Sell Your Skills, Not Your Soul

Jeremiah BagwellAs most tournament anglers already know and what future tournament anglers will quickly learn. Sponsors are what can help make an angler a champion. Don’t get me wrong, having a sponsor is not going to make you an instantly better angler. They will however make it possible for you to compete in the extremely expensive world of professional bass fishing. Just don’t fall into a long term agreement that is going to greatly benefit your sponsor and only enable you to wear a cool looking patch on your shirt and have a few free lures in your box.

Some of you may be wondering what exactly a sponsor is and why they are so important to competitive bass anglers, so I will give you a brief run down on sponsors. Sponsors are companies that provide anglers with anything from free or reduced price products all the way up to substantial amounts of money. Before you go and get too excited, they just don't give you this stuff out of the kindness of their hearts. They expect you to go out and promote and often times sell their products in addition to being very successful from a fishing standpoint.

Probably one of the most important steps in the business is determining what you can do for a company to increase their market share. Market Share is the percentage of customers a particular company has in a particular region, state, city, etc. For example if there are 100 total consumers in a town and XYZ Company has 20 of those customers their market share is 20%. Companies are always trying to increase their market share because an increase represents higher earnings for the company. If you can convince a company that you can increase their market share at a relatively low cost then, there is a good chance that the company is going to take you up on your offer. Make a list of every attribute that you have that can benefit this company. For example if you are always in the top 5 at tournaments, you write a weekly article for your local paper, you have a local outdoors show or just about any other method you can think of that you can use to promote the company. Once you make this list decide how to tell the company the benefits of these attributes. The more you can differentiate yourself from the other ten thousand people asking for the sponsorship dollar, the more successful you will be.
 
The next step is tracking down sponsors that fit your personal style. Do not simply contact every single company in the business directory of your local phone book. Begin with companies whose products you use and are very familiar with. It will be a great deal easier to promote a product that you believe in. I will give you a little advanced notice when contacting large lure manufacturers or just large companies in general, be prepared to get turned down. They received thousands of letters per year from people just like you. Just do not let this discourage you, keep on soliciting other companies and eventually it will all work out. Start with local companies such as the dealership where you bought your truck or boat. Often times they will pitch in a little cash for an entry fee or two. Before contacting a company and asking them for sponsorship, do your homework. Find out as much information as you can about the company. I have went as far a totaling up the number of stores one company has in each state in which I will compete during the course of the season. The whole point behind this was to show that I would be in locations where it is highly likely that I can make references to this company and persuade people to visit the stores.

Once you are successful in landing a couple deals with companies for sponsorship, you have to begin working your butt off. When you sign a sponsorship deal with a company, you in a sense work for that company. Now when I say, "work" for that company I don't mean that you are a regular employee that punches a time clock, gets a weekly paycheck and has company health insurance. What I mean is you made a business agreement with the company to promote their products or services and you better keep you end of the arrangement or you will find yourself losing sponsors in a hurry. It is important that you do everything you told the company you would do and often times more. You have to look at these sponsorship agreements as long time partnerships. By doing this you will not have to go through all the proposals and such every single year. It will be a lot easier to stay with a company if you can show them how they benefited from having you as a spokesperson. Document all of your actions and send frequent updates to the company detailing your activities. If you get an article written about you in the paper or a magazine and you mention your sponsors, send them a copy. You just do not want them to forget who you are. Name recognition is a huge benefit for you and your sponsors.

With the tighter corporate budgets and increasing payouts in professional bass fishing, it is important to understand business activities and how to use them to your advantage. I firmly believe that you will be ten steps ahead of the pack if you go to college and get a degree. My degree major is "Business Management and Marketing". Although not directly related to the fishing industry, you can look at the material being learned from different angles until it relates to fishing. It can also be very helpful to get experience in retail sales. Even if it is simply working part time at your local Wal-Mart in the sporting goods department, you gain a better understanding of customer relations and the principles of salesmanship.

Although I have just touched on some of the factors dealing with sponsorship agreements, hopefully you have benefited by reading this. Good Luck with your quest for new sponsors and just remember to work your tail off and show them why you are the best representative for the company.


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