"As an agent, the only things you can control are preparation and effort," emphasized sports marketing uber-agent J.B. Bernstein '90 in Stephen McKelvey's class in sport promotion & sales. To that end, the UMass Amherst graduate offered a structured approach to pitching an athlete's promotional value to potential "buyers." As the cofounder, president and CEO of Access Group of Miami, Bernstein has represented a host of high-profile athletes, including baseball's Barry Bonds and football's Barry Sanders and Emmett Smith.
Bernstein's visit to Isenberg (he also spoke to students in a second Sport Management course and in Jim Theroux's course, New Venture Creation) was one of many stops during his March 3-6 stay as UMass Amherst's spring 2014 Bateman Scholar in Residence. Bernstein also lectured in political science and communications classes and gave a public presentation to the campus. Entitled "Million Dollar Arm," the talk focused on Bernstein's innovative contest that yielded the first two India-born athletes (pitchers) to have signed professional sports contracts in the United States. "Million Dollar Arm"--the Disney movie--with Jon Hamm in the role of Bernstein, will premiere on May 16.
Prescription for Sales. In his remarks to McKelvey's students on selling, Bernstein discussed targeting and establishing common ground with the right "buyers" and finding the key ingredients to motivate purchases. He urged the students to understand the market dynamics at hand, their roles as middle men, and the critical relationship between price and value.
In selling an athlete, you often get five minutes with a potential buyer. "It's not like leisurely lunches in Mad Men," Bernstein told the students. "As the middle man, you're the only person that the buyer will meet. . . Establishing common ground is critical-they're buying you as much as the product."
Figuring out what might motivate a potential buyer and addressing that creatively is also crucial. As a promotional asset, retired NFL running back Barry Sanders came from a subpar team (the Lions) and may have seemed a bit quiet, noted Bernstein. The UMass grad turned those negatives to positives by emphasizing that the highly reliable Sanders would always be available for promotions and would never tarnish a brand by getting into "trouble." Sanders currently leads all other retired professional athletes in promotional activities.
Career Path. Bernstein began his career with Procter & Gamble and Grey Advertising. He entered the sport management field in 1992, joining The Upper Deck Company, where he thrived as its director of development for its memorabilia division, developing over 250 products. In 1993, the entrepreneurial Bernstein cofounded the Access Group of Miami. In 1995-1997 he worked with Major League Soccer, driving its licensing and merchandising programs.
Although he graduated from UMass Amherst with a B.A. in economics (he also has an MBA from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Southern California), Bernstein was no stranger to Isenberg. "I took Jim Theroux's very first class in entrepreneurship," he told the students.