Acquiring Sponsors

You see them by the dozens, on all of the major tournament trails. Bass anglers with custom shirts full of sponsor logos. You have been fishing small club tourneys, and maybe even a few amateur divisions like the FLW BFL. Now you want to step up a level and try to get yourself some sponsors. But where do you begin? Which companies should you approach and how should you approach them? Before you begin, consider several things and ask yourself this question.

Why do I want a sponsor?
Consider your answer very carefully. If the only reason you want a sponsor is to wear a cool logo, forget it. Don’t waste their time. If your not going to be willing to do what it takes to keep them happy, then why bother at all? These companies get 1000’s of requests a year for sponsorship, and they will only pick those that sell themselves to them. The ones that meet THEIR needs.

What are your qualifications? What do you have to bring to the negotiating table? Don’t rely just on your tournament records. That’s important, but in and alone it is just not enough. Great fishermen are everywhere these days, so you must be able to separate yourself from everyone else doing the same thing you are doing. Some companies actually look for things like degrees in marketing or other areas that will be useful in promoting their products. They want fishermen who can sell their wares, and if you can’t, sooner or later you won’t be needed anymore.  You must be willing to work trade shows, seminars, etc. you must be willing to be visible and active in the business.

Which companies do I approach, big or small?  Start small. Approach the companies that make the tackle you already use. You are familiar with, and have confidence in these products. If you are not used to something, and don’t know the product line, you are not going to be very successful selling these items. One of the biggest mistakes an angler can make is to go from maker to maker tossing out the same pitch to every one. These guys know the game, and word spreads fast. You are only succeeding in talking yourself out of any kind of a deal.  Myself, I found and used certain brands for some time, and then went to them for sponsorship. For instance, I have been a user of The Original Fish Formula for 25 years. I started using it when it came out, and am still using it today. I know the product, and know it well. Then, a couple of years ago, I approached them and got a sponsorship deal with them.  Another thing. Years ago, when you took on a sponsorship deal, you only had to know their Bass fishing products.  Now, you better be familiar with everything they have to offer. From bass to trout to catfish.

Make sure the deal will benefit BOTH of you. While on the Amateur levels, don’t expect big money contracts. Most of the companies will only be willing to offer you free or deeply discounted products, not actual money to fish. This is reserved for the upper level full time touring PROS. But on the flip side, by entering into such an agreement, you will also most likely have less required of you by the companies. I entered into a “Friends” deal with Daiichi hooks, because this was best suited for me. This requires me to only report my progress quarterly, instead of monthly.

Don’t make the NUMBER 1 mistake beginning anglers make when approaching the companies.  DO NOT walk in bragging; beating yourself on the chest and saying ok, here I am, now what can you do for me. Instead, tell the companies what YOU can do for THEM. Why will they benefit from bringing you on? And remember,as a member of their pro staff, you actually work for them. This is a business, treat it as such.

Now. Still think you are ready for a sponsor? Then go for it. Be confident, but not arrogant. It’s not as hard as you think as long as you go about it the right way.

Good luck,
and Good Fishing,
Charles Graves

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