The 2007 tournament season has started or is just about to start for many saltwater anglers and teams. Hopefully, the season is planned and budgeted and some type of sponsorship is providing income (discounted product to cash) to the tournament cause. Everything from your boat/motor, fishing gear, vacation schedule, significant other schedule and all of the other balls you are juggling at the same time while getting your fix of tournaments is in order. So if everything is shipshape, there is not much left to do except fish NOT! Let's cram a quick 7 things (I have never been big on top 10 lists) you can do to continue to help your fishing career.
- Spruce up your appearance. The first thing people notice about a fishing team is their physical appearance. Like it or not, human nature leads us to immediately form an opinion of someone based on what they look like. Can you look at yourself with a critical eye? When you leave the house pulling your tournament boat (hopefully with sponsor's logos on it) is your truck and boat clean and neat? What are you wearing? Do you roll into the local convenience store with your shirt tucked in a professional manner or are you wearing the "I'm with Stupid" t-shirt you won at Astroworld 10 years ago and bringing the aroma of 3 days with no bath because it is considered bad luck to bathe before a tournament? Whenever you are out and about, you are a sponsor's representative. With the internet, digital cameras and cell phone cameras, one minute of not looking your best or being unprofessional can quickly cost a sponsorship.
Another area many anglers are seen is near the weigh-in. Do you put your tournament jersey on before getting to the dock or undress at the dock having spectators gawk at your perfected farmer's tan? A personal pet peeve is not taking off sunglasses prior to going on stage. Taking off sunglasses will allow people to see your eyes and make a personal connection with you. Yes, you may have to squint, but being on stage is about being a person with which others can connect and relate to.
- Do not give up on sponsor searches. Each month, make a commitment to continue approaching a few potential sponsors with a proposal package. There is no company or person that you meet or see that you should not be thinking, "How can I show this company that I am a good marketing tool and will increase their sales?" The word "no" should be expected, but it should make one strive to understand the reason behind the no and what can be changed in the next proposal to make it better. Just like fishing, each time you propose a sponsorship to a company, your sales/marketing skills will improve. There is no substitute for experience.
- Take time to learn all of your sponsor's products. Maybe you obtained a sponsorship with a lure company and you always use the Slinky Sluggo Swimmin' Minnow, convinced it is the best thing since the 2-cycle internal combustion engine. Well I hate to be the one to break the news, but the Slinky Sluggo Company makes lots of great products besides their Swimmin' Minnow. Sit down with a product catalog or spend some time on the internet to understand all of a sponsor's products and their uses. You don't have to use all of them, but by having a good working knowledge of the products, you can be a better salesman and help people when they ask for help with a specific situation that you may not have encountered. Do you really know how that outboard sitting on the back of the boat works? Now I will admit that I like to understand how things work anyway, but last year, I spent a good deal of time learning about the Evinrude ETEC engine. I wanted to understand more than the sales brochures and learn the details of its success. In addition, when visiting with Jimmy and Johnny Majek during the development of the new Majek Illusion, we asked questions about the hull shape and features to understand all of the thought and engineering behind the design. It goes beyond knowing the boat is great for tournament fishing.
- Practice your speaking skills. The grand moment has arrived. You have brought a pair of perfect 27-7/8" reds to the scale and the weighmaster has announced the pair has put your team in first place. The weighmaster asks you to tell everyone about your day. You stutter and say, "Uhhhh, it was good, we caught two big fish." He probes further, "What pattern were you fishing?" Again, out comes another eloquent response, "Let's see we worked water where there were lots of redfish." Now you don't have to give away secret details and GPS coordinates, but talk about how you were fishing, what were you looking for, what baits, retrieve, etc. This is the chance to tell how your use of sponsor's products helps in catching fish, tournament winning fish. Reading a list of sponsors or thanking them is not nearly as effective as telling everyone why your use of Smith Optics photochromatic sunglasses allowed you to see fish with the changing cloud cover. Think through possible questions and what your answers would be. Don't try to be someone you're not. If you are not good at jokes, don't attempt it, it won't work. Stick with being yourself and tell people how you catch fish.
- Enhance your quarterly newsletter. What, you don't have one? How do you expect your sponsors to understand how you are helping increase their sales? One way or another, part of sponsorship is letting companies know what you are doing and what you are going to do. A quarterly report should be a minimum and monthly may not be out of the question. Most likely your team is not the only one being sponsored; make your sponsor notice you and your efforts.
- Learn about sales. The bottom line of sponsorship is increasing sponsor's sales. There are numerous books, classes and seminars on sales techniques and tactics. Again, just like fishing and speaking, the more you know the better salesman you will become. Good salesmen are not born, they work at it and practice techniques to move product. It always helps to actually use and believe in the products you discuss as people will see right through insincerity if you do not truly back a company's products.
- Watch bass fishing on Saturday mornings. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Professional bass fishing has been very successful at attracting and keeping sponsors for their industry. The top anglers are not only great fishermen, but great ambassadors for sponsor's products. Watch how they conduct themselves on television while fishing, on stage or during interviews. Practice emulating the good and stay away from things you note as not so good. Maybe the next time there is a camera crew on your boat, you shouldn't go Ike on your anchor light and American flag. Not sure what this last sentence means? Well then you need to start watching the freshwater guys.
So what is the point of my Magnificent-7 you ask? The point is that although the fishing is the fun part of sponsorship, one should never forget the business side of the house. It is guaranteed that your team will not win every tournament it enters. Make sure you are doing what you need to have a successful sponsorship no matter how you do in tournaments. Make your value go beyond fishing such that when the big win or success on the trail comes along, it is icing on the cake, a nice kicker for your sponsors. Always dedicate a portion of your time to improving your fishing career.