Nonendemic sponsors are ones who are not directly involved in the fishing industry. They don't make rods, reels, lines or lures. They don't build boats or motors. Instead, they offer some of the richest contracts and biggest opportunities for the anglers who can show them the value of getting involved with bass fishing.
Unfortunately, nonendemic sponsors are also some of the hardest to develop and maintain. The successful ones are a rare match between angler and product.
A close look at one of the best — Kevin Wirth and Early Times Kentucky Whisky — illustrates the point.
"It was a match made in heaven to tell you the truth," says Elite Series angler and nine-time Classic qualifier, Wirth. "They had what I wanted and needed and I had what they wanted and needed. It's worked out for both of us."
Svend Jansen, public relations manager for Early Times, agrees. "At the most basic level we were looking for a way to connect the brand with the consumer. Kevin provided exactly that. It's all about finding the right match. We did that with Kevin."
Here are a few of the factors that make their relationship so rewarding.
1. The sport fit the product. Many bass anglers and outdoorsmen and women consume whisky and enjoy the experience of the Early Times perceived lifestyle.
"We wanted our spokesperson to connect directly with our consumer. Wirth does that. He's from Louisville, Ky., so is Early Times. He's a part of the racehorse industry, so is Early Times. He consumes our product and spends time in the outdoors, so do our consumers. Along with that, he's well-known in the community and he has a positive reputation.
"That's everything you could ask for in a spokesperson."
2. The horse racing connection — Wirth is a retired jockey with a Kentucky Derby mount to his credit.
"Wirth has a long history with Louisville, horse racing and the Kentucky Derby. And, we are the official Mint Julep whisky for the Derby. It was a natural. Our whisky is a part of the racing industry at the highest levels and so is Kevin.
"He's also a part of the fishing industry at the highest levels. When you're talking about sponsorships that's what you're looking for, really."
3. The man fits the brand. Wirth is much like the product he represents.
"Kevin is like our whisky. We like to think Early Times Kentucky Whisky is genuine and unpretentious but at the same time a high-quality product. Kevin's exactly the same way. Both of them fit like hand and glove into the image we want to project. That helps with brand recognition, which in turn helps with sales, which in turn helps with profitability."
4. Industry involvement. It's important to be involved with things other than professional fishing.
"Let's face it, very few anglers fish professionally. They might fish tournaments but not for big money and certainly not at the Bassmaster Elite Series level. We want our spokesperson to appeal to them. After all, those are the anglers who buy our product and keep us in business.
"Our spokesperson needs to be involved in the 'ordinary' side of the sport. Everyday anglers must be able to relate to him and perceive him as one of them.
"Wirth's efforts on behalf of the Ohio River and his general commitment to conservation and the future of the outdoors are very important to us. It helps him connect to our consumers, and that's the most important thing to us."
As you can see the Wirth-Early Times relationship is unique. It's individualized. That's why it works. Any angler expecting to develop a similar relationship with a nonendemic sponsor should be looking for the same thing.
Wirth puts it this way, "You have to take a close look at who you are and what you can promote effectively. The product must be something you believe in, use yourself and that is useful in one way or another to anglers. All three of those things are important; in fact, they're indispensable. Once you find them the promotion will pretty much take care of itself."