Sinead Galvin putting Irish athletes’ interests first

CREDIT: Irish Times Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 06:00

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O’Riordan

Sports agent now represents the interests of best-known figures from a range of sport

Sinead Galvin laughs out loud when being labelled as Ireland’s first “female Jerry Maguire”, because, all jokes aside, the comparison is justified. She’s trying to make a name for herself for putting the athlete’s interest first – male or female – in what is often perceived as a ruthless business.

They may occasionally ask her to “show me the money”, although it’s more about building trust, making sure their careers are being are maximised, not just commercially.

Like Tom Cruise’s character in the 1996 box-office smash, she also likes to see them as friends, as much as clients.

Galvin comes into the business with considerable experience too: formerly a national ranked sprinter, she graduated with a marketing degree from DIT, work for seven years in brand management, then took over as the first marketing manager with Athletics Ireland.

She had a brief spell in PR before deciding last September to combine all her best interests and set out on her own

“I really enjoyed PR, loved the experience,” she says, “but with two young boys at home, my husband Jeremy working full time, still coaching a bit, time management, quality time, was becoming very challenging.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but after 14 years experience, I felt this presented the chance to work on all the parts of the job I love, to try to make a business out of it. And I felt there was a small gap in that marketplace.”

She’s quickly built a small but worthy stable of nine clients: athletes Thomas Barr, Ciara Mageean and Catherina McKiernan, badminton player Scott Evans, diver Oliver Dingley, rower Sinead Jennings, rugby player Sophie Spence, Paralympics swimmer Ellen Keane, and hockey goalkeeper David Harte.

“I wanted to represent male and female, across multiple sports, with as much diversity as possible, to be reflective of Ireland today. And I believe all these athletes have an incredible story to tell, and I think can lift the lid more than players in mainstream sports, who are more constrained by their manager. Soccer, GAA, that marketplace is already well subscribed. I wanted to do something different.

Purchasing power

“Generally, outside of Olympic year, brands will tend to gravitate towards a man with a ball in his hand. But that’s slowly changing, and again these bring something different. The response, so far, has been very positive. But brands have to be a bit brave, too.

“And performance, and wellbeing, has to come first. It’s not ‘all about the money’. It’s also important for me to consider their life beyond the track, or field, or wherever. They will transition at some point. And I’m only a part of their team, along with their coach, their manager, or whoever else.”

Part of her motivation is to ensure women in sport are as well represented as the men, and so far, she sees no reason why they can’t be.

“When I’m interfacing with brands, I can say they are just as interested in women, if not more so. People sometimes forget the biggest purchasing power in the household is with the women, and often they can relate more strongly to the female story. Also, off the sports pages, the lifestyle and health and wellness material tends to be dominated by females, and their stories, so there is more opportunity there.

“Sinead and Catherina are probably more targeting the corporate side. Sinead did a presentation last week on resilience, and you can imagine how well she can take about that. Or the likes of Scott, or Oliver, both amazingly passionate, and driven, to leave home, when they did. All of them have different stories to tell.”

She agrees with the principle of the Government’s plans for gender quotas in sport, though not necessarily the process: “I think women are still missing opportunities. I would certainly like to see more women interviewed for positions, having gender quota as part of a selection process, rather than just getting the job to tick a box.”

Her own priority, with her own clients, is more straightforward: “What they mostly want is recognition. Performance is the first thing in their head, that’s what drives them. But if they achieve something, they’d like that to be reflected in brands wanting them, to consider them to be associated with them. Most of these athletes do get grants, but also do need to supplement that in some way. And for me the relationship is the most important thing, the trust has to work both ways.”