You cannot be successful on the water without being successful off the water. If you don’t like it, then I suggest not trying to make a career out of tournament fishing. It’s business, and that is why so many great fishermen have not found success. I’m not saying don’t put your tournament fishing first. If you are not trying to do the best you can on the water and be competitive, why the heck are you involved in competitive tournament fishing? I’m saying you are not always going to be on top of the game, and if you want to stay around in the industry, you are going to have to find a way to continue to get paid when you are struggling to make a tournament check. Even if you are cashing tournament checks, you still won’t stay afloat without sponsorship money in the long run. You quickly learn, to competitively fish full-time you have to have paying sponsors. And those sponsors are going to need a lot out of you. It’s part of the job and blessing of being on the water full-time.
And to the people who say the whole concept of sponsorship and money being the driving force of our sport is what is wrong with the industry? Our industry would not survive without money. There is no way around it. If you cannot understand that fact, you are not willing to accept that competitive bass fishing is a professional sports business.
Sponsorship dollars are how anglers are paid, not just off the water, but it is how the tournament checks are written. And if you don’t want the Elite anglers paying $40,000+ in fees in the future, then it is our job as an industry to do what it takes to get non-endemic sponsors to want to pour cash into B.A.S.S. and the anglers. And, in order for companies to want to send big money our way, we as anglers have to show that competitive bass fishing can equate to sales, that we can continue to grow our fan base and demographics, and that we as bass fishermen understand and accept the aspects of how business works. We are not close-minded and we are willing and ready to expand to new frontiers to share our story.
In saying all of this, sponsors are not remotely without fault here. You cannot expect the angler to do all of the marketing. You have to market the angler and the sport, as well. GoDaddy didn’t expect logo placement on Danica’s jersey and car to equate to record breaking sales. No, GoDaddy put her name & brand in its own marketing campaign. GoDaddy invested more marketing dollars on top of what it wrote her sponsorship checks for. It developed commercials and a campaign that got who Danica was out there to an arena that was not solely a NASCAR fan base, to a group that did not know who Danica was. They chose not to limit the Danica campaign to the racing world (that somewhat already knew her) but to expand the campaign to a bigger audience. Without what GoDaddy did, the Danica Patrick explosion would not have happened on the level that it did. GoDaddy advertisements brought people into NASCAR that were not already fans. I can say that with confidence, because I am one of those people who started watching NASCAR because of GoDaddy’s Danica campaign. GoDaddy did not wait for Danica to win a NASCAR event. The company saw her drive, her passion, her story. When it’s genuine, consumers connect and wins don’t matter.
Companies that come into this sport and swoop up anglers should take this same approach if they want to find real success. The truck commercial using the story of the farmer? Marketing gold. We anglers have a story, too. Genuine stories. Survivors. Fighters. Our industry is made up of some of the greatest and toughest people to walk earth, yet the world barely knows we exist?
All-in-all, real success will be a two-way street. Are you in?