A frequent topic I’ve seen lately written in articles and discussed during podcasts is the idea of changing sponsors. Most recently I was listening to Bass Talk Live with guest Dean Rojas. Dean is an Elite Series angler who chose to leave longtime sponsors Skeeter and Yamaha after twenty years of running the boat and motor, starting fresh with bass fishing newcomers Blazer boats and Suzuki motors. Likewise, Elite Series pro Jared Linter left the same companies after 10 years for Ranger and Mercury. There is a plethora of reasons anglers leave sponsors, but this got me thinking about the current state of “sponsorship,” and a few lessons I have noted over the years working with companies.
Types of “Sponsorship”
The truth is, the term “sponsorship” has a lot of meanings today. A few other common terms you will see is pro team, pro staff, field staff, ambassador… the list goes on and on and meanings varying company to company. Here are a few of the most common tiers to know:
Financial Allowances are most often the result of a tight relationship with a company over time, credentials or in the case of many weekend anglers, companies they may work for on a professional level. The more experience, tournament success and marketability will often help in this case.
Free Product is something that is a dying breed for many pro staffs, especially in terms of the new aspiring anglers. For those who are involved in free product sponsorships, they can often mean an extra stress relief financially.
Discounts can be a great way for anglers to prove their worth as a viable member of a pro staff. These types of sponsorships give a fisherman the opportunity to promote product while building a relationship with the company. Like an individual competing in the co-angler division of the BFL’s, Opens or FLW Tour, approach this relationship as a learning experience first and foremost. Then again, discounts can go a long ways in an expensive sport.
Know Your Value
Unrealistic expectations can often lead to unnecessary stress and disappointment. Are you a seasoned vet or new to fishing?
1) Getting started, it is important to put your focus on learning how to fish instead of the constant pursuit of sponsorship. Without a foundation by which to persuade a sponsor, you are just another application thrown in the trash.
2) Show your creativity when developing a resume that best exemplifies your credentials and strategy for growing the company. Are you willing to work trade shows? Do you excel at taking high-res photos or editing video, write blogs or public speaking? Knowing your strengths and acting is half the battle. No matter your background, a great resume is key.
3) Stick around and Grind! There is nothing more detrimental then seeking sponsors during the off-season and disappearing from the scene thereafter. Like anything in life, it shows your lack of commitment and inability to deal with failure. Continuing to use a company’s products shows your true colors regardless of whether you are ever brought onboard. Who knows, you may just get an opportunity with the same company later on. Stranger things have happened…
As angling grows nationwide, especially in a rising economy, companies have the opportunity to expand staff. How a company uses their funds says a lot about how they view their pro staff.
For some, keeping pro teams small is a means of building a company. Investing in these select few and marking them as an “elite” team can have a lot of upside. Especially with newcomers, fishing with an idol’s signature series baits can be a powerful driver in product sales. Trickle in some top tier anglers from other levels and some young, technologically savvy influencers and you have what I see as a game-winning strategy.
For others, often new/lesser established businesses, growing a large sponsorship base means more opportunities for anglers and increased company exposure; however, the same scenario may be to the detriment of the anglers, as well as the depletion of benefits offered. For example, companies with a well-organized pro staff structure will benefit from a positive relationship with the angler. Having a seamless pro staff management team helps to correct issues with anglers such as long waits between email or phone responses, a longer than desired ordering process, bad customer service and an over-all feeling of neglect. I would recommend seeking other options of sponsors if you start to feel disregarded in that respect. Begin to feel this way about a current or potential sponsor, I would recommend seeking other options. Believe me, chances are you aren’t the only one feeling such emotions.
Common Gimmicks to Look Out For
Sometimes offers can be too good to be true. It is important to look out for requirements that go above and beyond representing a company.
Pyramid Schemes and Affiliate Programs can often be a way for companies to make the most possible money at the expense of the lowest on the totem pole. Often such campaigns involve a greater level of work than the normal promotional staff requirements. This can really be detrimental to time on the water and a second job for the normal person working a day job. Locally, opportunities can dry up after persuading your local tackle shops to purchase product and encouraging your group of friends to buy product. The enticement of being awarded money can cost anglers membership money up front at a minimal return on investment.
Sponsored Social Ads have become a huge business in sharing content, especially considering new platform algorithms are set to regulate reach on news feeds. Some ads of this nature can prey on all anglers, but it is important to notice which ones are using “sponsorship” as a means of selling product, by giving each individual a common discount and labeling them as pro staff without any requirements of the partnership.
Where We Stand
In an age when technology continues to grow on the daily, smartphones, cameras and social media have really changed how companies do sponsorships. There was a time when companies focused completely on tournament statistics and the locally known standouts. Today, opportunities have expanded greatly to accommodate the growing market. That’s right, the pond fishing Youtuber may have the same opportunity you are considering. It is important for an angler to realize that one person’s journey may be completely different from another’s. If anything, diving off the bass boat for a collaboration or two could be just the exposure you need. What I see as negative opportunity may be a positive for another angler. Know your worth, strategize your approach, and best of luck to you in the coming season.
Comment Below and Let Me Know Your Thoughts. Thanks again for reading.