We’ve seen it since we were little. The Bill Dances and Roland Martins of the world in tons of commercials, patch heavy shirts and boats with only the best of the best on board. My thoughts seeing that growing up were of envy. I would love to have all that. Then someone told me they don’t pay for any of it. As an early teen I guess that stuck in my brain. It seemed like the ticket was to be sponsored. Lots of free stuff and go fishing all the time, who wouldn’t like that?
Lots of guys are good at fishing. It’s a science and once you practice it enough, you become more and more consistent. Luck plays into it but in any trail you have very consistent performers. Everyone knows who they are. Lots of those guys, if they want it, are sponsored. But here comes a curveball. Sponsored is a bit of a misnomer. It’s like saying bring me a Kleenex. Kleenex is a particular type of facial tissue. Sponsored is a particular type of vendor agreement. In the world of product lines, manufacturers and vendors there are many tiers of involvement with anglers.
Some common agreements include field staff, pro staff, team member, ambassador, Pro, sponsored and many others. The terms have different meanings for each manufacturer if they even have multiple labels. To be on a staff might include angler benefits of 10% – 50% off, free gear, free hats, free stickers, free boats and all the way up to a check that arrives at your door monthly or yearly. So how many guys score that ever sweet, get a check and a bunch of free stuff type deal? Very, very , few. Think of it like this. Think of how many people have ever played quarterback on every level of football. Now think of how many guys get to start at quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team. That’s an approximate snapshot of your odds here.
So, if it is so elusive, why does it seem that guys who don’t win every tournament keep getting agreements with companies? Curveball number two. Marketing and advertising play a big part in a company’s willingness to work with an angler. Well, I’ll wear my jersey with their logo and tell everyone at the ramp they should use Dr. X’s Magic Reels and Baits; isn’t that enough? Frankly, not for most companies.
If you are working with a company, they need a good return on investment. Here’s another analogy. If I want to open an online shoe shop and I have set aside $1,000 to put up a billboard, where do I want to put it? Do I want to locate it on South Highway 70 just three miles north Blackwell, TX? Probably not. Would I put it on Southbound I-45 in Houston just north of Nasa Road? Very likely. Do you know why? Exposure. To be a good return on a companies investment, you need to be able to talk to lots of people in lots of different platforms, places and settings. Slinging baits on the ramp won’t do much, especially for larger companies. Have you ever thought about why lots of full time guides on Lake Fork have big name sponsors? One reason is because of the exposure number. Not only are these guides meeting 600+ new people per year, they are also speaking at various events, fishing in tournaments, have a website, a Facebook page, make videos that lots of people watch and are in the public eye. That can generate a lot of buzz.
Buzz is nice but it’s not the only ingredient needed. You also have to be a salesman. Until Facebook likes and positive reviews on websites start generating dollars, actual sales and free tv time are among the only ways a company can recoup its investments. At 10% off, it won’t take much. At the “here’s a check and a boat” level, it’s going to be a little harder. If you can speak positively about your manufacturers, not disparage the competition, present yourself and your company with a positive attitude and outlook and sell why Dr. X’s Magic Reels are the best you’ve ever used in a way that people can understand, you can be successful.Just keep in mind, it may not be at the KVD level.
Every company I have dealt with is interested in the deliverables. Not what they deliver to you but what you can deliver to them. A wise man (and company owner) once told me that big companies get thousands of requests per year to be “sponsored”. Most of them are asking for free stuff because they won their local bass club’s Angler of the Year. These letters and emails find the round file pretty fast.
So what can you do? If you really want to have a relationship with a company, what can you do?
1. Start with a product you already use. Start small. Soft bait companies, small apparel companies etc. You need to be able to speak to why you love their product and you should already be telling people about why they should use it too. Don’t do it expecting to get a pro deal. Do it because you can’t help yourself. You are a much better sales person when you can describe in great detail the features you like and also add feedback about changes you would like to see or additional offerings. I love Hag’s Tornado Baits.Anyone who has fished with me knows this. If I had one bait and only one bait to fish with the rest of my life it would be an F4 Tornado in Watermelon Chartreuse. It has won me money, it catches fish on the toughest of days out there and I ALWAYS have a bunch with me on the water. Tommy and Barbie Hagler saw the passion I had for their baits and called me. I was ecstatic to be able to represent Hag’s. Still am. My car and kayak always smell like garlic because of it.
2. Have a gameplan in writing. Talk is cheap. Lots of people can talk a good game but knowing what you are wanting to do, promote, how, and your expected results will speak volumes to your potential partners. What is your three year and five year plan? If you don’t know, spend some more time on the game plan.
3. Represent. When you put on a jersey, a hat, hold Dr. X’s Magic Reels ready to show the world how far it will cast, you are an extension of that company. If you act like a fool, get in a cursing match with a hot head who wants to challenge you or look like a slob, the company mirrors that too. No company wants to be those things.
4. Be patient. Lots of the bigger companies want you to have an established track record with other companies before considering you. It doesn’t happen over night. At least not for us normal folks. The important thing is to keep fishing and find products you are passionate about. You might start at the ground floor but believe me, the sky is the limit. The only fuel is your passion.
If you want stickers or a jersey, buy one. If you want to help a company you are passionate about to grow their business, get to work and make it happen.
Do you have some additional thoughts? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page.