Because of social media, the old way of obtaining sponsorships has changed. Depending on who you ask, some say social media has been for the betterment of the community and others say for the detriment.
Because social media can be fake, it has devalued the review of products or the once high held opinions of industry icons. Mainly, in my opinion, it is because in the last few years the market has been flooded with Social Media sponsorships, sometimes called influencers or Pro Staff positions.
In the past, getting these positions were harder to reach; however, today, they are not exactly hard to obtain; however, you are competing with every Tom, dick and harry out there to get these deals.
Levels of Sponsorship
The first thing you need to know about Pro Staff deals is that “Pro” stands for Promotional, not Professional. Basically, in exchange for promoting the company or their products, you get valuable and deep discounts on those products – or other products offered by that particular company.
For someone new to fishing or the tournament world, these can be invaluable deals because it allows a newbie not only to get better gear to start with but at a steep discount not offered to the public.
However, there is a slight concern for this type of deal. This can be a trap set up by companies which offer these deals only if you buy a certain amount of their product. For one, you should already be using their products if you are seeking an agreement to promote them and secondly, you should not have to buy a bunch of stuff right in the beginning to get a discount. You will end up with a lot of equipment not needed. My mom used to say that it is not a deal if you don’t need it, and she was right. So, read the contracts very carefully.
We have all made this mistake and gotten into some shady deals with some not-so-reputable companies. The tale tells sign is that there are companies out there you can pay to notify you when companies are looking for Pro Staff. However, I have found that these are generally the deals you do not want as their sole purpose is to find hundreds of anglers to help promote a new product. After the promotion, you won’t ever hear from these companies again; unless they are trying to push something new.
Now, the other level of Sponsorship is called full sponsorship. This is where the sponsor is either providing you with free product, compensation or providing entry fees for tournaments. In this deal, there is real monetary value for what you are getting in exchange for your time and efforts while promoting their company or products. These sponsorships do not come easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to gain these. Sometimes it takes knowing the right person. You will have made the proper connection or the right friend that connects you to the company. These types of Sponsorships are genuine Pro Deals. Do you have to be a professional fisherman to have this type of deal? No, not at all. There are several different ways to obtain this level of sponsorship and being a professional fisherman is just one of the avenues.
Do’s and Don’ts
Before we dive into what is involved with acquiring a sponsorship deal, let us first define different levels of sponsorship. There are two distinct levels: A Pro Staff deal and a full sponsorship.
With Social Media being as vast as it is today, seems like everyone is promoting products. The main reason is it is inexpensive, for the most part, for the company. Companies can give anglers a Pro Staff deal, and in return, they will flood social media promoting their products. It could be Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; it doesn’t matter to the companies. They want the traffic pointed back to their site and their products in front of as many people as possible.
Social Media is where we can begin the Do’s and Don’ts. I suggest building your fishing pages on social media, separately from personal pages. Some of your old high school friends or family may get tired of you promoting fishing on your own page. Create new pages for your fishing or fishing adventures.
From time to time, you can share posts to your personal page, and if your old friends want to follow your page, they have that choice instead of ramming it down their throats.
Now that you have your dedicated professional page for your fishing, clean up your personal page. Go through and delete any foul language, political posts and any arguments. At some point, for some odd reason, a sponsor is going to check you out. If they see a lot of negativity, you run the risk for not getting the deal.
One of the most significant issues and I see this very often, is when anglers bash products because they are on Pro Staff with another company. Never get involved in this if you want to be successful. You can give your opinion on things, use tact and respect. One way I do this is by comparing another company’s product to one I use – explaining why I like one of the products better. It is effortless to do without bashing the other product – give constructive criticism.
Once you have edited all of your social media and built your fishing pages separately, you are ready to start adding content to entice followers. Update your pages often, if not every day with new material – keeping your viewers interested. Share your content to larger, more popular well-established pages. That does not mean to share your content to fifteen different pages in the first five minutes. Remember, a lot of the people you are targeting will be in each of the groups, and when they see you sharing something, over and over, it could turn them away. Share with one or two pages and see if you get any followers. When you add new content share it somewhere different. Soon you will figure out which pages are gaining the most followers. Pay attention to followers and if they have pages as well. In turn, follow them and make friends. This is how you build your network in the industry.
Building Your Brand
Building your network is the most critical thing to getting your foot in the door. Unfortunately, sometimes it depends on who you know. One of my sponsors has been in the business for a long time, holding various positions. He has connections all over the industry. Luckily, he has helped me make a lot of relationships over the past few years. Go to every fishing show available and talk to companies. Eventually, when you walk up, they will know your name and asked how things are going for you. This will not happen overnight. It takes time to build real relationships with sponsors.
One of my best sponsors is my local tackle shop. To me, that is one of the first ones you need to get. What is better than having a discount at your local store where you already shop often? Make a point to meet the owner and always speak to them every time you are there. Offer to help them if they are having a big sale or if they need help with a promotion. At the beginning doing a little work for free is a great way to get your foot in the door. If they have a page on social media, always check in when you are there and leave a favorable review for them. Share their content on your page. Show them what you can do for them before you even think about asking for a deal. A lot of times they may come to you if you are doing a good job promoting them. Now, this is on the local level, and I am not talking about these big national companies.
The big companies may notice you and they may not. If you are a younger angler, lighting it up, winning national events – then yes, you will get seen. If you are winning your local Tuesday Night Derby against 20 other anglers, nobody cares about that. Show that local company what you can do for them. If you send someone to the store, make sure you tell that person to let the store know YOU sent them. You need to show your worth. Just being a good fisherman doesn’t get you far. You must be good at promotion and building relationships.
Do you have to be a good fisherman? Not at all! Are you good with videography? Can you produce quality content? There are many ways to gain sponsorships this way. The key here is followers. If you have a YouTube channel and constantly be putting out quality content, you can get sponsored that way too; however, you must get the followers.
Brent is a Sponsored Bass Angler from Murfreesboro, TN, where he is enjoying the single life of a tournament fisherman.