Boating Tips


Posted 5/10/2011

Before You Approach Sponsors for Support, There are a Few Things You Should Know

Before You Approach Sponsors for Support, There are a Few Things You Should Know

There are many anglers across the country who fish competitively during the weekends in local, regional and sometimes even national tournaments. If you are one of these anglers who have had success during these types of tournaments, and you are looking to get a little more serious about your fishing career, one of the first things you will need to do is approach sponsors for support. 

The right sponsors can really give your competitive fishing a boost, as well as enhance your personal brand as you build your fishing career. Sponsorship can come in the form of discounted products (tackle, motors, boats, etc.), service or even a combination of cash coupled with products or service. 

We talked to Cindy Thompson, Events and Sponsorships Manager, and David Ittner, Tournament and Pro Staff Manager, from Yamaha Marine Group to get a perspective from the sponsor side of the sponsor/angler relationship. Before you begin to approach potential sponsors, here are a few tips they believe you need to keep in mind to ensure you make a great impression and build what will hopefully become a lasting angler/sponsor relationship. 

Know your goal. Are you trying to acquire a sponsorship to fish competitively at a local level, a regional level, or are you shooting for the big leagues and attempting to secure national sponsors? This is a question you need to ask yourself in advance of approaching any sponsor.

“If you know that you just want to compete locally, your best bet is to approach your local dealership or local tackle shop for sponsorship first,” said Thompson. “Even if you are ready to step things up and move to a regional or national sponsorship level, you are going to need the support and recommendation from your local dealership to help you secure sponsorships within that next level of competition. 

“Remember, sponsors are also looking to increase their exposure through your tournament wins. A large national company is unlikely to sponsor an angler in a smaller local tournament setting, just like a local dealer is less likely to enter into a large sponsorship agreement for a national tournament trail,” said Thompson. “The bottom line is that you need to align yourself with organizations that will help give you the right support and exposure for the level of tournament you are planning to fish.”

Approach sponsorship opportunities like job interviews. You should always set up an in-person meeting when you are trying to secure sponsors, and most importantly, treat that meeting like it is a job interview. Leave-behind tools like resumes, bios, recommendations and tournament history are a big plus during these meetings.

“When we sit down to meet with someone, just like in a job interview, we are looking at their skill set, their background and their references. A sponsorship agreement, especially on a national level, can be very similar to an employment agreement,” said Ittner. “Most sponsors are looking for anglers who present themselves in a professional manner. If an angler comes in the door with an unpolished presentation, any sponsor would be hesitant to enter into an agreement. 

“Sponsors seek anglers who have the ability represent their brand in a positive, professional manner,” he continued. “If anglers do not represent themselves that way during the initial meeting, the impression is created that they will not represent the sponsor well down the road. A first impression can really make or break a potential sponsorship opportunity.”

Let your sponsors know what you can do for them. Anglers need sponsors in order to further their competitive fishing careers. Likewise, sponsors look to anglers to help them sell products and services. The relationship is a work/work driven agreement, and many times sponsored anglers are viewed as extensions of a sponsor’s sales team. 

“One of the worst things an angler can do when approaching a sponsor is to walk in the door asking for something without offering something in return,” said Thompson. “Every company I know expects a work commitment from the anglers they sponsor. This can include working outdoor shows, open houses at dealerships, or even hosting small fishing seminars from time to time. Companies will look for a return on their investment at the end of the agreement, and anglers need to approach sponsors with that in mind. Go into that initial meeting with ideas about how you can help that potential sponsor increase sales.”

Clearly define your brand. Fans are usually most attracted to anglers who have an established “brand,” or in other words, a personality trait that helps them to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Sometimes anglers have branded themselves with nicknames like Cliff Crochet’s “Cajun Baby,” and sometimes an angler’s unique, energetic approach to the sport of fishing itself establishes that “brand,” as is the case with Mike Iaconelli. A hook that sets you apart from the crowd is always an asset and can make a good impression on potential sponsors. 

“Angler ‘brands’ can be a great thing, especially when fishing fans tend to latch onto those brands and then want to buy based on the products that angler is using,” said Ittner. “But what sponsors have to be wary of when it comes to reputations is keeping things professional and optimistic. Remember, sponsors want people who can cast a positive light on their products. Let your personality and your passion for the sport shine through, but be careful to avoid complaining, badmouthing and excuse making. Build a positive, up-lifting, likeable image for yourself and you will not only attract the right sponsors, you will also build a loyal fan base.”

Be patient. Building a professional angling career, even if just within the local and regional tournament trails, takes time. You need to have the knowledge, experience and also the wins on your resume necessary to approach sponsors and ask for support. This does not happen overnight, and it is a process that you will continue to build upon every year.

“When aspiring weekend fishermen see young professional anglers landing big, national sponsorships, I think there is often a misconception created that the young pro landed those agreements overnight. That is almost never the case,” said Thompson. “Most of the young pros out there made an early commitment to the sport of fishing and have been making sacrifices for years, some even since their early teens, to reach that point in their career. To attract the sponsors you want, you must have the experience, the record and that get-up-and-go, relentless work ethic it takes. That winning combination almost always helps anglers land the sponsorships they need, whether it’s on a local or a national level.”

So if you are one of those anglers who are ready to make a greater commitment to your competitive fishing, establish your goal, start building your portfolio, define your brand, and let those potential sponsors know what you can do for them. Most importantly, don’t give up – sometimes the most unlikely sponsors can give you the greatest amount of support. Keep an open mind, keep catching those fish and keep your love of the sport first and foremost in everything you do. Your diligence and a positive attitude will almost always work to your benefit. Y

Tips from the Pros:
“The sponsor/angler relationship has to be a win/win for both parties. As an angler, you want to make sure you are providing more value than anything you would be asking for in terms of sponsorship. If you try to help your sponsors achieve what they need to achieve, usually the competition part takes care of itself.” 

Alton Jones
2008 Bassmaster Classic® Champion

“You don’t want to make the mistake of just going out there and putting yourself in a position where you just need a sponsor and take the first one who comes along. Most of us who are out here fishing are buying boats and equipment. You need to believe in what you are using. A lot of people have the idea that you just jump in and suddenly, you are sponsored, but the truth is that you have to start out slow, do a good job at whatever level you are fishing, and build those relationships all the time believing in that product. It is so much easier all the way around if you believe in your sponsors’ products.”

Mark Davis
1995 Bassmaster Classic® Champion, 
B.A.S.S.® Angler of the Year 1995,1998,2001

“Like most relationships, I’ve learned that communication is also an important part of sponsorships. Letting your sponsors know what is going on with you can have a really positive effect on building your fan base, especially through Facebook® and other social media outlets. In an industry where everyone knows everyone, it’s important to keep the positive communication flowing.” 

Brandon Palaniuk
2011 first-time Bassmaster Classic® qualifier
2010 Bassmaster® Federation Nation Champion