Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Peter Carlisle stands in front of a gallery of his clients in his office at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco. He said when he started his own agency in 1997, he considered the growing popularity of action sports, such as snowboarding, and saw opportunity. “He was a visionary,” says his brother, Jeff Carlisle.
Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer.
Peter Carlisle talks about his career as a sports agent in his office at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco earlier this summer. He said when he started his own agency in 1997, he considered the growing popularity of action sports, such as snowboarding, and saw opportunity. “He was a visionary,” says his brother, Jeff Carlisle.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Gold Medal Clients
From the time he started his own one-man shop in 1997 to today, where he oversees the Olympic and Action Sports division for Octagon, one of the largest sports agencies in the world, Peter Carlisle has represented some of the most successful Olympic athletes in U.S. history. Here’s a look at some of them:
– By Mike Lowe, Staff Writer
"For us, it's all marketing, it's all sponsorship, it's all PR," Carlisle said.
Wescott's partnership with Visa is a perfect example. Carlisle had negotiated a deal with Visa to sponsor Phelps before the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. During the opening ceremonies, he was invited to sit next to the Visa executive who handled Olympic athletes. Speaking about the success of Phelps' ad campaign, Carlisle said, "I've got your next big thing."
He was talking about snowboardcross, making its Olympic debut in 2006, and its appeal to a younger generation. "I just told him that I had the guy who would be perfect for them," said Carlisle, and soon afterward Wescott had Visa as his major sponsor.
From very early on, Carlisle displayed the ability to master the market.
"He's very intuitive," said Drew Johnson, the director of communications for Octagon's Olympic and Action Sports division. "His creativity and ability to see things unfold before they transpire is really remarkable."
Carlisle said selling his clients often depends on the sport they compete in. Some need to be sold, others don't. The sponsors are looking for compelling stories.
Entering Sochi, for example, Carlisle talked about halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark, ski jumper Lindsey Van and nordic skier Kikkan Randall.
Clark, who won the first U.S. snowboarding gold medal in Olympic history in 2002 and then a bronze in 2010, is well-known. But he still has to sell her to corporate sponsors. "We have to educate them as to what her significance is," he said. "She is arguably the most dominant female athlete in her sport that you will find."
Women's ski jumping is making its Olympic debut, so Carlisle figures NBC might feature it more. And Van, who won the sport's first gold medal in the 2009 World Championships, should be in the spotlight. And then there's Randall, who competes in a sport that gets little or no coverage. Carlisle believes she could win a gold medal for the United States in a sport dominated by European nations.
"It's something that could be celebrated among a certain demographic," Carlisle said. "And the mainstream media might take an interest."
'HE'S ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS'
Carlisle's breakthrough came when he signed Powers, who was returning with the U.S. Team from the Nagano Olympics in 1998. Powers had won a bronze medal in the halfpipe and was considered a prodigy. Carlisle met him in Las Vegas at a sports trade show. IMG, one of the biggest agencies in the world, was courting Powers.
The two were introduced by Mullen. "I liked him," said Powers. "He was the closest one to me, which helped, but I just really liked him and signed with him. From there, it's turned more into a friendship than a client-agent relationship. He's one of my best friends."
Carlisle helped secure Powers some sponsorships. Powers in turn introduced Carlisle to other snowboarders, such as Wescott, who signed with Carlisle in 1998.
In Carlisle, Wescott saw someone he trusted to secure him financial stability as well as someone he could bond with. "He's much more than a business associate with me," Wescott said. "He's been a mentor to me throughout life. I know it's like that with Ross, too."
Through Carlisle's guidance, Powers established the Ross Powers Foundation, which provided funding for athletes in financial need in Vermont. A couple of years later, Wescott, Phelps and others joined the foundation, which was renamed the Level Field Fund and provides financial aid to athletes in a variety of sports.
"By bringing in more athletes, we are able to help more athletes in return," Powers said.
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