Right now a lot of tournament fishermen are trying to land sponsor deals for 2015. Consequently, I guess it’s pretty accurate to say that the No. 1 question any long-term pro angler gets asked this time of year is, “How do I get sponsors?”
It’s to be expected, since tour-level competitive fishing is one of the few professional sports in the U.S. where the participants have to pay to play, and the costs to compete can be intimidating to say the least. That being the case, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned regarding sponsors during the 28 years I’ve been a full-time pro.
First of all, the world of sponsorships has changed dramatically since I started out, and continues to change each year. Counting Walmart FLW Tour anglers, Rayovac FLW Series contenders, BFL guys, college and high school contestants, and the various competitors in other major national circuits, regional buddy circuits, and the like, there are more anglers and more tournaments than ever before. This can make attaining sponsorships much more challenging, especially with the endemic companies.
There are three basic levels of sponsorship: those that involve product discounts, those that offer no-charge products, and, best of all, financial retainers with no-charge products. There is no strict rule regarding how a company and the prospective sponsored angler decide upon compensation in relation to responsibilities. It is usually all made clear in the negotiation process.
However, the process is the same, regardless of which level of sponsorship you have. I’ll address some issues companies need to consider first, and some that anglers need to realize as well.
For the potential sponsoring company, unless it is a family-owned business that is sponsoring one of the family, the main consideration should be whether this individual can help grow your brand awareness and market, and provide you with a good return on investment (ROI).
Companies are reflections of their employees, and like anglers, companies can be considered poor, average, good or great. It’s been my experience in dealing with “great” companies that they share the following characteristics:
• They have people who follow, understand, and are knowledgeable and passionate about pro fishing and the anglers. If they don’t know the details of the sport, they educate themselves and bring themselves up to speed quickly.
• They make a long-term commitment to the angler, knowing that this type of initiative takes years to mature.
• They are involved in “activating” the sponsorship. This means they are involved in the promotion, work with the pro to come up with creative marketing ideas, and are willing to make a long-term commitment and investment to do so.
• They understand that real value is not measured by performance. Personality, ability to connect with others in combination with image/integrity and performance are the keys. This is the age of the total package. Social media is quickly replacing performance or traditional promotions as the most influential brand-building element in sponsorships. A great company realizes this.
As you are researching companies with whom you would like to align, keep this in mind. Focus your energy on the great companies because in the long term, the mutual benefits will be much greater.
Once you’ve identified a company, your next step is to begin putting together your proposal. Remember that the company you are approaching owes you nothing, and you are there to help it not only sell products, but to enhance the company image in a positive way. Your proposals should always be geared toward what you can deliver for the company.
Here are a few tips to help do that:
1. Begin with your title sponsor. This involves a boat and truck wrap. The biggest, most underrated value to any endemic or non-endemic company is a boat and truck wrap. An average Walmart FLW Tour pro who drives 30,000 miles a year will expose the wrap to between 2.5 and 4 million people, via either moving or stationary impressions.
If a company would have to pay for traditional advertising displays to reach that type of number, the cost to the company would be in the millions of dollars. I’m actually shocked that every major company in the U.S. doesn’t sponsor a touring pro and use his rig as a rolling billboard.
That is the magic of wraps. It doesn’t matter if you have just won AOY and the Forrest Wood Cup in the same year, or if you’re a rookie just starting out, the wrap will gather the same number of impressions and have the same value to a company. This is why I say tournament performance is not the biggest factor a great company considers when selecting anglers.
2. Understand social media. If you are not heavily involved in Facebook and Twitter, you need to be so. Creating a Facebook fan page, and being active on that page, is second only to your wrap in terms of the value you can bring to a sponsor. Facebook allows you to connect and promote products to a highly targeted market of fellow anglers.
The key to Facebook is to provide content above and beyond an obvious sponsor pitch. Give friends and followers tips and information, along with boosting your sponsor’s products. If you’re honest and genuine, it will be received well.
3. Be yourself. Whether you are a 20-something angler who wears a flat-brimmed hat or a really old-school dude who still tucks his tournament shirt in his pants, you have a market, a fan base and value. Anglers of any age group have a fan base they relate to, and this should be incorporated in your sponsor pitch.
Of course, a great company realizes this. It knows that the 20-something crowd tends to buy “new” items more, and the 50-plus group has the greatest discretionary spending power. Own your place in whatever group you are in, and use it to your advantage.
4. Use your creativity. Come up with ways in your proposal to help grow the company’s brand name through the unique avenues you have. That is the wonderful thing about pro anglers. They all are unique in talent and personality.
There’s a ton more detail to consider when it comes to getting sponsors, keeping them and delivering value to them. I’d be glad to help. If you have some specific questions, I invite you to send me a post on my Facebook page, and I’ll answer you as promptly as I can.