Attracting sponsors

Seigo Saito
2011 Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam

As the appeal for tournament fishing grows, so does the demand for sponsors to help defray the costs.

It's one of the most common questions I am asked, "How does someone go about getting sponsors?"

Make no mistake about it — professional fishing can't be done without financial backing. But sponsorship is a two-way street, and companies willing to hire you to represent them demand a solid return on their investment.

That is an aspect that many anglers overlook — they don't realize what sponsors expect in return, including those anglers who only receive free product to use.

Nothing is free. While you may think you have a lot to offer tackle companies, keep in mind they are inundated with requests from anglers looking for similar help. Those who do more, get more.

Free product sponsorships are a great way to start, but be prepared to work sport shows and in-store dealer promotions to help a company sell more. It's a lot of work, but it's a fair trade.

Getting paid sponsorships from tackle companies requires even more. Their profit margins aren't as large as other industries and they have to see definitive results to know they are benefitting from the relationship.

For example, if ABC Bait Co. offers you $100 a month, you need to help them sell $1,000 of product a month for them to break even.

And remember, nobody is in business to break even. You have to prove you can bring them more than that.

I recommend anglers look within their local communities for businesses in which you can help promote and increase their sales. There are excellent sponsorship opportunities there for the enterprising angler.

However, you have to present them a plan that fits their business model and detail how you can provide a good return on their investment.

Winning a tournament doesn't really help them sell product or increase brand awareness, unless you're a national pro, getting a lot of media coverage that exposes their logo and product to thousands of people.

Winning a local or regional tournament probably isn't going to move the meter for them, either.

But there are other ways to provide value.

For example, show Don's Heating & Air Conditioning how you can provide fishing trips to their best customers to help them strengthen relationships. Assemble a program to fit their marketing plan and demonstrate your value.

Also, get involved in charity events and youth fishing contests and build relationships with local and regional members of the media. Keep good records of newspaper clippings, radio interviews and television broadcasts in which you have appeared. All of those experiences enhance your credibility and prove to companies you have media exposure value.

Finally, stay well groomed and present yourself as a professional anytime you're working in the public eye.

Remember, there are a lot of good anglers out there, but it's those who prove their value as sponsor representatives who get the best business deals.

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