Drew Uyi: Changing Athletes’ Narratives
Words By – Jemi Ekunkunbor
He is an FA Licensed Football Agent, Brand Strategist and Public Relations expert. He has also at some point, dug his hands in the African music and entertainment pies.
Born Ogbomoide Uyighosa Omonuwa in Birmingham UK, he has since branded himself Drew Uyi. Drew had his early education in Benin before moving to Switzerland and later Germany, where he concluded High School. A Sports and Events Management graduate from the London Metropolitan University, London, he also holds a Post certification in Marketing from the London University of the ART.
In his foray into the entertainment industry, he has managed the AY Comedian Brand internationally, and acted as a Media/ Brand Consultant to One Africa Music Fest, New York, London and Dubai. Currently heavily into sports- his first love and passion, he now manages athletes even as he seeks to change their narratives and fortunes.
There are many things to do around the game of football. Why did you choose to be an FA licensed football agent?
I chose to be a football agent because it puts me in a better position to represent African athletes and to perform my duties. Apart from being a football agent, I have a flair for athlete branding, so I give them more value. Also, it is required for African agents to represent African players because they understand the culture and the mentality more than other people.
In the past, local stars rusted with their talents because they didn’t have or know about agents who could arrange for them to play overseas. What was it like then?
You are quite right. We have abundant talents in Africa and many didn’t have the right agents to help them out. But things have changed over time because of the advent of the internet and social media. The world is now a global village, so you can reach out to agents that can help you further your career. But above all, I think we should have a good league in Nigeria and Africa. All the players cannot go overseas, people should play locally and on a high level as well. We should develop our own league instead of thinking of traveling overseas.
There is this suspicion that players have towards agents who they feel exploit them. How are you changing this narrative?
I do not blame the players because for a long time, there are cow boy agents and travel agents who claim they are football agents but are not. That’s why I’m here trying to change the narrative by adding value. My unique selling point is athlete branding; adding value to athletes for them to increase their market value. For me, my purpose is more of giving back instead of exploiting them.
Why is it that in spite of the trust African players put in their agents, they never get contracts commensurate with their talents and what can be done to remedy the situation?
You are right. A lot of agents don’t give value. You cannot give what you don’t have. When you don’t have capacity, you settle for less. I’ve been managing talents for over 20 years now and I see the red flags. Nobody should settle for less but a lot of agents because they don’t really have much, anything that is thrown at them, they just grab it.
When you take a local player to a foreign country, how do you ensure he settles well into the country especially where the language and culture is different?
There are two times when you can take a player outside the country; when they are young so you can place them in an academy, and the second time is when they are established as professional players in a local league. We can then take them out as professional players.
As amateurs, we can place them with a family and they adapt into the system and if it’s a non English speaking country, they have to learn the language. As they say, when you are in Rome, you behave like the Romans and adapt to the culture there in order for life to be easy for them.
Why do agents meddle in the selection of players in national teams?
I’m not sure about that but I guess it’s for profiling. If you decide to play for the national team, it should come naturally. This is about work, work and work and then hope you’d get some nice results.
Apart from earnings from playing the game, how can African players be packaged in such a way that they can earn from endorsements?
There are many ways African athletes can earn money apart from the money they make from playing the game. They can make ten times their salary if they are managed well. That is really my area of strength: Athlete branding!
If it’s done properly, they can make so much. It starts with building your profile, your brand and your image. You can then have an endorsement, you can then have partnership. If you have a good brand, you can have brand equity to show them from the company. It’s very important that athletes brand themselves. When they do, the rest is history but I can assure you that, if an athlete is branded properly, he can make ten times what he makes as salary.
What countries are the favourite destinations for players?
England! Most players would prefer to play in England. It has the biggest league in the world and they pay better. It’s a league where you can showcase yourself and everybody would see you. Every player wants to play at the highest level- Spain, Italy and Germany.
What do you look out for in players that you scout for?
I look out for passion, dedication and hard work.
What can be done to help star players stay back home to help grow the local leagues?
A lot can be done to help the local league. It’s all about investment. Whatever you invest in the league would grow. I expect the government and private sector to invest then players would be encouraged to stay back. That’s the way forward instead of everybody thinking of traveling abroad.
Does your work take you round the world or how do you operate?
My work requires me to travel quite a lot because it’s a face-to-face business. Sometimes, you have to be on ground to assess the player and the facility.
What is your life around football like?
It’s very interesting and demanding but I cannot complain because it’s part of the career that I have chosen so I have to give it my best.
Which is your favourite league and favourite club?
I don’t have a favourite football club or league. For me, I can work with any of them. I like all of them. I don’t want to be biased but I like the way the English run their business. Apart from the passion, it’s a proper business. If you have a league and there is so much passion you are not making money, it doesn’t make sense.
What crazy thing have you done for football?
The craziest thing I’ve done is travelling to three countries in one day to sign agreement to make sure I achieve what my clients want. Crazy traveling is what I do for football.
As an image maker for footballers, how do you like to present yourself?
As a football agent and brand strategist, I like to present myself as someone that educates, empowers African athletes, give them eyes to see and make them know that their brand can be bankable during their career and after sports.
What won’t you wear in the name of fashion?
I’m quite flexible with fashion. The only thing I won’t wear is something extremely expensive. I’d rather give the money to charity.
Christmas is around the corner, how do you like to spend it and where?
I’d like to spend it with my family in London as I usually do especially in this COVID era, it would be a quiet one.