So…You Want to be Sponsored

Craig with a nice bass.

OK, now that I have your attention, I figured that I’d take the lead and try to help some anglers out when writing a resume to attract a sponsor. First off, please do not be offended by my blunt, to the point approach. I certainly will not single anyone out.

First, why do I think I can help you? I currently have ten sponsors that I’ve managed to hold for several years. Next, I also own a tackle company, so I know what is expected not only of me as someone who is sponsored, but what people want from me as a sponsor.

I see it from both management and employee perspectives. I’m going to try and shed some light on this often confusing part of the sport. Again, these opinions are only based on my experience and obviously not all companies operate like mine or the ones I’m affiliated with. This is part 1 in a small series of tips put together to help guys.

1- First and foremost approach this seriously.

Do not contact a sponsor without thinking out your approach. I’ve seen a few people put up a very short and general post about themselves that explains nothing. No sponsor is going to be attracted by that. Instead, you should have previously thought out what you want to say, your goals, how you can achieve those goals etc, well ahead of any correspondence with a sponsor. This way when those issues come up, and they will, you can quickly get them settled and look smart and well thought out. If you have no intention of following through or actually doing anything for a sponsor, why write a resume then? By not holding up your end of the sponsorship deal, you are only making it more difficult for the next angler to get sponsorship.

2- Have knowledge of the products put out by the company you are applying for.

This is the most important thing I look for when determining if someone should be eligible for a position with my company. Here’s why – If I use a product, and like it, that is the reason why I would solicit sponsorship. I already believed in this product long before ever getting involved with any type of deal. I do not solicit sponsorships just to wear somebody’s patch because having that badge, may turn off a legitimate sponsor who you actually may prefer having. I will go on record as saying, I only have sponsors whose products I use and have used long before being affiliated with them. Because I have confidence in their products, it is easy for me to promote them. I know them inside and out. It would do me no good to wear Joe’s Walleye Gibbler’s bait company patch if I didn’t believe in the products. For those of you who are not currently sponsored and are looking to get sponsors, this is most important. Once you make a decision to go with a company and ultimately you do get picked up, if you have good moral character, you will live up to your end of the bargain and satisfy any promises or deals you made. Not bouncing out for the next company that comes along and conflicts with your current sponsor. In this industry, company owners talk and people do develop bad reputations. If you are not a big money pro angler who is in demand, you could be out before you were ever in.

It is very easy to see whether or not an applicant has a clue about company products. Do not write things like “if I like your product, I will promote it or speak about it yada yada yada!!!! I’m an easy going guy but when I see this on a resume, I flip. Who does this person think he is….Mike Ike. Listen, all of the companies that are looking for pro staff members likely have a proven line up of products and don’t need someone to test their products for them unless IT WAS IMPLIED!!!! You do not want to come off sounding as if you are looking for freebies. I’ll be totally honest, when I get a resume like this, I stop reading and hit the delete key. Companies have tested their products so you can’t offer anything that they don’t already know; unless they specifically ask you to do this.

UNDERSTAND THIS: ONLY THE TOP 10 OR 15 PROFESSIONAL ANGLERS GET A FREE RIDE. Unless you are in the circle that includes, Clunn, Nixon, Van Dam, Icconelli etc you will not get that perk. This is because they are marketable and the average guy is not. Some weekend guys definitely do pull their own weight in a major way, maybe even more so than the effort of a pro but those professional guys have access to TV and magazines and that is why they get paid or lavished with free gear.

3- Make sure you let a sponsor know what you can do for them.

Impress them. In essence, you are applying for a job; sort of. You are letting a sponsor know that you want to promote their products in return for whatever you are motivated to do this for, be it a discount on items, free items or even cash. You want to come off as being confident but not arrogant. I get resumes from guys who try to show me that they are hot stuff. I’m not impressed by tournament standings, trophies and plaques. Show me, you are marketable and can successfully promote my gear, and you might be on your way.

4- Impress the person who will be reading your resume.

Double and triple check your grammar and spelling. Man, if you spell “Sponser, Spensor etc”, you do not deserve the position. Everyone makes mistakes, but the guy who doesn’t on his resume will likely get your spot. A potential sponsor wants the guy who can best represent the company. This includes someone who can speak to people in a clear and concise manner. You are ultimately a reflection of the company, and if you can’t portray yourself in that manner, you likely will not get a position. Take the time to produce a respectable resume. If you hand in a piece of garbage, you will not be taken seriously. Remember this, anyone can go out and catch a few fish, anyone can win a tournament, but how you conduct yourself in your resume, your first impression to a specific company is more important than any of those other things.

Some anglers might need any little advantage they can get, for that reason I recommend a book written by a gentleman who approaches obtaining sponsorships very differently from your average Joe. I read the book and immediately hooked up with two sponsors who I likely would not have ever thought of even trying to get. Take a look at it

5- Be careful not to get in over your head. I see a ton of younger guys popping up and writing resumes. Many of these guys are not old enough to drive. There is nothing wrong with that but understand that many sponsors won’t look at a younger guy because they do not want to be responsible for taking study time away from a young person. They also may feel that school will conflict with any efforts that this young person may attempt. I’ll be honest with you, from my perspective I really do feel that younger anglers can really help me out as a sponsor. I do have one 18 year old on my staff, and he is currently ranked number 5 or 6 in the country. His life is fishing, and he completed school, so there is no conflict there. I dodged him for years. He started writing me when he was 15. Although he was a decent angler, I just felt that he could not offer the time I needed him to. My point to the younger anglers is try not to get discouraged. Write a good resume. When I was that young, I was building a local reputation as a decent young tournament competitor. Perhaps that is even more important because you actually learn how to fish better during the process and it will stay with you forever.

As a young guy, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of this. The allure of being sponsored is a euphoric feeling. Remember a couple of things. Sponsorship is an agreement. You promise something in return for something. Both parties need to live up to their ends of the bargain. With young anglers, no matter how experienced you think you are, you must satisfy that agreement and be responsible. I just mentioned experience. I don’t care if you have been fishing since you were 5. Unless you grew up as a mate on a charter boat, chances are you lack any experience that a company would be interested in, again, I’m not trying to be mean here.

Start small. If that means wearing apparel from your sponsor or putting his logo on your Big Wheels, do it, man a booth at a tackle show if you can but DO NOT MAKE PROMISES THAT YOU CAN’T KEEP! It is simple; you do not want to disappoint in the long run.

6- Fine Tuning your resume

Understand that your resume likely looks like 99 out of 100 other resumes. That one resume that is different will normally be the one that gets it’s author the spot. Let’s face reality again, weekend fisherman are a dime a dozen. If you don’t have what it takes or can’t put a resume together that will interest a sponsor, someone else will. You need to set yourself apart from the pack, make your approach different.

I want you guys to look at the resumes on this forum. Many are very good. Most lack one key thing, and that is simply stating what you can do for the sponsor whose wares you are soliciting. When I read a resume that is sent to me, and it doesn’t contain any information about how a guy intends to help me, that is it, the lead is dead. I do not contact that person. Remember the #1 rule and have a well planned approach, making a complete resume is part of that.

7- Learn how to be marketable

What? Yes, this starts at day 1. You must learn how to make yourself marketable as this is the sole factor that can set you apart from everyone else who writes a resume to the companies that you are writing to. This is why the Pro’s make the big money.

Here is my strategy on how I did this. Some of it happened quite by accident.

Everything you do on the water can be used to your advantage if you know how to use it. Example:

In the early 1990’s, I was likely the only guy in my area who was hellbent on the California Finesse movement. I slowly built up a reputation as a solid angler who relied on light tackle. I knew I was the only one doing it. I was winning, and I approached a local fishing publication about it. They interviewed me and I became a contributor to their publication as well as having several features written about my tactics. I also began documenting through the NYSDEC all of my big fish. I was getting every bass I caught over 5lbs documented. After a few years, I became known as a big bass specialist, and it was all documented. I was invited to attend shows, give lectures and seminars and I was about 22yrs old speaking to guys who were twice my age. These guys sat on the edge of their seats waiting for me to inform them. I then began to write articles online for many different websites.

I currently write for the big three…..Bass Resource, Ultimate Bass and Kevin’s as well as a ton of smaller sites. Tournament competition, TV shows, radio spots, newspaper articles these things all will come with time if you know how to market yourself. In all honesty, I have sent out 5 resumes to companies and all picked me up. My other sponsors either contacted me after reading one of my articles mentioning their products or scooped me up at a show after they heard a seminar or lecture I did. My success has been based on marketing myself and how I conduct myself in public. One advantage is that I’ve been a NYC Police Officer for 11 years. I can talk to anyone without being intimidated; that is a big bonus. Some guys just can’t speak in public, and that may be a requirement to a staff position with some companies. One important thing is that you must be humble and not cocky or arrogant. That turns people off. You may know that you are good, but don’t let people think that you know it. There is nothing wrong with confidence. Remember the company your represent is counting on you. You are a reflection of their whole consumer approach. If you act unprofessionally, and I’ve seen guys do it, you will alienate your sponsor and ultimately lose them.

I’ve worked with some incredible anglers at shows – Larry Nixon, Jimmy Houston, Jason Reynolds and others, these guys are the Pro’s. After a few minutes when the awe wears off you realize they are regular guys. I spent two days hanging out with Larry Nixon, and I felt he was just as interested in me as I was in him. It was very cool. I think we both learned something from each other.

Getting back to this, I should expound on the fact that obtaining sponsorship is a responsibility. You need to ask yourself why you want to do this in the first place.

Do you want cash? Just starting out forget cash!!!!,

Discounts? Likely what most guys get.

Services Could be.

Notoriety……We’ll get back to that one

Combo of these It’s possible.

I traverse many websites, and I see plenty of anglers who feel compelled to list their sponsors on the bottom of each post. There is nothing wrong with that. However, I see so many guys that have 3 and 4 different soft plastic companies, 2 rod companies etc. I have to ask myself, “does this angler have an allegiance?” I couldn’t even consider taking on conflicting companies. It simply doesn’t make sense that I am promoting one guys products as the best, yet I also have another company with similar products who is also the best? Makes no sense.

I feel these guys wear patches, just to feel as if they belong to something. I guess it is a good feeling, but I would venture to say not too many people would take them seriously. There is nothing wrong with switching companies if you have to but to hold on to conflicting manufacturers just isn’t fair to either as nobody gets your best effort. Some people feel that the more patches they have the others will look to them as Pro’s. You know what, Pro Staff means Promotional Staff and not Professional Staff.

You’re not a Pro unless you buy that $80.00 Pro Card, and even then you’re just a guy with a piece of paper. Don’t make the mistake of building up sponsors to gain a reputation in the industry. It will always backfire. Instead, lay the building blocks early and gain a reputation to help you attract sponsors. That’s the right way to do it. Anybody can get a few sponsors. You have to have the gift of gab. You can be the best speaker and the worst angler and still have a ton of marketability and sponsors. On the other hand, you can be the reigning Paducah Classic Champ, but if a wet sock has more personality than you, you are S.O.L.(sorry to my friends in KY).

There are several things I can recommend to you in your quest to achieve the Holy Grail of fishing sponsorship

1- Always be honest and upfront

2- Be prepared to take on and accept responsibility

3- You are likely an average Joe, do not make unrealistic demands, average guys are a dime a dozen.

4- Be different – Different is what will set you apart from the competition

5- Be humble – Act professional at all times

6- Learn how to spell and properly write a resume. This is your first impression, and if you don’t take the time to review and correct it, you will lose out.

7- Don’t get too caught up on a rejection. It happens, learn from it. Generally you will not receive any letter of rejection. There can be an overwhelming amount of requests, and they can’t always be answered. Don’t take it personally. Look over what you submitted and improve upon it next time.

8- Do not stalk. Don’t submit resumes to the same companies over and over again, wait a few months….6 or so if you still want to try to attract them. If you become a nuisance, they’ll seek a restraining order.

9- Have realistic goals. You’re not getting your way paid. It is possible to have your deals upgraded in time based on your performance, shoot for that.

10- Have fun, once this becomes a chore; you have nothing! Good Luck, hope I helped a little.-EW

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.