Classic freebies

No offense anglers, but despite your well-deserved popularity, you might have some pretty stiff competition from some folks that aren't even in the tournament — the guys and gals who give away the sponsor logo items. Any doubt, just watch the crowd erupt with Black Friday-level competition when a boat full of hat-tossing anglers emerges from the curtains.

Frantic waving, well-balanced leaning, shouts of "Me! Me! Me!" or "Hey, up here!" rise to a roar as a few lucky fans catch a treasured Classic keepsake. Oh, and if they bring the t-shirt cannon, forget about it!

This year’s GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods will offer several opportunities for fans to take home a keepsake to memorialize the big show in Houston, Texas. Making memories is what it’s all about, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Fun Throughout

From a fan’s perspective, the Bassmaster Classic presents a multi-faceted experience with numerous plug-in points and something interesting at every turn. That being said, Mercury’s Michelle Kilburn said fans should stay alert for freebie opportunities start-to-finish.

“I like to (cover all venues) from the launch, to the demo rides, to the weigh-ins to the Expo, so we don’t miss anything,” Kilburn said. “We have stuff at every stage.”

At the launch, the Mercury Pro XS Activation Team will be giving away the new Mercury Go Boldly hats and Mercury Thundersticks to a few lucky spectators. For the young Classic fans, the PR XS Team will have oversized foam cowboy hats.

“That’s something fun and we though it would be really cool to do that in Texas,” Kilburn said.

After the takeoff, fans that sign up for Mercury demo rides will receive a tote full of branded promo items. Nice parting gift for running around in a bass boat.

Moving to the weigh-ins, the Pro XS Team — dressed in Mercury-branded baseball uniforms — will toss t-shirts with company colors, the Bassmaster logo and a Texas outline. Also, the guys will be tossing Mercury baseballs into the crowd. (Underhand; no fast balls.)

“Again, we’re just trying to be sensitive as to where we are and have a little fun with it,” Kilburn said.

And don't forget the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods. Mercury will offer a virtual reality ride featuring prerecorded video of Gerald Swindle, Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Edwin Evers. Each day 500 fans will receive branded VR goggles to use in the ride and to keep for future VR experiences. Additionally, Mercury will distribute a limited supply of hats each day for angler autographs.

Crazy 'Bout a Mercury

During one of the weigh-ins, Mercury pro and 2012 Classic winner Chris Lane will preside over what’s sure to test our noise ordinance limits — the Craziest Mercury Fan of the Day contest. Since we’re announcing this in advance, Kilburn expects to see creative fans show up ready to play ball.

“When they know this is coming (at other events), we’ve had people arrive all decked-out in Mercury apparel and some have gone to the extent of making a Mercury engine costume,” she said. “It’s just how creative they are to really standout as being one of the four craziest Mercury fans of the day.

“Crazy in a nice way; not in a reckless way.”

Assisted by an emcee and a spotlight, Lane will scan the crowd and hand-select the four most enthusiastic, original or otherwise notably crazy Mercy fans. The reward: four Mercury duffle bags, each with a hat, t-shirt, sweatshirt, coozies, etc. — and some big-time social media love.

“It’ll happen fast; we only have a few minutes” Kilburn said. “That’s why the enthusiasm level has to be so high, so people get noticed. It’s just like a baseball or basketball game when the cameras pan the crowd, looking for something unique and fun.”

Points of Influence

KVD, Ike, E-squared, local faves like Alton Jones and Alton Jones Jr. — we’ll see plenty of pop for each pro’s entrance, but it’s a safe bet that the decibel level’s gonna spike when the t-shirts fly.

On Day 2, Huk will give away 100 of the Huk Tri-blend t-shirts with a bass design by artist/apparel designer K.C. Scott. Orbit the Houston Astros mascot will use the t-shirt launcher to send 10 at a time into the crowd, while Huk folks distribute from multiple points in the stadium.

With far more fans than hats, competition will be intense, but Carey said certain details can influence where the tossers aim.

“Typically, if people are wearing Huk apparel, we’re definitely going to show some love for the people that support us,” Carey said. “And then, of course, the people that are working their butts off to get a shirt are definitely going to be the ones that grab our attention.

“Also, we’re a huge supporter of the military, so if someone’s in uniform, one of our volunteers going through the crowd would personally hand out a shirt.”

Kids rank highly, as well. And even though Huk will distribute adult size shirts, Carey said it’s all good — they make great night shirts for young anglers.

Kilburn said the whole idea of a t-shirt toss is to create a pop; a hyper-focused brand-oriented moment. Those who help advance that goal usually get something tossed their way.

“You have to really look like you want one,” Kilburn said.

Good Form

Now, say you’re one of a dozen or so fans reaching for a tossed t-shirt. The moment of truth descends upon you like the game-ending Hail Mary meets The Matrix slo-mo.

Wanna up your chances of snagging the prize? Then heed the words of a U.S. National Team lacrosse midfielder, who also works in apparel marketing.

“Coming from somebody who has played sports all her life, I would say, box out first and then go for the t-shirt,” Carey advises. “And make sure you jump as the t-shirt is coming down, not while it’s still in the air because you’ll jump too early and you won’t get to it.”

Several other sponsors will join in the giveaway fun, so here’s a snapshot of what other freebies Classic fans can expect:

Power Pole: Sign up in the Expo booth for a year-end Power-Pole giveaway.

Carhartt: Spin-to-win wheel for prizes in the Expo booth.

Shell Rotella: Giving away a fishing trip with Jimmy Houston.

GEICO: Geico will give away passes for preferred seating in the “Livewell" from the Expo booth.

TH Marine: The first 300 visitors to the booth each day receive a hat, each with a raffle ticket for a final day giveaway. Also, the first 500 visitors receive a GJuice sample.

What It Means

Now, freebies are only “free” to their recipients. On the other side, marketing dollars fund these efforts to impact. Each company uses its own measurement formulas, but there’s something to be said for the mass impressions and uncountable measures of good will generated by a seemingly simple act of giving someone your branded item.

Safe to say that those who support B.A.S.S. and the Bassmaster Classic get that.

“The Classic is such a big event and it’s so cool to see everybody so excited about getting there early and watching everyone leave,” Carey said. “Our fishing background is our passion. We love to do it every day and we love to meet the people that are so engrossed in it.

“To get people even more excited about the sport and give away some free gear, that’s just a bonus to us. It gets them more excited about the brand and then, of course, it gets them really hyped about the event and what it means to be a part of the Bassmaster Classic. It’s a huge honor for these anglers to be a part of it and it’s really cool to see how excited people get when they’re there and they’re experiencing it.”

Kilburn adds this: “It’s the consumer engagement; we want people to be excited about Mercury and to engage with everything that Mercury has to offer. We put a lot of time and effort into this and it’s really about the customer.

“It’s about making sure that the people who are coming to the venues are having a fantastic experience. And hopefully, at some point, if they decide to purchase a new engine that they know Mercury is very consumer engaging. It’s all about the customer.”