by Mark Henderson
WHEN SPONSORSHIP BECOMES PARTNERSHIP
The seemingly never-ending emails, phone calls, voicemails, questionnaires, contracts, and updates are only the beginning once your “Quest for Sponsorship” (see part 1 in the April 12 edition of Fisherman’s Post) finally becomes the partnership you desired. When you get the response you are hoping for—“Yes, our company has decided to work with you during the coming year”—that’s when you begin making phone calls to your teammates and friends exclaiming, “We’ve got a new sponsor!”
So what happens after receiving that all-important letter or phone call of acceptance? At that point, the job has just begun, and the work you and your team did now transforms into work you must do for the company that said, “Yes.” This is when everything flips. Now that the company has made an initial commitment to you, you must now prove your commitment to the company. This is when sponsorship becomes partnership.
Once you begin obtaining sponsors, you and your team become more credible to other potential sponsors. It’s the old adage of “business breeds business.”
A company’s Return on Investment (ROI) is critical to justification of their advertising budget. In other words, the money spent on advertising commitments must produce an incremental amount of sales for this investment to be considered a success and worthwhile. Every pack of hooks, swivels, spool of line, etc. are dollars spent on us as their Pro-Staff, and the company needs us to produce sales in kind for those dollars.
How is this measured? At times, this is a very difficult question to answer as a Pro-Staff member for your “sponsor/partner.” When working a booth during a trade show, amounts and totals of sales are easily calculated. However, during other times and instances when numbers cannot be easily determined, it is challenging to justify your “sponsorship” in terms of customer dollars spent on products and services because of your influence.
That’s when the brand awareness you provide for the company can “hold weight.” Making sure your customers, clients, friends, contacts, or other teams are aware that you use, support, and promote a particular product or service is critical. How? One way is social media.
The creation of your team website, Facebook page, Google blog, and a positive involvement on popular fishing forums is critical. Sponsors appreciate having their logos with links from these media sites attached because of the importance of the internet’s Search Engine Optimization. My Liquid Fire Fishing Team’s sites have been very important to our ability to obtain partnerships. They are: www.liquidfirefishing.com, www.facebook.com/liquidfirefishing, and www.liquidfirefishing.blogspot.com.
So often, I will have a sponsor or potential sponsor share that a Pro-Staff relationship has not worked out for them in the past. Their company will make a sponsorship commitment and “never hear from the captain/team again.” The Pro-Staffer may be “flying the flag” for the company by promoting the product during their events, shows, or tournaments. However, the marketing contact person for a particular sponsor/partner never knows this. It’s up to you to make sure they are kept informed of your efforts.
Getting an opportunity to participate as a featured speaker in one of the local fishing schools in your area is a great avenue to develop relationships, showcase your sponsors’ products, and feature yourself. The opportunity to participate in a quality, well-organized event such as the annual Fisherman’s Post Saltwater Fishing Schools should be viewed as an honor.
The basic structure of these schools is to invite numerous high-profile captains to offer lessons on their specialized areas of fishing. For a nominal fee, attendees have the entire day to visit their choice of rigging stations where they receive instruction on the basics of tying knots, rigging baits, reading sea-surface temperature data, bait presentation techniques, and many other areas. Main seminars, which have as many as three captains sharing their knowledge in an open forum, are conducted throughout the event as well.
Make sure photos and videos are taken of you and your team during the event to be provided in a sponsor/partner update. They need and deserve to know you have had the opportunity to provide information regarding their company to an interested and captive audience through the sharing of your personal knowledge and experiences with their products/services.
In addition to providing your knowledge to these schools, many of your sponsors will also want to make sure you have their company literature to disburse during the event. Decals, brochures, cards, catalogs, hats, and t-shirts are great ways to help promote their products. During the Fisherman’s Post Fishing School, “Get Hooked” Fishing School, and Bass Pro Shops Spring Classic events, several of our partners (Intrepid Powerboats, TACO Metals, Yo-Zuri America, Blue Water Candy Lures, Yamaha, Accurate Fishing, Crystal Coast Graphics, Cannon, Minn Kota, Rigid Industries LED, American Fishing Wire, SPRO, NBOA Insurance, Ocean Tamer Marine-Grade Bean Bags, and Sportsman’s Toy Store) provided door prizes for the schools. We also offered several prizes for a drawing at our booth.
Having a professional resume that can be provided to your potential sponsors is also critical. The days are long gone of, “Hi, I’m Mark Henderson, and I’m a tournament fisherman.”. Our struggling economy has forced companies into making very wise decisions with their advertising funds. Their ROI is more critical now than it has been in many years. Making sure you set yourself apart from others who may be seeking the same sponsorship dollars is critical.
There are many successful tournament fishermen, but successful marketing is a skill that is becoming more necessary than just knowing how to make a fish eat. Being a successful fisherman and high-profile angler are just part of the formula in being able to bring your sponsor toward a higher market share for their products.
I had a very well-known company’s marketing manager tell me several years ago, “We don’t care if you catch fish or win tournaments. That’s just a plus. What we really care about is making sure you are seen and represent us with integrity.”
We must remember, when seeking sponsorship, we’re doing something we love and are hoping to gain assistance doing it. However, to the company from which you seek this assistance, it’s all about whether or not choosing to support you and your team is a wise investment.
Always make any sponsorship opportunity you may gain about those who decide to partner with you. While getting the sponsor is about you, your team, or charter business, and what you can offer them, keeping them as a partner, by making all of your efforts about them, should be 100 percent of your focus as an honored Pro-Staff member.
Dedication, integrity, and hard work will produce what many will call “luck.” Remember, “luck” can be defined as, “when hard work meets opportunity.” And as I have found, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Mark Henderson is the captain of the Cape Carteret, NC-based Liquid Fire Fishing Team sponsored by: Intreptid Powerboats, Yamaha Outboards, Cannon Downriggers, Accurate Fishing Products, AmeraTrail Custom Trailers, Simrad, Best Buy Marine, Optima Batteries, Yo-Zuri, Ocean-Tamer Bean Bags, Sportsman’s Toy Store, Crystal Coast Graphics, SPRO/Gamakatsu, Pro Chips, Columbia Sportswear, Costa Del Mar, Lee’s Livebait and Stevenson Automotive Group.