Skip navigation
Special Events


THE WORLD WATCHED in awe this summer as the finest athletes competed in the Olympic Games in Athens. But athletes can play the special events game, too. Here, attorney Darcy Bouzeos, head of Chicago-based Darcy L. Bouzeos Ltd., discusses how event planners can recruit athletes to make their special event a winner.


Your specialty is obtaining celebrities including sports figures for appearances at special events. What makes this genre of celebrity so appealing?

DARCY BOUZEOS: Sports figures are terrific because they transcend gender, age and racial lines. They embody discipline, commitment and, in many cases, teamwork. They often have motivational stories and are examples of “working hard to be your best.”

Q: When working with event planners to select the right sports celebrity for their group, what are some of the issues you want your client to consider?

A: An event planner should look at who will be in the audience; who will the attendees relate to and be excited to see and hear from? 1984 Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton is a captivating speaker who appeals to both genders. But a BMX rider or a skateboard champion may not appeal to a group of attendees in the 45-to-60-year-old age range.

Q: What are the some of the factors that separate sports figures who command lower appearance fees from those who are quite expensive?

A: The market is pretty established relative to the fees of sports figures. Once the event planner determines the budget, a company such as mine can provide a list of possible sports figures that fall within those dollar parameters. Olympians and local sports figures generally fall in the $5,000 to $25,000 range, and accomplished national sports figures, such as famed National Basketball Association coach Pat Riley and former football great Howie Long, fall in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. A few prominent individuals such as football legend Joe Montana, baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong have fees of $100,000-plus.

Q: If money is a problem, can other perks help swing the deal?

A: There really are not many perks. A sports figure is going to require a fee as well as travel expenses, which includes airfare — usually first-class — all ground transportation, and hotel.

Q: Say that my boss is already complaining about what it's costing to get Mr. X the sports star — how do I explain that it's worth every penny to pay the 20 percent commission that you will charge us?

A: My company offers a specialized professional service. We know the universe of sports stars and can recommend the best sports figure for the particular event. We handle all of the negotiations and draft the legal agreements, coordinate the travel and oversee a myriad of details to ensure the success of the event.

Q: What are some of the worst mistakes you see event planners make when booking sports celebrities to make appearances at their events?

A: There are several oversights that event planners can make. First, they focus on who is the most popular athlete, and do not learn whether that individual can do what they are asked to do. For example, some athletes are talented on the field, but are not strong keynote speakers or are not comfortable at a “meet and greet” function. Second, an event planner must think through the whole event and determine the best way to utilize the sports figure, then outline these specific requests at the outset. If you want them to attend a 30-minute reception to meet key guests, then specify that. If you want them to stay for dinner, specify that. If you want them to autograph items for a raffle or auction, again, specify. Don't assume anything!

Q: With the Olympics so recently in the news, what are some interesting options here for event planners? Are all Olympians expensive to hire, or are there some “bargain” Olympians?

A: Olympic athletes are terrific options for a special event. They are no more pricey than other accomplished athletes and often have very compelling stories. Immediately following an Olympics, the fees of the Olympians tend to be at their highest. In subsequent months and years, the fees will usually settle down a bit.

Darcy Bouzeos can be reached at 312/951-1980; her e-mail address is [email protected].

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.