The Best Talent In The World

Author: Tom Henderson

pele - small.jpeg

When I look back over my 6 years at EA SPORTS leading global partnerships on FIFA, it’s fair to say that I was incredibly lucky to have worked with many professional and wonderful people.

Naturally being EA SPORTS FIFA, the biggest sports video game in the world, I got to work with top tier talent in world football, this included the likes of Messi, Pele and Ronaldo.

When you work with high profile people, there can be a real stigma about a person and it’s easy to fall into preconceived ideas about the player before you’ve even met them.  Most of the time I was pleasantly surprised about how nice and normal these guys are, even though they earn what most people earn in a lifetime, in a month.

What struck me most about working with these high-profile guys is that the quality of the people around them is what matters most.  If you have solid grounded people working for you as a player, they will keep your feet on the ground, and steer you in the right direction.  These people are your representation to the world, and it’s them that will preserve your image outside of the time spent on a shoot or with the brand client.  They will also deal with all the approvals from all the content and PR captured at the appearances. 

While most athletes I worked with were fantastic on the set.  Often the hard work came after when dealing with tricky agents or clubs who often have their own agendas.  This is where you as a sponsorship manager really earn your money, and where a brand needs a good agency to mediate and represent your best interests.

I get asked a lot ‘who was the best player you worked with’.  The answer for me is simple.  Edson Arantes do Nascimento.  Better known as Pele.  I have never met a footballer (and professional person for that matter!) so kind, patient, humble and interested in other people.  From the moment he walked onto our TV set in Barcelona for the FIFA 15 Global TV Ad shoot, I knew he was a gentleman, yet a superstar and a legend at the same time.  People were awe struck by his mere presence.

The remarkable thing was that he had time for everyone.  By the end of the shoot time, he still stayed to do photos and sign things, and did it with a smile on his face.  He spoke with people on his way out, he gave so much it was incredibly impressive.

It’s a lesson for every young footballer today.  Be humble, kind and make time because you never know who is watching, and who you’re making an impression on.

I’ve seen players being rude to fans, talking back to fans, even when they aren’t aware of their surroundings.  And you never know who is around you.  I was on a train recently and some lads were giving a Premier League footballer a hard time.  He was sat in First Class but it didn’t stop some people from giving him stick.  Instead of ignoring them, he decided to talk back.  It gave me a really bad impression of him, and I wouldn’t work with him as a brand ambassador now.  There was someone sat next to him too from another football agency who must have been thinking the same.

But when it comes to Pele, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone!  He’s won my heart forever and I hope we see more footballers behave like him and learn from him.  I hope I will work with him again one day.

Tom Henderson is Director and co-founder of Digital Sports Mgmt.  A boutique sports agency based in London.  You can follow Tom on Twitter @hendo_007  and LinkedIn.  For all business enquiries, please email us.

Thomas Henderson