Coulter targets non-endemics for sponsorship

Brandon Coulter’s two passions in life are driving him to success in the Bassmaster Elite Series.

His first passion for fishing has led to a successful transition from the FLW Tour to the Bassmaster Opens to the Elite Series. He has competed in 43 Bassmaster events and recorded two top 10 and five top 20 finishes. The Knoxville, Tenn., pro qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic berth this year by finishing 24th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

His second passion has helped Coulter secure primary non-endemic sponsors such as Corona and Beef Jerky Outlet. Coulter relies on his passion for advertising to pursue sponsorship outside of the fishing industry.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a marketing and advertising degree, Coulter went to work for Roberts & Associates, a media buying agency for billboard and stadium advertising. He worked his way up to vice president of the company and eventually bought the business around 1997. Coulter sold the successful company in 2001 and began pursuing a full-time career in bass fishing through BFL tournaments and eventually the FLW Tour.

Now Coulter uses his advertising salesmanship skills to sell himself to sponsors and has developed a knack for luring non-endemic companies to his sponsorship list.

When he joined the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2015, Coulter discovered the importance of securing non-endemic sponsors because he perceived the major fishing companies mainly sponsored established anglers. “Prior to the last four or five seasons there wasn’t a lot of turnover in the Elite Series so there were a whole lot of guys who had been around for 10 years,” Coulter said. “So it was really hard to break into (endemic sponsorship). I thought non-endemics then for me were a good place to get started so I could raise the capital I needed to fish.” He believes other anglers striving to turn pro should also consider non-endemics when they start searching for sponsors.

Coulter favors a face-to-face approach rather than sending out resumes or sponsor packets when trying to secure non-endemic sponsors. “I just always truly believe it is better if I can sit down with someone and have them tell me what they are looking for with their marketing dollars and who they are trying to reach,” Coulter said. “Then I do a really good self-analysis on how can I help them with that. If I can, then I build a package directly for them.”

The Tennessee pro never approaches non-endemic sponsors asking for a certain amount of dollars for a company logo on his jersey or to wrap his boat or truck. “I don’t look at any sponsor that way,” he said. “I just try to look at every sponsor differently.”

Coulter works on various marketing ideas that will fit each non-endemic sponsor’s goals of increasing brand awareness among the bass fishing crowd. Part of his sponsorship plan with Beef Jerky Outlet was offering bass fans a chance to win an all-expense paid fishing trip with Coulter on Lake St. Clair.

Coulter recalls the allure of fishing trips for its employees also landed him a non-endemic sponsorship from a manufacturing facility years ago. “They were in an area where there was a bunch of lakes and their employees loved to hunt and fish,” he said. “In my meeting with them one of their big things was the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements and safety protocol. We built a program that for them was a safety program in which so many days of no incidents would get an employee into a drawing for a quarterly fishing trip. So who would have ever thought that a bass fisherman was trying to drive safety in a manufacturing facility?”

Gaining and maintaining sponsorship from non-endemic companies is harder than securing fishing industry sponsors, according to Coulter. “None of it is easy,” he said. “But fishing industry sponsors kind of know what they want and they know the drill. The problem with non-endemic sponsors is they are constantly looking for different demographics and because you are not a direct tie to that industry they are probably a little bit harder to hold on to.”

Coulter’s creative marketing plans and salesmanship skills make it a little easier for him to gain and maintain sponsors outside of the fishing industry.