When it comes to achievement in the world of sports, arguably one of the greatest compliments an athlete can receive is to have his or her likeness immortalized on a cereal box. It’s sort of an idiosyncratic honor, but one that has traditionally only been achieved by sport’s greatest figures, like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Bruce Jenner.
So it meant a lot when Kellogg’s decided to put pro bass angler Clark Wendlandt’s face on its boxes of Corn Flakes. Not only did Wendlandt’s appearance on the box, side-by-side with NASCAR’s Terry Labonte, legitimize him as one of bass fishing’s greatest anglers, it has helped legitimize bass fishing as a true sport throughout the sporting world.
While the trend began when 1998 FLW Angler of the Year Denny Brauer appeared on another cereal box three years ago, Kellogg’s has taken the reigns as one of pro bass fishing’s most strident – and highest-profile – commercial backers. David Walker, 1999 Angler of the Year, was featured on cereal boxes last year. This year Kellogg’s upped the ante by placing 2000 Angler of the Year Wendlandt together with Winston Cup champion Labonte on the same box, which effectively placed the FLW Tour on par with the commercial phenomenon that is NASCAR.
It’s no surprise, then, that Kellogg’s has also taken the next step, which a handful of other Wal-Mart FLW Tour sponsors have done, in forming its own team of pro anglers, Team Kellogg’s. The team, which is spearheaded by Wendlandt, consists of five FLW Tour pro anglers who are not only some of the top competitors and promoters in competitive fishing, but are also as diverse as a group of fishermen can be.
“Each of them has their own specialty,” said Andy Rowles, Team Kellogg’s marketing manager. “They are people at different points in their careers, but one thing they have in common is that they all love to fish.”
They should. They’re all pretty darn good at it.
Starting with Wendlandt, to date he is the most successful of Team Kellogg’s anglers in terms of winning – and consequently the most recognizable. In 2000 he placed in the top 10 in four tournaments on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and won one. He did the same thing in 1999. This year, he became the first angler ever to repeat as Wal-Mart Open champion when he won at Beaver Lake, Ark., in April. In all, Wendlandt has an amazing 13 top-10 finishes, three wins and two Angler of the Year trophies under his belt on the FLW Tour.
“What Clark brings to the team is a sense of awareness,” said Rowles, adding that his reputation as a two-time Angler of the Year doesn’t hurt.
Steve Daniel, also a multiple winner on tour, is one of the senior pros on Team Kellogg’s. In six top-10 tournament finishes, he has captured three victories, including the first-ever FLW Championship in 1996.
Another seasoned veteran is Alvin Shaw. Having fished the tour since its inception in 1996, he has captured four top-10 finishes.
While Jim Tutt has but one top-10 finish on the FLW Tour, he has a fishing-tournament resume a mile long. He has no fewer than 16 top-10 finishes on the BFL and EverStart circuits combined. He also has two BFL victories, one EverStart win and has qualified for the All-American twice.
“Jim has made his claim by fishing a variety of tournaments,” Rowles said. “He’s well-known and liked on tour, and he adds a sense of progressiveness to the team.”
Bringing youth and aggressiveness to Team Kellogg’s is Mike Iaconelli. Fishing in just his first year on the FLW Tour, he has made a name for himself in the BFL Northeast Division with seven top-10s including one victory. That’s not to mention he is also a two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and the 1999 B.A.S.S. Federation champion. In addition to his fishing prowess, one thing that attracted Kellogg’s to Iaconelli was his degree in advertising and public relations from New Jersey’s Rowan University, where he graduated summa cum laude.
“His degree in advertising has really kind of helped the other anglers step up and deal with things like how to market themselves,” said Rowles.
Iaconelli’s not the only one with a college degree. Indeed, Team Kellogg’s is more than just a powerful fishing team, it’s a thinking-man’s pro team. Tutt holds a business management degree from the University of Texas and Wendlandt has a degree in wildlife and fisheries from Texas A & M.
While they’ve accumulated a plethora of similar accolades on the tournament-fishing circuit, the five members of the team have each gone about it in their own way. All five of them hail from different parts of the country, which has given them each a distinct fishing style.
Said Shaw, “We’ve got a lot of geographical diversity, which puts a lot of different styles of fishing in the spotlight.”
Shaw is from State Road, N.C., and he prefers jigs and spinnerbaits. Daniel, from the bass capital of Clewiston, Fla., leans towards topwaters, jerkbaits and crankbaits. Tutt, from Longview, Texas, is an avowed jig fisherman. Wendlandt, from Cedar Park, Texas, is known as one of the best sight fishermen in the world. His wins, all coming at the height of spawning season in March and April, is a testament to that. Iaconelli is the Northerner of the group. Hailing from Runnemede, N.J., his forte is jig fishing for smallmouth bass.
As far as working the diverse team dynamic into a formula for success on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wendlandt says it’s easy. “Kellogg’s put together a team with great fishermen in mind as well as public relations,” he said. “I’ve known four of the five team members for quite a while and, to be honest with you, I’ve got a great relationship with all these guys.”
Success through sponsorship
So what does it mean to have Kellogg’s on your side as a pro angler? Certainly it’s more than just driving around with Tony the Tiger emblazoned on your boat. That’s part of it, but, even more, it’s a mutual support network where Kellogg’s can promote these pro anglers while the anglers in turn promote Kellogg’s and its product. For any angler looking for a leg up in pro tournament fishing, that support is invaluable.
“I was doing all right through fishing before I joined the team,” said Wendlandt, “but having this association with Kellogg’s means a lot. I’ve used their products for years. As far as supporting fishing, it means a lot to the sport to have these non-industry sponsors involved. They realize the number of fisherman that are out there, and they can reach a whole lot of households.”
A whole lot of households is right. Wendlandt’s image, alongside Labonte, has already graced more than 200,000 cereal boxes across the nation. An additional 1 million boxes with Wendlandt alone have been printed and shelved in stores by Kellogg’s.
“With our packaging, we can promote the FLW in (Wal-Mart) to a broad audience,” Rowles said, adding that Kellogg’s achieves an astounding 97-percent household penetration rate nationwide with its cereal boxes.
“It’s added a lot of excitement and prestige to the tour,” added Shaw. “A sponsor like Kellogg’s is a pretty household name. It’s just a good combination for the two: Kellogg’s is good for fishing and fishing is good for Kellogg’s.”
One aspect of pro fishing, especially, has seen improvement through non-endemic corporate sponsorship: image. To be associated with big-name corporations means pro anglers like those on Team Kellogg’s are making sure they come across publicly as professional and, well, role models.
“It’s really cool when you go to, say, a gas station and the kids freak out over this boat (detailed in Kellogg’s colors and logos),” said Tutt, who admits he eats Kellogg’s Pop Tarts for breakfast everyday. “Kellogg’s is very high-profile and it’s helped me keep my appearance up. Now I’m much more conscious of the image I present.”
Still, while image is important – as are the fishing seminars, Family Fun Zones and autograph sessions conducted by Team Kellogg’s – strong fishing skills have a whole lot to do with an angler’s access to big team sponsorship.
“To do this, you have to dedicate yourself to the sport,” said Tutt. “And you have to be available to your sponsor. The number-one thing is that you have to be able to catch fish.”
Being able to catch fish and just being genuinely good guys seems to be the right combination for Team Kellogg’s.
“Of course we want them to place as high as possible at tournament,” said Rowles. “But we realize there are a lot of factors that go into that. We just think that all these guys are winners.”