KNOWING YOUR VALUE
Q：Should I ask fishing sponsors for money?
A: Very few brands are willing to give you money just to sport their logo and say good things about them. Brands need certain deliverables to market their products effectively, and you have the skills to provide some or all of those. Your success in this arena is directly proportional to the variety and quality of deliverables you can provide. If you can’t provide anything of value to a brand, you can’t expect to get anything of value, period.
Q: How do I get fishing sponsors?
A: Everyone has something to offer, but you must both know what that is and find a way to quantify it. There is value in work, and work comes in many forms. It takes work to logo your gear with a sponsor’s name, but the real work comes in how you will help the company beyond that. If you know all the details about your boat, motor, electronics, tackle or other products and love to talk about them then you can help sponsors by working shows. Boat shows, expos, and other consumer or dealer gatherings are great ways to help promote sponsors and your personal brand. And if speaking isn’t your thing, then never pass up an opportunity to write an article or blog for any publication or website that asks.
Q: What can I do to get fishing sponsors?
A: Another thing to consider is developing your own audience, as your audience is something of great value to any sponsor. There are many ways to do this. Social media is one of the biggest avenues. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the current key ones, but TikTok, Snapchat, and others might are more and more critical.
Q: Should I look for fishing sponsors on social media?
A: You do not have to be working social media to be a sponsored fisherman, but if you are inclined to do so it is a great asset. I am not the biggest guy on any of these platforms, but I have learned how to keep my audience growing and heavily engaged. This isn’t where I will teach you what I know about social media, but I will share a few things I’ve learned from being in the industry.
- Post regularly – one time per day at a minimum – and try to post at the same time each day.
- Best times to post are usually the morning when people get to work, at lunch, or near the end of the workday.
- Always post a photo or video. You can recycle relevant photos, but a post with no photo is like a lure with no hook. Don’t bother.
- Tag appropriate sponsors, but don’t overdo it.
- Don’t brag, be authentic, be nice, and don’t be political unless that is more important than being a professional fisherman. Never assume your potential sponsors are aligned with your political affiliations.
FINDING THE RIGHT SPONSOR
Q: Should I get fishing sponsors outside of the fishing industry?
A: Select your target sponsors, and know what kind of sponsor you want. Trying to align with a company that doesn’t match who you are isn’t good for you or the company. Forcing a sponsorship deal for the sake of a sponsorship usually results in poor representation, and that in turn could make it harder to get another sponsor later on.
- Choose the products that you are really excited about and use them. Show that you can put them to good use, that you can talk about them well, and that you can add value to those brands.
- Choose companies that are comfortable marketing the way you do. If you are strong at shows, talking face-to-face to customers, then you will do best to approach brands that attend boat shows, tournament expos, and other customer-facing events. If creating your own marketing content is what you excel at, then brands that don’t attend these events, but want a way to reach the customers directly, would benefit from you.
- Waiting for the right sponsor is better than just getting any sponsor. Remember that most partnerships won’t start with a big check. There will be a period where you will get to know each other. It is better to wait for the right partner so you can move from dating to marriage. You don’t want to get stuck in a circle of short relationships that never amount to anything.
THE NEXT STEPS
Armed with this information, a change of approach is needed, and here’s how to go about it:
1. Network, network, network. No one likes to hear this, but folks don’t want to know you until they know something about you. That’s why reaching out to friends and acquaintances to connect you with folks at potential sponsors is invaluable. These marketing and pro staff managers are inundated with emails, phone calls, and resumes. But a fresh face recommended by someone you both know gives you a leg up. Also, by working through a third party, it highlights initiative, something that will come in handy down the road.
2. Volunteer. One of the best ways to get a foot in the door is through volunteering to work shows, tournaments, or other events. You likely won’t be paid for these, so local events might be your only option, but they’ll have a chance to see you in action and be able to determine whether you’ll be a good fit or not. I cannot overstate the importance of volunteering. It’s like auditioning for a job, placing yourself one step closer to your goal.
3. Sell them, not you. I too often hear that many young pros have out-sized egos, which are perfect for accompanying their overzealous requests. Spend less time trying to sell "Brand You" and more time highlighting your ability to sell your potential sponsor’s brands. You’ll have plenty of time to hone your branding skills, but only if you prove to be a savvy salesman, less interested in self-promotion than in being a great asset.