But Robert was in a unique situation coming off the Heisman Trophy, coming off a junior season at school where he obviously had unbelievable credentials. And equally importantly, off the field, as you’ve probably learned about him over the last few months, he’s just a special guy with a unique personality. Very intelligent, very articulate, and he appeals to a wide array of fans. I think there was a mutual interest on his part and on companies’ parts wanting to work with him. And the truth is we declined far more deals than we accepted. Those that we consummated ultimately were those that he had a genuine interested in pursuing and ones where we thought the partnership would portray Robert in a positive image and the light that we wanted for him.”
Q: Were you all mindful that putting him out so widely might put pressure on him to back up that marketability with performance? Or did CAA feel the pressure already is on him and this doesn’t add anything substantial?
MH: “It’s the latter, for sure. He has a lot of pressure on him just being the second pick in the draft, being the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, one of the highest profile teams in the league, and in a city and community that has been looking for a franchise-style quarterback for decades. They obviously traded a lot of picks to get him. He’s always going to have that pressure.
“As he always says himself, he always says he doesn’t mind that at all. ‘No pressure, no diamonds’ is one of his famous quotes. He loves the pressure. We never felt like the endorsement deals that we were arranging for him would create any additional pressure for him. And, truth be told, in the event that we did, I don’t think that would have caused Robert to shy away from it in any way.”
Q: He seems uniquely qualified for this type of exposure because of his personality and media savvy, and also his commitment to improving as a player. Is that a fair assessment?
MH: “I agree with you. I give his parents a lot of credit. He had an outstanding family upbringing. His mom and dad are still the most important people in his life. They did a tremendous job with him. It’s all those factors that you mentioned. It’s also unbelievable discipline and work ethic.
“I’ve mentioned this to a lot of people over the last several months. For the most part everybody has been talking about his charisma, his athletic ability, his accomplishments, his marketability and the appeal he has to so many people. But what I think hasn’t been focused on enough is what’s going to come into play now: He is unbelievably determined to be a great quarterback and a great football player.
“He has that drive and determination and work ethic that you have to have at the NFL level to succeed, especially a quarterback. Those were things that were instilled in him by his parents. I say that we haven’t really talked that much about it over the last six months because he really hasn’t been on the football field. Everything else has been taking place, whether it’s been the combine or the draft or marketing deals. Now is when that’s going to start shining through.
“You’ve heard the coaches talk about how well prepared he was when he first showed up and teammates talking about how he seems like a veteran and not a rookie in his understanding of the playbook and how prepared he was. So you do see it in that regard. Now that they’re starting training camp and the season soon thereafter, Those qualities will shine through, and that’s what I think most people will be talking about for the next few months.”
Q: Just to be clear, all of his marketing and endorsement commitments are going to stop now that training camp is underway?
MH: “Yeah. Robert, once football kicked it, was not going to be available to do promotional appearances or productions days. He’s focused on football and being ready for his rookie season. We had discussions with the Redskins to assure them that was the case, and ultimately it was most important to Robert as well. His focus now is exclusively on being prepared for football.”