Let’s get the eye rolls out of the way. I can hear it now, “The old man is going to drone on about pro staffs again.” Hang with me on this one though. This article isn’t about pro staff guys. This article is about predatory marketing schemes parading as pro staff agreements.
If you have ever wanted to be on a pro staff team or field staff team, please read this. If you are thinking about adding a couple of additional sponsors or pro staff deals this year, please read this. If you have a friend who is all consumed with chasing jersey bling, please read this and then tell him or her to read it also.
I remember my first trip to Las Vegas. I was so full of hope and excitement I couldn’t wait. I had all of the movie and television shots of the new Strip, Fremont Street and glorious casinos flashing through my head. Not long after we landed we started seeing the sights. It was great. We saw the fountain show outside of the Bellagio. We watched a magic act in the attic of an old casino with tigers and panthers. I even won some money playing craps. It was everything I thought it would be until about 10 PM.
After dinner and a show we were strolling around the Paris area of the Strip and I started seeing what I thought at first was a large group of tourists. They were all wearing the same brightly colored t-shirts and carrying what I thought were information cards. Technically they were. The “tourists” were clicking these cards in their hands and chatting to everyone about something. Maybe they were evangelists? We have those in Texas quite a bit. As I got closer, could hear what they were saying and got one of their informational cards shoved in my hands I realized the “evangelists/tourists” were really sidewalk pimps. The cards were pictures of mostly nude women available for…rent.
The tourist boards don’t really put that part of the walking tour of Vegas in the brochure.
So why is that little flashback necessary? I had some dejavu this week when on Facebook.
I saw multiple ads from multiple companies in the fishing industry that they were needing to onboard 100+ pro staff/ field staff. 100+! That’s a lot. At first glance a lot of anglers who are hungry to get a pro staff slot will jump at this. I know because I did it a little over five years ago. This isn’t a new scheme. It hurt when I found out the truth and it set me back a couple of years.
A large, major, advertised push like this is very much like the sidewalk pimps in Vegas. This is the hiring process. You’ll get your cards and take to the streets trying to sell some product.
Here is the marketing scheme the fishing companies are using.
First they put out a big call for pro staff/field staff. Those are two different things with different discounts but they won’t tell you that upfront. They want you to apply to be on their team. You fill out the application telling them all about you, include your fishing resume and send in the app. Many times they will make you pay an application fee. It’s usually around $20. If you are lucky they might waive the fee or not charge one but you need to know it’s a possibility.
Next comes the interview process. You’ll talk to someone at the company who is going to give you the elevator speech about why their product is so awesome and why it costs $150, $300 or more. (If you were actually a good candidate for Pro Staff wouldn’t you already know all the benefits and selling points?) They’ll ask if you’ve ever used the product and almost every applicant will tell them no. A few will say they have at one time or another or know someone who does. This is when they will hit you with the “that’s not a problem” pitch. Because people are so eager to be on pro staffs, they will use this opportunity to sell product to you, who probably thought you were going to get all of this for free, right?
They will tell you they want you to be familiar with their entire product line so you will need to buy at least four items from varying price points. Of course they will extend a 20% discount to you because they want to take care of their people. At this point you think to yourself that they must like you because they offered you a discount and you aren’t even using their product yet!
They will need that order before they can actually place you on the team.
Also, they will need you to make an official pro staff or field staff statement on every social media channel you have available. #AWESOMEPRODUCT #GAMECHANGER #LOOKATME
They require a minimum of two thank you posts per month and you must be in your jersey (that you have to purchase for $75) in all of your pictures. Anytime you do anything outside you must mention them and they’ll also need a ton of photos from you showing off how awesome your new product is. And please show the more expensive items you bought.
And while we are talking, since you haven’t used the product before, you’ll start as a field staff member and if you do enough promotion over the next year you can get promoted to the pro staff. That will get you an even better discount.
At this point you are probably yawning and thinking most of that sounds like a normal staff deal. And for much of it, it is. Here is my warning though:
A company who brings on hundreds of pro staffers per year is not in the business of being your partner and helping you raise your profile. They are preying on your desire for status and making money off of you, knowingly offering small discounts, making profits off of their team and advertising all on the cheap.
Check this math out.
If I own a reel company and I need to move some product and create some social buzz, I could use the same method. Let’s say I carry four different reel models. They range in price from $100 to $400. I want to bring on 100 pro staff or field staff members. Almost all of them will be field staff because I want to make more money. Let’s say 80 field and 20 pros.
I require each field staff angler to buy one of each reel at the 20% discount. I normally make 50% profit on each one so I can still make a 30% profit on each reel. Let’s work the numbers.
Each field staff has to buy a reel for $80, $160, $240 and $320. That’s a total of $800. Multiply that $800 by 80 field staff guys. That’s $64,000 in sales or $19,200 in profit. That also means that there are now 80 people out there on social media banging the gong for my reel company.
I make another $14,000 in sales off of my pro staff guys who I give a 30% discount to which gives me a little over $2,800 in profit from those guys. 100 guys with 400 reels out there in cyber space, blasting my company name all over everywhere. That is a true hype machine.
I just created 100 sales reps that paid me to come to work.
I hope that really sinks in and you understand what I am getting at. I want you to go chase the pro staff/sponsorship dream if that is your thing. I don’t want you to be as blind as I was and spend a lot of hard earned money with a company who is using you.
No reputable company requires you to make an upfront purchase of a product you’ve never used before so that you can be on a team. A purchase is not a qualifier. You need a company who wants to partner with you to raise your platform and theirs together.
If you have to pay an application fee, walk away.
If there is a minimum purchase required before they will consider you, walk away.
If you have never used their product before, walk away.
I realize I am the old man on the porch. I realize pro staff can be a good thing. What I don’t want is for our community to be taken advantage of. We are a family of outdoorsmen who need to look out for each other. That’s really what I am trying to do here. I am trying to save you from the big sink hole I ran head long into several years ago.