Over the years, I’ve always felt that I’ve worked just as hard (if not harder) than anyone else in professional bass fishing to promote the sponsors I’ve had, as well as my own brand.
Of course, you should be the top promoter of your own personal brand. Regardless of where you fish – the MLF Bass Pro Tour or elsewhere – you’re your own best PR agent, and you’re an individual business person selling yourself and the products who sponsor your endeavors.
Over the last several years, I think the evolution of the businessperson in the professional bass fishing industry has declined. Sure, maybe some of the anglers’ abilities to grow their social media platforms on a variety of platforms has increased, but they just can’t seem to translate that into bottomline dollars and sponsors being as satisfied as they could be with what the angler is producing.
I believe that’s because some anglers just don’t know how to work.
I may sound like an old guy now, but when I started out with guys like Dean Rojas and Skeet Reese, we invested in ourselves. We paid our own entry fees and committed to an organization or circuit. Then, we’d work on sponsor deals to supplement income. We worked hard to show our value. Sponsors could see the effort put forth, and we’d get rewarded.
Of course, we didn’t always get rewarded, but more often than not, we did. Today, many anglers coming into tournament fishing – including those looking to make it a career – are often asking for money before they provide any value.
If you want to be successful, you need to present a total package to the sponsors and to the industry in general. You need to catch fish and sell your sponsor’s product, and not in that order. But catching fish and being successful in tournaments does allow you to sell the product.
An example of winning and promoting my own win to sell product happened after my recent FLW Toyota Series victory on the California Delta.
I caught the bass I weighed on a Missile Baits D-Bomb and River2Sea frog. That in and of itself doesn’t sell a ton of products, but I used an image of a crawdad in my livewell on social media. I explained how I matched it with a D-Bomb bait color. It went viral with 20,000 views in no time on Facebook.
I placed that D-Bomb on all my social media channels. Let’s say maybe 10 percent of people viewing the Facebook post bought one bag. Even with just that first initial push, that’s 2,000 bags of a specific D-Bomb color sold.
As I write this, the El Diablo color of the D-Bomb is on back-order for online orders. All of that because of a post I made after a tourney win.
It’s great when you win, but let me be clear about this advice: you need to monetize your victory.
Make any promotional posts as organic as possible. Reach everybody; don’t alienate with race, religion, or politics. Thanking God is one thing, but I’ve learned if you push an agenda down your followers’ throats, you’ll lose a lot of them.
When I say “organic,” it needs to flow naturally. Your brand, your business, everything you do – you need to focus on showing the lifestyle. Because I love to cook, I’ll often share all the things I make in my RV when I’m on the road. I tag Go RVing and usually Bubba Blades because I firmly believe in both the RV lifestyle and the Bubba Blade products. I tie all of my RV and cooking together with talks about the winning lures and techniques, and I’m providing a total package of promotion for my sponsors.
Many of the younger anglers need to understand that they need to put more energy and effort into the business and it will make it easier to obtain sponsors. You have to be a student of the game, and never lose your credibility. Be helpful and honest about the products you endorse.
A lot of anglers arbitrarily use social media. They’ll use a sponsor’s product and tell everybody about it, but they won’t tag sponsors. They are just sharing and not promoting.
I believe that about half the people that view our content don’t necessarily know what the products are. By explaining to them and pointing things out, we help them become more educated, and help our sponsors sell their goods.
A few days ago, I wore a Bubba Blade t-shirt in a promotional photo. I was using their knives cleaning fish on a social post. I had a viewer ask what kind of knife I use. Even though we know what we use and think it’s obvious, it wasn’t for this person. I answered them to help them learn more about the product.
The bottom line is to help sell your sponsor’s product.
Your sponsor likely has a tier level program on how they evaluate their anglers. This includes social media reach, tournament fishing success, and product sales.
You don’t have to catch a single bass or make a social post if you sell enough products. Sell, be a positive representative, and you’ll maintain that sponsorship. Catching fish in tournaments gives you the credibility, and social media is a great platform to sell.
Another forgotten (or never learned) aspect of sponsor retention – which in turn means more money for the angler – is direct sales. Except for the obligatory appearance at a sponsor booth at an outdoor show, not as many sponsored anglers put forth the effort to help a sponsor directly.
If you have nothing going on one weekend, go to your boat dealer and help them out. I’ve had people come in and want to look at a boat, I talk to them about the boat I use, then they want to get it. The dealer wins, and my sponsor wins, and they tell the sponsor rep that. Reps will go to bat with corporate to keep you around on staff when you directly help them move products.
This fishing business is just that: a business. I’m not the biggest fan of social media because of all the negativity that can be associated with it, but I participate in it because it’s a necessity.
One more thing: You need to really believe in the sponsors and your products, or don’t represent them. It’ll be obvious to fans and others in our business. Live the lifestyle and promote what you truly like. Justin Lucas and Jared Lintner do a great job of that with Traeger Grills. I do it with all of my sponsors from Daiwa to Go RVing.
The bottom line is this: you have to work to be successful.