Who hasn’t wondered why so many sports figures go broke, have trouble dealing with the media and just don’t seem to know how to protect their brand? Well, Parisnicole Payton’s, The PNP Agency, has come to the rescue. PNP specializes in public relations, marketing, management administration and behavioral prevention advisement for NFL players.
“The idea of my company came from years of public relations and management experience in servicing artists, celebrities and athletes. It also symbolizes how I represent my clients with PNP–Persistence, Nurturing, and Prosperity,” says Payton.
As president and CEO of The PNP Agency, Payton plans and implements positive branding and crisis-management strategies to NFL players. She advises current and retired NFL players, schedules guest appearances and develops strategies for press conferences, tours, speaking appearances and events. She even educates players in networking techniques, including forming vital business relationships and resource alliances. On top of this, she negotiates contracts and coordinates referral services for clients to ensure lasting recognition and success.
Among her clients: Shawn Andrews, retired NFL player (2x Pro Bowler); Stacy Andrews, retired NFL player (Super Bowl XLVI Champion); Eugene Bright, former Philadelphia Eagles tight-end; Raheem Brock, retired NFL player (Super Bowl XLI Champion); and Rennie Curran, current NFL Free Agent; among others.
“From a young age, I always wanted to work within the entertainment industry managing artists and tours. While interning at a local Philadelphia radio and television station, many people suggest for me to pursue a career in sports management, because I had great people and management skills,” recalls Payton. “Later, I met a former Philadelphia Eagles player through a friend who also suggested the same. In essence, sports chose me.”
So in 2002, her sports career began when she traveled to New Orleans to attend Super Bowl XXXVI. There, she joined the NFL Super Bowl Host Committee and participated as a volunteer ambassador. During this time, she got to interview several players who shared their story on how they achieved a successful NFL career and the challenges they faced being an athlete.
“Thereafter, I continued to speak with NFL players and sports agents. Over time, I researched, studied and interviewed several players. After some time, I developed an interest and became intrigued to learn more about the sports business,” explains Payton. “Many NFL players discussed exploring business opportunities outside of their athletic career; however, they lacked education and business skills. They wanted to learn the importance of growth in personal and business management, two elements that are essential to becoming and maintaining successful – on and off – the playing field.”
Payton was able to fill a niche since professional players were unprepared for life after sports. “Unfortunately, too many athletes have fallen due to lack of guidance and advisement. I continued to access their stories, and realized the NFL is the #1 sport sector with players who are the least guided and have the most behavioral issues,” says Payton. “This is when I began to birth a passion and developed a niche in sports public relations and management. I wanted to provide these players with advocacy, mission and purpose in finding solutions.”
Payton works with NFL players on various aspects of their career. “As a sports publicist, I assist athletes in understanding the importance in brand development, business etiquette, community leadership and behavioral prevention,” says Payton. “My business model is to seek professional training, personal and business assistance, and instill the importance in completing their college education. In addition, develop an educational platform to explore and maximize their opportunities, and build a business portfolio allied with personal and business resources. Lastly, expand their brand and build upon their corporate and community alliances. After football, they will have a business entity.”
Though Payton enjoys the challenges of her career, the industry is highly competitive. “The sports industry is filled with sharks, so I diligently set myself apart by offering authenticity in the services I provide. In the beginning of my career, I was unknown and had no alliances or affiliations within the sports industry. On my own, I had to seek out opportunities. I had to gain experience by interning, volunteering, and offering pro bono work to showcase my skills and build my reputation and network,” she points out. “In working with players, they need a visual of what you say you do. You have to show and prove your talents and have a track record of success. Throughout, I have developed a career portfolio that outlines my education and public relations talents. In working with a player, it is all about cultivating a respectful business relationship and building an alliance based on trust, loyalty, commitment and dedication.”
Payton started PNP with $5,000 of her own savings. “My startup was simple. While working in the corporate sector, I used $5K in savings to travel. I had to go where my target markets were allied. I am based in Philadelphia, a sports fan-based city,” she says. “In doing marketing research, I learned to secure employment opportunities to work with players in NYC, Miami, and LA during off seasons. My business is mobile; therefore, I travel to my clients. My office is a cell phone and laptop to carry on my daily public relations administration.”
Payton has had her share of obstacles starting out but overcame them. “In the beginning, the business challenge was securing clients in the NFL. In 2002, when I started my career in sports, I was unknown. After perseverance, I became known as a top-tier sports publicist, working with several NFL players,” says Payton. After nearly a decade in, she hit a major stump. “During the 2011 NFL lockout, business spiraled down. At that time, players were not getting paid, so they were no longer able to retain a publicist on a business payroll. Over time, many of those players were no longer playing in the league due to contract disputes, firing and/or changing agents; many sustained permanent injuries, which lead to retirement,” explains Payton. “All these mishaps were out of my control.”
Today there are other issues to deal with. “The players, today, are much younger and have bigger egos. So again, it is like starting from the beginning, trying to convince these new players to understand the importance of hiring a publicist who can assist with building their brand and maintaining their business affairs,” Payton points out.
Despite this, Payton is planning ahead. “My business goal for the coming year is to continue to position The PNP Agency and its clients on a national platform; secure strategic partnerships with corporate alliances within the sports and entertainment industry; and eliminate the negative stereotype of athletes, preferably NFL players,” she shares. “My long-term business goals are to continue my passion in sports public relations. I love what I do. I want to be recognized as a top-tier publicist who has succeeded her business and clients in securing national platforms, and corporate community relation partnerships.”
Throughout her career, Payton has picked up a few lessons that have guided her through. “The most important business lesson I have learned is to have thick skin. The sports industry is male-dominated. You have to stand firm, know your worth and never devalue your services,” she says. “Most importantly, don’t take everything so personally.”