Outdoor Articles

Bagwell’s Bass Tactics: The Million Dollar Question

by Pursue The Outdoors on June 27th, 2005 in Freshwater Fishing

If I were given a dollar for every time I have been asked “how do I get sponsors?” I would probably make the Forbes top 500 list. Unlike many other things in the life, this question has no clear cut, single sentence answer. When you start wanting to get paid by a company to fish, the sport takes on a whole new perspective.

From an angler’s perspective, sponsors are there to help with the never-ending expenses involved with competitive fishing. Whether it is in the form of free product, discounts on boats or the ever-popular monthly stipend, sponsorship contracts will ideally help reduce stress. Companies however, look at sponsorships from a whole different angle. Their main objectives are to increase market share and generate additional revenue. They are always looking for new and productive ways to get more people to buy their products.

Before you take the dive off of the cliff into the wonderful world of sponsorships, there are certain things that you need to do. First and foremost, you need to ask yourself why a company would even want to sponsor you. If your answer is because you win a lot of local or regional tournaments, you might want to reconsider your approach. Industry leading companies do not care that you won the 2nd annual Mayberry Open Buddy Bass Tournament. Frankly why would they care? Will this make them any money? More likely than not, the answer is No.

You need to establish what value, if any, you can bring to the table. One simple method I use for determining such value is a little trick I learned from a lady named Gwen Johnson who was one of my instructors in college. I doubt that Mrs. Johnson knew she was helping me with sponsorship contracts, but she really was. Whenever I have an idea or something that I think may be important, I ask myself the question “So what?” Then I try to answer the question to determine the actual value that the contents of my statement has. Here are a couple of examples:


I always win our company bass tournament. “So what?” Because of this, all of the people at work think I am a great bass angler.

As you can see this really has no corporate value. However, the following statement will at least draw a second look.

I host my own regional fishing radio show and I write fishing columns for three local newspapers. “So what?” This means that I have the opportunity to introduce product lines to a much larger portion of the target market. Through both verbal and written communication, I can spread the word about the products that I believe in. I also possess a high level of name and face recognition in my region.

Now these were just very rough examples, but a company might view the second scenario as a cost effective way to get their goods introduced to more consumers in this particular region.

Once you can prove that you have some form of value to a company, it is then that you have to determine what your services are worth. As a newcomer, companies are not going to pay you much, (if any) actual money. In most cases, they will offer you a very limited amount of free or reduce priced product. This is fine to an extent, but as Bassmaster Classic qualifier Ish Monroe once told me, “I can’t eat a box of crankbaits and I can’t pay my bills with them either.” When you actually think about his statement, it really puts it all into perspective. The return received for your work has to be of some benefit to you. You should not just agree to a sponsor’s terms because it will get you a couple spools of line and a cool patch on your shirt. If you apply for a “regular” job and you request $15 per hour, but the company only wants to pay minimum wage, chances are you will not take the job. Dealing with sponsors should be no different. Applying for a sponsorship is no different from applying for a job. You will have certain duties to perform and expectations that you must live up to. If you can not meet these requirements, you will ultimately be let go. The bottom line is, attempt to get a level of compensation that you feel is fair and beneficial to both parties. Do not sell yourself short or jeopardize your integrity, over a few hundred dollars worth of fishing tackle. Also, do not get extremely cocky and demanding towards your sponsors. Unless you can back up the trash talk spewing from your mouth. Even if you can back it up, there is a good chance that you will get shown to the door.

I am certain that most sponsorship seekers do not fully understand what will be expected from them by sponsors. You are not going to get paid simply to fish with all sorts of free tackle. There are a lot of responsibilities that go along with being a Pro Staff member. First and foremost, you always have to display a neat and professional appearance any time you have contact with the general public. Secondly, you must be a product expert. Your job is to help boost sales and you can not do that, if you have no clue what you are talking about. Your sponsors will request that you work outdoors shows, in-store seminars and a wide assortment of promotional activities. One show I worked was four days in length. During this time period, I talked to so many people that I nearly lost my voice. At times, these activities are a lot of fun, but they are also a great deal of work.

Probably the best bit of advice that I can give you is “Get an Education.” Even if you are one of the blessed few that are able to fish for a living, a degree in Business Management, Marketing, Public Relations or Advertising will be extremely beneficial when dealing with sponsors. If your hopes and dreams happen to come up short, the degree will provide you with a well paying career to fall back on.

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