It was an innocent chat that propelled Rapala to become the title sponsor of Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, with hopes of expanding the playing field.
Matt Jensen, Director of Marketing at the company’s Minnetonka office, was shooting the breeze with Joe Higgins, the late, great vice president of sales at B.A.S.S., coming up with a way to make the prominent fishing name even more prominent. Both were in concert that the No. 1 sport in America is football, but Jensen’s second question of what’s No. 2 produced more talk, which led to the big idea.
“We just kind of started joking. He kind of laughed when I said No. 2 was fantasy football,” said Jensen, who was working with Higgins on how the world’s largest manufacturer of lures and other fishing products could best benefit in a partnership with B.A.S.S.
“I thought it’d be really cool if we worked out a total partnership package that also included a fantasy fishing option, where we could be involved and try to double the participation,” Jensen said, adding Higgins and B.A.S.S. put together a deal that blew it out of the park.
“When it was done, we were all excited about the fantasy fishing part,” Jensen said. “It gives us motivation to be engaged with the B.A.S.S. audience every tournament, not only for our brand, but everything we do, even those anglers we don’t sponsor.”
Rapala sponsors a number of Basspro.com Opens pros and has a solid stable of Elite anglers with Seth Feider, Gerald Swindle, Brandon Palaniuk, Patrick Walters and Bernie Schultz. Recently they announced new Elite Bob Downey has been added to their fold.
One of Jensen’s greatest contributions to the deal was the idea to award more prizes. His simple thought was more opportunities to win would encourage more to sign up. Now, Jensen’s Minnetonka office will get on a first-name basis with delivery personnel as over the season it will send out some 200 prize packages, and more folks will become familiar with Rapala.
“That is exactly the main thing,” he said. “We think more people will be engaged and want to stick it out because more will have a chance to win something.”
In the past, only the event winner received a nifty package, leaving the other 29,999 players or so out in the cold. While each event winner’s prize remains impressive — $4,500 if a B.A.S.S. member — even the 20th-ranked player will receive a goody box from Rapala.
“You’re setting your lineup, you want to climb that ladder and if you just get to 19th, I’m going to win a package from Rapala,” Jensen said. “I’d sure be more likely to play.
“We’re just excited to be there, be a brand behind it. And it’s hopefully going to benefit our partnership together.”
Jensen and co-workers at their Minnetonka office have enjoyed their forays into the fantasy game, and each would have done well last season picking their anglers, what with Feider’s success and Walters almost winning Rookie of the Year.
“The last couple years, we’ve done an office pool,” Jensen said. “It’s fun to pay attention to our own guys that we invest a lot of time in, but it also helps us learn the other guys on tour. We started our own pool and created some banter, which has been pretty fun.”