Meet the brothers behind Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce’s business — Andscape
No matter where you go these days, you’re inundated with Travis Kelce.
The Kansas City Chiefs tight end currently stars in commercials for State Farm, DirecTV, Lowe’s, Experian and Campbell’s Soup, the latter with his brother and mother. If you’ve forgotten to get your most recent vaccinations, there’s Kelce reminding you in a Pfizer ad. Are you a fan of sketch comedy? There Kelce was hosting Saturday Night Live back in March.
The list goes on and on: Hosting gigs on ABC and ESPN; a top-ranked podcast, New Heights, with said brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce; a clothing brand; an all-day music festival aptly named Kelce Jams. And that’s before he became one of the most popular men in the country: Not for winning his second Super Bowl back in February, but for dating one of the biggest pop stars in the world.
But as much of this Kelce Era can be attributed to the talent, charisma, and looks of Kelce, he’s not a one-man team.
In fact, it’s Kelce’s managers, two brothers — or, brothas — who play a direct role in how a white tight end playing in one of the NFL’s smaller media markets has become one of the faces of the league.
Aaron and Andre Eanes are twin brothers who grew up in Cleveland to entrepreneur parents. Their parents owned and ran 17 Burger King franchises across their hometown and Atlanta. The two grew up watching and playing football, basketball and other sports.
They attended St. Edwards High School in Lakewood, Ohio, whose alumni list includes former NBA player Jawad Williams, former NHL player Michael Rupp, and professional wrestlers Johnny Gargano and Nic Nemeth (formerly known as Dolph Ziggler in WWE).
Another graduate of the school was Delvon Roe, the No. 15-ranked high school basketball prospect according to ESPN in the 2008 class, ranking higher than future NBA players Draymond Green (No. 36) and Iman Shumpert (No. 38). Roe, who would go on to play three seasons at Michigan State, was one of the first people who saw the potential in what Aaron and Andre were capable of, telling them at the lunch tables of St. Edwards that Aaron should be his future manager.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know what that means,’ ” Aaron told Andscape. “Obviously Jerry McGuire came out; I knew what an agent was, but I didn’t know what a manager was.”
Aside from his parents, Aaron’s desire to get into the business side of sports stemmed from an unusual yet reasonable place: the Madden video game series.
“They had franchise mode that used to be my go-to,” Aaron said. “Back then everything wasn’t on the computer so I would print out scouting reports of every player.”
Meanwhile, Andre had hoop dreams. He played on a LeBron James-ran AAU team while he was in eighth grade and had aspirations of making it all the way to the NBA. But sometimes dreams meet reality.
“I’m 5-foot-10,” Andre said.
Once the two went off to college in 2008 — Aaron to Bowling Green, Andre to The University of Cincinnati Clermont College — that’s when the seeds of their current company A&A Management began to bloom. Inspired by the burgeoning music scene in Cleveland at the time — Machine Gun Kelly, Chip tha Ripper, and of course Kid Cudi —Aaron wanted to create a sports management company that helped athletes leverage their playing careers to sustain or increase the wealth they accumulated, so that years down the road after they retire they wouldn’t be featured in a sequel to the ESPN documentary Broke.
In sports management, Aaron and Andre foresaw a lane for professional athletes that, before recently, did not exist. Before, it was the norm for an athlete to shill a product, shoot the commercial, get paid, and go about their day. Athletes can typically be viewed as meatheads who inevitably blow through their money, rather than, as Aaron says, human beings with “passions, interests, cares, wants, desires.”
What gets the pair out of bed every day is changing that perception by working with athletes to figure out their interests outside of sports, leverage their celebrity, and meet those wants and needs.
“Not to be too cliche with the phrase, but knowing that they’re more than just an athlete and their value expands beyond being able to just play a sport,” Andre said. “And I think guys are starting to realize that more than they ever were before.”
After realizing basketball wasn’t in his future but before the creation of A&A Management, Andre pivoted to his entrepreneurial roots, launching an event management company, The Deuce Club, or TDC.
“I’m an Alpha, I’m the deuce on my line, so two is my number,” Andre said, referring to Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically Black fraternity. “I’m not too creative.”
Through TDC he represented DJs around Cincinnati, booked venues and threw parties. Along the way he met Dennis Cummings, the manager for Kid Cudi, who took Andre under his wing, teaching the young college student how to build relationships in the business.
Almost 200 miles north from Cincinnati, Aaron had been working on what would become A&A Management during his freshman year at Bowling Green, where he was a sports management major and entrepreneurship minor. He noticed how fragmented the sports management business was at the time, run by big names like IMG, CAA and Wasserman. He saw an opening for smaller shops, so in 2011, the brothers launched A&A Management. They were juniors in college.
But success wasn’t immediate. Through their various connects, the brothers pitched draft prospects at both the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University to represent them, but they were consistently rebuffed, told they were too young and too inexperienced. But they eventually signed Ohio State cornerback Chimdi Chekwa after he was selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft.
How’d they talk an NFL prospect into signing with two college juniors with no prior experience?
On one hand, Chekwa was a finance major looking to immediately leverage what he’d learned as a student, not to mention he was a teammate of fellow Buckeyes defensive back Nate Oliver, who also attended St. Edwards with Aaron and Andre.
On the other hand …
“I would honestly say one of the reasons we probably signed him was we were the cheapest,” Andre said. “We were offering the cheapest retainer.”
Their business fortunes would change a little over a year after signing Chekwa when a former high school quarterback from Westlake, Ohio, they had known for a few years decided to declare for the NFL draft.
Something Aaron and Andre learned over the years from their mentors was the importance of touchpoints, the various ways you interact and come into contact with someone. The more touchpoints, the more trust a person has with you.
Enter Travis Kelce.
Andre became familiar with Kelce from AAU basketball. Kelce, who played quarterback at Cleveland Heights High School, eventually turned into an All-Pro tight end in the NFL, but according to his high school basketball coach, Kelce “had more basketball [scholarship] offers than he had football offers.”
While living on the University of Cincinnati campus but taking classes at UC Clermont, Andre reached out to Kelce, then a tight end at Cincinnati, through Facebook to try and connect with other people from the Cleveland area. As faith would have it, Kelce’s roommate at the time was D.J. Woods, a receiver for the Bearcats and a childhood friend of Andre’s. The three would chill in the dorms, playing video games. Kelce and Andre would later work together at a call center while Kelce was serving a suspension from the football team for smoking weed.
When throwing events across Cincinnati for TDC, Andre would invite Kelce to events for free, help him and his teammates skip the line, get him a spot in VIP, all to show Kelce some true hospitality.
There’s a term for the relationship Andre had with Kelce.
“Yeah, 1,000% I was the plug,” Andre said.
So when it came time to pitch Kelce on the brothers representing him as he prepared to enter the 2013 NFL draft, he already trusted them and their plan despite how young and inexperienced they were.
“I just had a simple conversation with Travis. ‘Yo, we’re about to start this company, you should rock with us,’ and he was just open to seeing what that would look like,” Andre said.
Working with a sibling — a twin, even — can be a double-edged sword. You know each other intimately, which means there’s a level of trust that’s hard to replicate with a non-family member. For instance, Aaron would pick up the slack when parenting responsibilities would take Andre away from his job responsibilities, something a typical business partner may not understand. But at the same time, brothers know how to push each other’s buttons, which can lead to any number of squabbles.
When asked the pros and cons of working together, Aaron and Andre couldn’t think of many negatives. Sure, they argue from time to time, but it never grows personal, and they eventually work out their differences for the betterment of the company. If anything, it’s the time they waste just to come to the same conclusion, albeit from different vantage points.
This was evident in our Zoom interview. From time to time, one would misremember a fact and the other would correct him, such as what year in school they were in when they launched A&A Management, what ye.ar a client signed a particular contract, or even how old they are (34, not 33 as Aaron thought: “After 30, it’s like who counts?”)
Another con they could point to was something Andre’s daughter, Kennedi, noticed: the brothers are always talking business, rarely anything else. They retort that they’re descendants of business owners, so who better to talk shop with than your brother.
“In this business, there’s a lot of mistrust, but we grew up in a family that was like, ‘Business is business, family is family,’ ” Aaron said. “And so being able to have really honest conversations with each other is the biggest pro there is because that way we can ensure that … everything that we’re doing, we’re doing for our client’s benefit.”
Andre adds that his daughter just happens to be in the car with him during business hours. She stands to benefit from soaking up all this free game.
“I’m like, ‘Listen to all of this because at some point you’re going to run the business,” Andre said, as Aaron continually interjected, “great education.”
In the 12 years since they created A&A Management, the business has grown considerably. It’s no longer just Aaron and Andre repping local DJs and pitching future clients in Big Ten or Big East dorm rooms. They now have six full-time employees, including specialists in strategy, community outreach and marketing.
They’ve managed to accomplish this as seeming anomalies in the sports representation industry. While there aren’t readily available racial demographics for sports management companies, in 2022, talent agency Endeavor announced that over 75% of its leadership is white, according to the Los Angeles Times. Endeavor is the parent company of sports firm WME Sports, whose clients include tennis star Serena Williams, San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey and reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid.
Andre said being Black in this space used to feel like a disadvantage. The brothers feel their qualifications would be questioned, that there were assumptions that he and Aaron could not have possibly negotiated some of the deals they landed. That’s changed as their profile — and Kelce’s — has risen over the years, but there are still those microaggession-tinged moments.
“Even the past couple years it’s been questions, like, ‘Did you guys do that?’ Even with Travis,” Andre said. “And it’s like, ‘We do everything.’ You know what I mean?”
The firm currently represents 10 clients, ranging from the NFL (Kelce, Cleveland Browns defensive back Denzel Ward), NBA (Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga, Los Angeles Clippers guard Bones Hyland) and soccer (former UCLA forward Kaila Novak).
Kelce, of course, is the marquee name. All those commercials and appearances he’s made over the years, Aaron and Andre have been directly responsible for that. This has been all about using Kelce’s celebrity as a football to expand him beyond just being an athlete spokesperson. After his stint on SNL, Kelce signed with CAA for talent representation.
“We had a strategy of we want to maximize national commercials to parlay his characters and his ability to be talent throughout the season so that when people are seeing him, they’re seeing him as talent, not as the football player,” Aaron said.
And despite his reputation as being the Cool White Dude, his managers push back on that being the sole reason for Kelce’s newfound popularity. Being a white athlete obviously has its benefits, but it’s certain kind of white guys who normally get the national deals like Kelce.
“Honestly, I would say it helped, but also it doesn’t help as much as you would think because he was a tight end. And he was a tight end in Kansas City,” Aaron said. “So nine times out of 10 people would be like, we don’t care about Kansas City and you’re not a quarterback.”
Another thing they push back on is the obvious.
Since September, Kelce has been dating international popstar Taylor Swift. As you may have read, she has had a significant impact on Kelce’s popularity. At the end of September, sportswear and fan merchandise company Fanatics said Kelce’s jersey sales “saw a nearly 400% spike” after Swift attended a Chiefs game. (“Do we actually make money on that?” Kelce asked when he learned that fact.) Kelce has gained over 2 million Instagram followers in just two months. The list goes on and on.
The pair dating and Kelce’s increase in commercials would seem like a perfectly crafted publicity stunt, but his managers point out that all his marketing obligations were wrapped up before training camp started in July; all these commercials were in the can by the time the season started in September. Their business with Kelce hasn’t changed much from the growth in popularity other than a few people reaching out.
Aaron and Andre are like family to the Kelces — they strive to have relationships with their clients’ families — but who he dates or interacts with are of no concern to them. They represent Kelce, that’s it.
The only thing Kelce really discussed with them about Swift was only letting them know the news was coming.
“It was just one of those things where he is just like, ‘Hey guys, here’s what’s going to happen?’ ” Andre said. “‘Be ready.’ ”