Developing sponsorships: Part 1

Last week I promised that we would start a series of columns about developing, and keeping, sponsorships. What I’m going to say over the next few weeks is based on my experience. It’ll be targeted towards those of you who are just getting started or who need a little help moving up to the next level. I hope it helps you move forward in your career.

My first real paying sponsorship was with a boat hardware company in Tampa, Florida. T.A. Mahoney Co., Inc. sells just about anything and everything you can imagine to help you upgrade or repair your boat. They’re a class act and I consider them one of the foundations of my career as a professional angler.

They didn’t pay me a lot of money. But it worked out for both of us and, in large measure, they are responsible for my relationship with Power-Pole. I’ll tell you more about that next week. For now let’s talk about the relationship and why it developed the way it did.

I had to have sponsors to fish. There was no way I could do it any other way. And, I was savvy enough to know that I needed to start small. There are a lot of young pros out there. I was one. Most of us could catch fish and several of us had won a big tournament or two. But that doesn’t make us worth a lot of money and it doesn’t qualify us for a national advertising campaign. You have to be realistic.

Don’t think about huge multinational corporations unless you have a connection to make that possible. Local businesses and local companies are where it’s at when you’re just starting to move up, especially if you know the guys who own or run them. Work hard for them and be grateful for what compensation you get. You never know who will turn out to be successful or where they will lead you.

My relationship with T.A. Mahoney was successful because we both understood what the deal was. He was mostly a local company and I was mostly a local angler. I helped him and he helped me. I promoted that company at every turn. It didn’t make any difference if it was at the dock or at a show, or for that matter if it even involved bass fishing. If there was a boat around I would sing his praises.

Over time our relationship developed into more than just business. We were friends who respected each other’s abilities and worked towards a common goal — his success. I didn’t say my success because I shouldn’t have to say that. If he is successful, I’ll be successful with him. You rarely get fired for making a company a profit, and if you’re making them a profit almost all of them will share a portion of it with you.

Next week I’ll tell you the story behind Power-Pole and Chris Lane, and how T.A. Mahoney deserves much of the credit for getting that ball rolling.

Also read parts 2 and 3.

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