Someone once asked me “Q when is potential not potential anymore?” That started a deep conversation between one of my good friends and I, while we were on our way to practice for a tournament. That same question has plagued me ever since I started The Bass Sponsorship Network. Focusing on getting quality sponsors matched up with the best representatives in the bass fishing tournament industry definitely has its bumps in the road. Although there has been success within the endemic (meaning companies that are directly related to fishing), there are difficulties in getting some bigger or even mid-size names like those you see sponsoring other sports. The biggest thing is that they don’t know the sport and what all goes into it. Can you imagine what companies said when someone asked them to throw in a few hundred thousand into a sport where some guys were hitting a little white ball? Can you imagine what their wives said as they were trying to talk through their laughter. Shoot, kids playing college football used to laugh when someone asked them if they were going to turn pro. Yeah, you don’t say that now because golf has million dollar endorsements out there, and clubs can run from a few hundred to close to a thousand. Let’s not even get into football contracts! I don’t know if I can count that high. Just kiddin’, I can count that high, but see I don’t seem to have to count that high when it comes to my paycheck. Seriously though people… other industries are just puttin’ it down better than we are. Yes I say we, cause I’m included I just fished tourneys thinkin’ “All I have to do is fish, get better and kick a little bass, and I’ll have em linin’ up at my door” HA HA HA HA. I crack myself up! Honestly though, it starts from the base of our industry and trickles down stream. The bass fishing tournament industry has so long held onto “Old School” way of thinking that when times changed, we just got pushed to the side as a weekend man’s sport.
To understand where I’m coming from we have to ask ourselves the questions of where other sports started, how they grew, and how they have been able to still thrive during our “Recession”. People ask me “Q why do you put quotes around Recession?” Well it’s because from being in the Marketing field and Sports Business field I’ve not seen any of these:
1) A Pro athlete that has said “Man I’m gonna have to take a cut in my Million dollar plus per year salary because ticket sales at the stadium are low.”
2) Companies not come up with 6 Million bucks to have a NASCAR for half the season
3) And a movie star say “Man times are tough I won’t get paid millions to make any more movies”
People the money is out there! Unfortunately the bass fishing tournament industry and its respective industries haven’t tried to figure how to pull it in. Instead they reduce entries by taking away the Co-angler side. They don’t look into the business models that have made other sports maintain or grow even in the “Recession!” Now don’t get me wrong the tournament circuits we have do very well, and they are making good money. But let’s face facts we’re all in business to make money and until there’s focus on how to create more avenues to make money the bottom line will only get smaller or go away completely. As for me I want it to grow, cause I love to compete, as well , everyone I have been associated in this sport. We have work to do but if everyone is on the same page, boy there will be a surge in money flows that this industry has never seen!
I know…I know you’re saying “Q what do you know about all this?” Well let me just tell you from the conversations I’ve had with such people as the Chief Editor of The Sports Business Journal and extensive research into what we are not doing, I think I have a bit of an idea. We have simply not created the next new avenues that would make companies with solid marketing budgets want to get into bass fishing. Their media buyers and marketing specialists don’t even know really what tournament bass fishing is about and what goes into it from a business standpoint. In my trying to get one of my anglers a deal with a large company, the media buyer, who doesn’t really even watch bass fishing on tv, said “When I see a bass tournament on tv, you don’t see much of the boat in the water and they don’t showcase the winner much after they win, like NASCAR does.” This is so true. We need to implement some changes that help the sports business public to have an interest in what it is that we do. We need to show them how lucrative it is to invest in an angler and what the tournament circuit is going to provide them for doing so. The angler can only do so much. Have anglers in our industry set themselves up to provide this? Yes and No. I’m sure that different ways have crossed their minds but honestly there’s not much help coming from the tournament circuits. From all that I have collected, the general answers lies with the fact that it all starts from the tournament circuits.
“Well Q what can, we, as tournament circuits do?” Well guys and gals we have to look at what we offer. We offer a great experience for an angler or up and coming angler to fish for that wonderful GREEN MONSTER in a tournament setting. We offer competition, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the drive to want to compete again to have victory. This is as far as we go. The passion for the sport is not viewed in media, we only have allowed our own coverage of the sport within only a couple of ways. You want in depth following of Bassmaster, you get it in Bassmaster magazine. You want in depth following of FLW Outdoors, you get it in FLW Outdoors. That’s great but people we are the only sport, THIS BIG, that doesn’t allow for other media to cover it. NASCAR has reached out to a multitude of media avenues for coverage. “Well Q they’re so big” Well they weren’t always that big, they simply got after it. They embrace the different sponsors that sponsor the teams. They set up an owner bracket for winnings. They set up Business to Business conferences. Baby the list goes on! That’s why they are the #1 business in America. Secondly we only offer the experience to the angler, we haven’t quite yet focused on the “Day at the Track” or “Day at the Game” concept that other major sports thrive off of. This concept creates the experience for the fans. I have set up signing booths for some of my anglers after practice days or when they have finished weighing in. It doesn’t take long for them to sit at a table and pass out their pics with their sponsors name on it and sign it for some kids and anyone else that wants to follow the sport. See the ratio of Men to Women that watch and follow NASCAR are 51% to 49%. The ratio of Men to Women that watch and follow Tournament Bass Fishing is a staggering 97% to 3%. People we need to get our minds wrapped around this. I sold boats for many years and let me tell you when the wide eyed hubby is looking at buying a $70,000 bass boat, there’s not too many of their wives that say “Baby make it happen, you get out there and bust everybody’s @!*”. So there are many ways for a tournament circuit create that experience and give fans something to follow, but it takes some thought. Have I thought of many of these ways…Uh Yeah! But I don’t have much space to go into it.
In short there are is a gold pot at the end of that rainbow and people that I have worked with like Ray Scott know that it is there, we just have to create the right avenues for people to find us. I put it this way it’s like having that jewel of a town that has so much to offer but there’s no exit ramp leading from the highway. Therefore the town just gets passed over and eventually goes away. Hey we have way too much to offer, but we aren’t focusing on the ways for people that aren’t connected to the sport to find us. The time is now! We can’t sit back and wait for times to get better we have to create the opportunities with the sponsors that are looking now, so that when times are better we will be the ones everyone comes looking for because they don’t have $15 Million to put in a NASCAR team. Let us know what you think. We have set up a forum for you to voice your suggestions. I know you love this sport as much as I do and we want it to grow to the point that it’s bursting at the seams. God Bless