How do you get sponsors?

The number one question I get these days is one that every professional angler says they get asked: “How do you get sponsors?” I guess you could say I am indeed a professional angler now because I do get this question a lot, and I am more than happy to share my two cents worth on the subject. I really hope this helps an eager high school or college angler out there.

Everyone knows that the key to sponsorship is that the relationship is a two-way street. As a representative of a company, you have to deliver value – plain and simple. If you objectively ask yourself if you can help a company and the answer is not a straight YES, then it is best to wait until you can answer that way.

So how do you know if you can help them or not?

You must have a firm grasp on what the company is looking for in an ambassador (that’s you). You can learn this from talking with people inside the company, monitoring their advertising, looking at the people they sponsor already and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Then you have to provide a clear plan for how you can help them. Don’t say anything along the lines of “If you sponsor me, I will fish these tournaments.” That is charity, not sponsorship. Sponsorship is committing to certain activities and showing the company how you will promote them as you do your job.

I had zero sponsorship when I committed to the Bassmaster Elite Series. I saved my entry fee money through hard work and knew that I was fishing even if the first dollar didn’t come in. Right after I committed to the Elites, I was fortunate to meet a company called Empire Covers. They are an online retailer of protective covers, and I needed a cover for the old boat I had and the new one I would be buying. During my online research I discovered them and they took an interest in my story. As an online retailer, their target audience is internet-savvy customers in the market for good value. You could say I was squarely in their target audience!

We put a plan in place, and things went very well during the year. The product suited my needs and a lot of folks purchased their next boat cover from Empire. I am happy to say that we are working together in 2013 and the foreseeable future. As long as I continue to deliver value, they will be with me.

The best way to continue developing sponsorships is to do a good job on the first one. Like a business résumé, companies will look at the recent jobs you’ve held and be influenced by your body of work. Unfortunately, sometimes you will work with companies that aren’t able to withstand this economy. The fishing industry is filled with companies that have come and gone in the sponsorship world. That happened to me this year but I know I did the best job I could and delivered the value that was promised. In those cases, you savor the friendships, learn from the experiences and remember that the world is small and that tomorrow is another day. Never burn a bridge!

My motto in fishing to “Dare to fail.” That doesn’t mean be reckless. And certainly don’t be daring in your approach to sponsorship. Be smart. Respect people’s time and respect their knowledge of their own company. No matter how much research you do, the company representatives will know more than you about what they are looking for. Instead of trying to impress them, try to learn what they need. Then show them a plan for how you are the person that can do it, and then do it!

Dare to fail. 

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