For Love Of Fishing

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Becoming Sponsored

Posted by Andy on May 22, 2013 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (0)


Getting sponsored seems to be the goal of almost every aspiring inshore fisherman these days and not a week goes by that I don't see some mention of sponsorship, be it a list of companies that individuals are “affiliated” with or company logos in the sig line of their message board posts.


And especially among the younger guys, I hear the oft-repeated question, “How do I get sponsored?” Well I'm going to answer that question, but before I do I'm going to share several things that all of you aspiring pro-staffers probably aren't going to like.


The first thing that needs to be cleared up is the misnomer that the “pro” in “pro-staff” is an abbreviation for “professional”.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's actually an abbreviation for the much less flattering word “promotional”.

So while the title “professional-staff” may conjure images of a fisherman with his sponsors kneeling at his feet, jostling with one other to raise gifts of free tackle to their king; the title “promotional-staff” sounds just like what it is, a fisherman who helps a company sell their products, in exchange for discounted or sometimes free tackle.


The second clarification that needs to be made is that tackle companies don't care how good of a fisherman you are.

Nor do they care about all of the big fish you've caught or how much time you spend on the water.

And unless you're someone like Kevin VanDam, they don't care about how many tournaments you've won.


Finally, any pro-staff that's easy to get onto probably isn't worth being a part of.

There are exceptions to this rule, like when a new company is doing a big grass roots marketing push to get its name out.

But for the most part if you can go in blind, contact a company, ask to be put on their pro-staff and have them say yes without asking for a resume or at least some industry references; your pro-staff status isn't going to be worth much more than a couple stickers and a handful of discounted baits.


Sure, you'll be able to claim sponsorship, but those in the know will just shake their heads and laugh at you behind your back.


Speaking of claiming sponsorships, one thing that a lot of guys miss is that being sponsored (which just another term for promotional-staff) doesn't give you credibility, nor does it make you a better fisherman.


It also doesn't make you an authority or include you in the ranks of the angling elite.

In fact all that sponsorship really does is give you the opportunity to get free or discounted products in exchange for promoting a company's products.

And to be honest, if you make more than ten bucks an hour, you'd probably be better off forgetting all about sponsorships and just buy your tackle at retail so that you can fish on your days off instead of spending them helping out at trade shows.


I know that this sounds like a lot of gloom and doom and I'd imagine you're asking yourself why a guy who's boat looks like an ice cream truck, from all of the sponsor stickers it has, would be saying negative things about being sponsored.


I'm not saying that being sponsored is a bad thing, in fact I love being on the promotional-staffs of companies that I believe in, I just wanted to make it very clear that the reality of being a pro-staffer is a lot different than the fantasy that people envision.


So, with all that being said, if you're still interested, here are four steps to getting sponsored.


1) Sit down and make a list of the things that you have to offer to a prospective sponsor. All of these should be centered on your ability to help them sell their products and can be used in your letter of introduction (which comes in a later step).



Things to think consider: Do you fish tournaments or appear in any other public venues that would give you an opportunity to promote your sponsors?

Do you have a positive social media presence where you post pictures, videos and tips; or are you an antagonistic jerk on the Bloody Decks forums or on Facebook?

Are you willing to volunteer at trade shows or other promotional events?


And don't be expecting to be giving seminars, you'll more likely end up unloading the truck and setting up the booth.



2) Once you've got that list, make another one with a list of the companies whose products you not only use, but also are knowledgeable about.

At some point you're going to talk to someone and they're going to be expecting you to know about their product lines.

For example; if all you've ever fished is Shimano, don't expect to be able to go and ask Abu/Garcia to sponsor you.


At some point someone is going to figure out that you're not being genuine and it's going to ruin any future sponsorship opportunities that you might have.



3) Once you've made your list, pick one of the companies (preferably a small one or one where you might know someone who knows someone) and write them a letter of introduction.

If you're just starting out, admit that up front.


This is a very small industry and most people already know who the players are, so if you pretend to be someone you're not, it's going to be pretty obvious.

The letter shouldn't be a list of your accomplishments (trust me, they don't care what your personal best spotted bay bass is), instead it should say who you are, where you fish, why you want to be affiliated with their company and most importantly, what you feel that you can offer to them as a business.


This can be stated as, “I believe that my involvement in (X) and my willingness to do (Y), or my videos about (Z), give me the ability to promote your products to 50 people that wouldn't otherwise be aware of how great they work.



4) You may get turned down by the first few companies that you reach out to, but make sure an be respectful of their decision and thank them for their consideration.

As I said before this is a small industry and sooner or later you're likely to run across that company or person again and a burned bridge can never be re crossed.


But sooner or later someone is going to say yes and it will most likely be for a very low level sponsorship, but if you treat it like gold and deliver on all of the things you promised (and more), that sponsorship will lead to other sponsorships and as you gain momentum and a foothold in the industry, those sponsorships will become more and more valuable.


The most important thing to remember about all of this is that unless you're getting a big enough paycheck from a sponsor you can quit your day job; you're not a professional fisherman. So don't get stressed out about whether or not you have any sponsors. Believe me, it's not going to make a bit of difference in the amount of fun you have or don't have on the water.

If you do end up getting sponsored, stick by those sponsors (especially the small businesses).

You owe it to them for believing in you enough to spend their advertising dollars to support you.

And if you're as lucky as I was, you'll end up developing close friendships with some of those sponsors and that is much more valuable than any amount of free fishing tackle.