UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

How to approach sponsors

Experts cite need to keep expectations realistic

For anglers embarking on professional bass fishing career, the search for sponsors can be as illusive as skittish bass after a severe cold front in Florida. In the bass fishing industry there are no standards or conventions that give the acquisition of sponsorships any predictable structure. Yet, due to the extreme expense of professional fishing, sponsors are a must for almost every professional angler.

During the last several weeks, The Bottom Line has been interviewing fishing industry experts from Ranger, Mercury, Yamaha, and PRADCO to determine what these companies look for in a sponsorship relationship.

These industry experts hold national level marketing and public relations positions and have seen literally thousands of cover letters, resumes, and portfolios from bass fishing hopefuls around the world. Over the next several editions of The Bottom Line, these experts will dispense valuable advice on everything from resume writing to the importance of dealership networks.

Since first impressions are always the greatest, the first edition of this series is dedicated to the initial tact with which an angler approaches a sponsor. This initial stage cannot be overlooked, as there are several approaches that might get a resume tossed out before it even gets through the front door.

Taking the first step

By far, the most common criticism these witnesses of introductory solicitations have is the tone of expectation in which they are written. Many anglers approach potential sponsors as if the fishing industry owes them something. Consequently, when anglers initiate communication with a company it is often with a what-can-you-do-for-me tone. This is a blatant mistake.

"A lot of people act like we owe them something just because they win a tournament," says Bruce Stanton, director of Public Relations for PRADCO. "Not to sound blunt, but fishermen are a dime a dozen. Sponsorship relations are not about what a company can do for a fishermen anymore, they are about what a fishermen can do for a company."

Bart Schad, the vice president of sales and marketing for Ranger Boats, offers the same observation.

"So many times the way an angler approaches me is to say, `I want a boat sponsor, what can Ranger do for me?'" says Schad.

Demonstrate an understanding of the product

Schad, who worked for NASCAR before coming to Ranger, says that going to any company in any industry and beating on your chest while bragging about who you are is simply not a very acceptable way of selling yourself to a potential purveyor.

"A better approach is to go to a company and prove to them you know something about their product," suggests Schad. "Tell them why you like their product and how you can be a benefit to the company."

Bruce Stanton of PRADCO has a very simple and direct formula for what he looks for in initial portfolio content.

"What I want to see is how the angler gets press for the products he or she is promoting," says Stanton flatly. "I do not care how many times their name has been in the paper. I do not care how many pictures they show me. If I do not see logos or product mentions of the companies the angler represents, in my opinion, the portfolio is worthless."

Another approach that Schad cautions sponsorship seekers about is coming across like you are mass marketing yourself or just shopping for a deal.

"I am much more willing to work with an angler who has used our product with sincerity and is not just shopping our sponsor program against other programs in the industry," says Schad.

This is a phenomenon David Simmons, the field promotions coordinator for Yamaha, has experienced as well.

"I would not recommend the, `I will use the company that will pay me the most because all motors are the same,' approach," advises Simmons. "I would ask that anglers think carefully about who they want to align themselves with and then pursue only that company."

Simmons says he is especially interested in why an angler wants to become involved with Yamaha.

"Anglers who have done their homework can tell me exactly why they want to use and promote our product. That connection and belief is very important. My rule of thumb is if you would not sell a product to your own grandparents, do not try to sell it to the average consumer," he says.

Think team first

Schad says that anglers should think of sponsorships as joining a sales team of sorts. He advises anglers to come to grips with certain business principles such as "return on investment" and "value added" in relation to the company the angler is pursuing.

"When you are a sponsored angler, you must show a return for the company's investment in you. You must show that you have added value to that company in some way," concludes Schad. "An angler who demonstrates an understanding of those principles up front instead of just seeing what he can get from a company stands a much better chance of becoming sponsored."

The next edition of The Bottom Line will explore the most direct and efficient way to approach industry sponsors.

Rob Newell is a freelance outdoor writer from Tallahassee, Fla. He has been actively involved in tournament bass fishing and the professional bass fishing industry, both as participant and a writer, for more than 10 years. He currently fishes as a co-angler on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and contributes to OperationBass.com, Bass Fishing and other fishing publications.

Tags: rob-newell  business-of-fishing 

/tips/2016-02-05-an-ill-wind-at-okeechobee-

An Ill Wind at Okeechobee?

The wind can be a bass fisherman’s best friend or worst enemy. On its best behavior, it creates a temporary current, positions baitfish and helps an angler move around more stealthily in shallow water. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-04-aquatic-plant-id

Aquatic Plant ID

Val Osinski, the owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on the lake, knows as much about the Big O as anyone and is an expert on finding and targeting bass in its various grasses. When we had the opportunity to ride along with him for a tour of the lake and to learn to identify some of the grasses, it was a no-brainer to accept. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-poche-services-set

Poche Services Set

Funeral services for Dylan Poche, the 18-year-old Bass Fishing League angler who was stabbed to death Saturday night, are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Freedom Life Church in Natchitoches, La. Visitation will take place at Freedom Life beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-time-to-shine-for-setzer

Time to Shine for Setzer

With three years on Tour and a Co-angler of the Year (COY) award under his belt, Braxton Setzer believes now is his time to start casting from the front. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-01-ambassador

Ambassador

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-29-glenn-browne-s-timeout-is-over-

Glenn Browne’s Timeout is Over

By his own admission, Glenn Browne isn’t the most organized guy. After the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee, he spent hours returning stuff to its proper place and tossing out the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in a bass boat during a tournament. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-flw-podcast-109-mike-surman

FLW Podcast 109 - Mike Surman

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-john-cox-gives-himself-a-makeover

John Cox Gives Himself a Makeover

Last fall there was a rumor going around that John Cox was entering the electronics age and souping up his boat with sonar gear. Just to clear the air, the Florida pro reports that though he did flirt with the notion of incorporating an offshore strategy centered on depth finders into his act, he eventually abandoned the idea. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-austin-felix-is-ready-for-the-big-time

Austin Felix is Ready for the Big Time

Back in the spring of 2014, Austin Felix and his University of Minnesota teammate Chris Burgan were on the top of the FLW College Fishing world. With a win in the National Championship on Lake Keowee, Felix was headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-flw-canada-sets-tournament-sites-dates

FLW Canada Sets Tournament Sites, Dates

FLW Canada, one of four partners in FLW’s International Division of the Costa FLW Series, recently released its 2016 tournament schedule. The season includes three two-day regular-season qualifying events and a three-day championship. Anglers fish as two-person teams. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-26-jigging-spoons-for-winter-bass

Jigging Spoons for Winter Bass

Of course, the application of the spoon hinges on finding bass in the first place, which is the biggest challenge. Walmart FLW Tour pros Jason Johnson and Clark Reehm are experts at finding winter bass in their respective regions of the country and offer FLW readers some advice on where to look and how to get them to bite the spoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-24-how-bryan-thrift-got-to-be-so-good

How Bryan Thrift Got to be so Good

My No. 1 focus out here is to support my family and make a living. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to make a valiant effort. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-high-school-fishing-makes-the-grade

High School Fishing Makes the Grade

Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark are typical teenagers, at least in everything except bass fishing. In that, they are above average, as the two juniors from Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina proved in the TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open held Jan. 17 on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-flw-mexico-at-the-starting-gate

FLW Mexico at the Starting Gate

Our excitement is so great that we wanted to share this important news with all of you. Believe me, fishermen in Mexico are talking it up as if it were dock talk surrounding the Forrest Wood Cup. What really matters at the end of the line is knowing that FLW is showing its true devotion to promoting bass fishing and making it a truly international sport. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-making-the-case-for-haynes-as-aoy

Making the Case for Haynes as AOY

As many have noted, the Walmart FLW Tour schedule for this season looks a lot like it did in 2014. Back then, in his sophomore year on Tour, Randy Haynes had one of the strangest seasons you’ll ever see. He finished 104th at Okeechobee, 149th at Sam Rayburn (ouch) and cranked out top-30 finishes everywhere else. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-21-flw-podcast-108-jason-lambert

FLW Podcast 108 - Jason Lambert

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-bfl-choo-choo-division-postponed

BFL Choo Choo Division Postponed

The FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Choo Choo Division tournament on Lake Guntersville originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23 has been postponed due to impending inclement weather. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-tigerodz-aligns-with-auburn-team

TIGERODZ Aligns With Auburn Team

Custom fishing rod manufacturer TIGERODZ of Scottsboro, Ala., has signed an agreement to become the official rod brand for the Auburn University Bass Sports Club. Scott Dobbins, president of TIGERODZ, is an Auburn alum, and he says the pairing involved a natural progression of involvement. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-becoming-aware-of-your-angler-strengths

Becoming Aware of Your Angler Strengths

The ongoing sentiment among fishermen is that versatility is the key to becoming a successful professional angler. While I’m certain that statement holds some weight, I think there is an alternate perspective that is worth entertaining. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-18-pundits-picks-for-aoy

Pundits Picks for AOY

Winning the Angler of the Year title is a tremendous feat. It can solidify a budding career or affirm a veteran’s status among the best. It also comes with a hefty reward – $100,000 and early entry into the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. READ MORE »