In 2008 Daiwa’s Marketing Manager Brad Sissins gave the Tournament Angler Guide an honest appraisal of sponsorship, tournament fishing and the relationship between the two. With a lot of changes taking placing over the successive years, including the boom of social media, increased exposure opportunities, and the broadening of the tournament fish scene ABT have taken the opportunity to sit down with Brad and revisit the topic.
Brad has been fortunate to be able to work in this field for many years and since the first article that appeared in the 2008 edition of the Tournament Guide he has worked with and observed many anglers and events, his thoughts remain the same and for 2012/2013 the competition for sponsorship is even more demanding. For the past few years he has also worked in association with the marketing dept for Daiwa Japan and is the only “non Japanese” staff helping the marketing the Daiwa brand worldwide.
Having had this opportunity and he has also worked with Daiwa Japan’s employed professional angler’s, so if anyone can give you his honest and constructive thoughts and information on how to gain or improve your current sponsorship then you will find his words helpful.
1. Do you see sponsoring anglers as a viable marketing tool?
Sponsoring anglers can be a good marketing tool if you choose the right angler and don’t sponsor too many. The right angler can be difficult to find and on many occasions it can be trial and error affair. Some anglers may take a while to find their feet but are worth it in the end.
Sponsoring too many anglers just limits the amount and quality of tackle you can supply to each individual and the time you can dedicate to the individual. There are budget restraints that allow a certain allocation of gear available to an angler. If you have a small team of sponsored anglers that receive good support from the wholesaler you will get a better result compared to sponsoring a vast amount of anglers with minimum support.
2. Sponsors are increasingly being approached by tournament anglers, approximately how many approaches would you receive a month from anglers seeking sponsorship?
Depending on the time of the year, but generally during November to March I receive upwards of 30 per week. This obviously coincides with anglers gearing up for the coming tournament season. Throughout the rest of the year we receive around 5 – 10 a week but there is a massive increase of anglers seeking sponsorship not just for tournaments, anglers who wish to break into the media side of fishing is the main area that is growing plus anglers who just perceive themselves as an angler of notoriety. The advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, forums etc has generated a new avenue for anglers to publicise themselves and we receive many requests for these “social media” anglers, most will post it on our timeline or just send it in our “messages”.
3. How many of those would be worth consideration?
Really nowadays with most of the well known or respected anglers on the tournament trail already having agreements with various companies, I would say very few in the past few years I would have considered. This is mainly due to the lack of professionalism from prospective anglers. Most who contact me get rejected for several reasons.
- they previously knew me as a friend after working in the industry for the past 20 plus years and expect that because I run all the marketing for Daiwa that I can help them out on a mates basis, this doesn’t work for me. I’m here to promote a company and not just give gear away to “friends”
- They contact me with no previous reputation i.e. no tournament placing, never written an article for a publication etc. The worst case scenario is anglers who contact me saying “I’ve never fished tournaments but I’m going to this year, I‘m a great angler and I will win for you… will you sponsor me?” or I will write for this publication. Everyone that contacts me I will do a background check on them i.e. contact ABT about how they conduct themselves or I’ll ring the editor of the mentioned publication and ask them.
The new avenue for anglers is using social media and forums, while this is an amazing marketing tool it is not the ultimate as many believe. I will always checkout anglers ‘Facebook” profiles, most employers nowadays will do the same, so before you request sponsorship look at your profile and clean it up if necessary.
- threatening comments the first time we have contact, the best of these always revolves around “ if you won’t sponsor me I’ll go to Shimano, as I’m going to win and it’ll be your loss not mine”. This is a very common statement and as soon as I get this comment, I know that they are just gold diggers. Playing off wholesalers is pathetic. Word gets out really quick between wholesalers on these types of anglers, despite a lot of us being opposition many of us have a friendly business association and communicate on a regular basis.
- demand what they want to use. Literally every angler will send me their tackle requirements, some are conservative but most new applicants ask for an incredible amount of gear. This is so far out of control now that as soon as I see any letter or email containing a huge range of gear, I know that they will be trouble to deal with. Over the years I have had many anglers who have requested well over $10,000 worth of gear plus requests for money to pay for entry fees, petrol, boat maintenance etc. Prospective anglers should be happy with what we will give them. I want anglers to use the gear I wish to promote not what they wish to use. We wish to promote our mid range gear like Freams, Lexa, Caldia, TDX etc not top end like Steez, Exist, Certate etc like anglers believe they need. These products don’t need more promotion as they are now the dominant top end tackle, the more we give away of the top end products it really wouldn’t equal more sales, in a business terms if you give away one reel, you need to sell 10 of the same to recover our costs. So If I give away an Exist worth $1000, the sponsored angler needs to provide enough publicity so 10 Exists are sold before we just recoup the initial outlay. The maths would never add up so the majority of anglers who are influenced by successful tournament anglers end up purchase mid range gear like Freams, Black label, TDX etc
- “demand” a ridiculous amount of gear i.e. 8 – 10 matching rods and reels rather than asking what we can help out with
- Requests for money to pay for entry fees, petrol etc. If you want to fish a tournament that’s your choice, we’ll help out with gear but not money. Daiwa make fishing gear, not petrol or hotels or caravan parks, if you want this sort of sponsorship talk to Shell or Great Western. The fishing tackle industry isn’t an endless money pit; we just can’t afford to hand out money. This is very evident with Megabucks style events, I always get requests to pay for entry fees, at over a $1000 to help out; we would get very little in return from this sort of promotion. In hindsight of this you can buy a pretty good ad in a national magazine and reach maybe 20,000 plus people or send over 100,000 ads on Facebook direct to “fishing” related fans, a megabucks event, well most of the time it would be just preaching to the converted, it won’t generate the sales to compensate for the outlay.
- anglers who have a history of chopping and changing sponsorships just because they get another offer.
4. What do you expect of your sponsored anglers?
Anglers should represent the company and promote us; I don’t expect anglers to win. Winning is not important, being well respected is the most influential part of sponsorship that will influence other anglers into purchasing Daiwa. They should be clean and presentable during competitions especially during public times and actively display the Daiwa name and promote us as efficiently as possible. We provide promotional items to sponsored anglers and they should distribute them efficiently at competitions plus have a good knowledge of our products. Placing a sticker on the boat just doesn’t cut in nowadays. Anglers should be available for public events like boat or fishing shows if we decide to display or attend the show.
One thing that all anglers should do is keep me informed of what they have been doing, writing, tournament results etc. Some of our really good anglers inform me weekly to monthly of what they have been doing. But the majority will only contact me when they need gear; this immediately spells trouble as they are only really in it for free tackle. Also nearly all anglers who contact me for gear need to understand that it will be sent to them at our convenience. Most anglers ring me days before they need it; I travel a lot overseas and around the country and can’t often process it straight away, so they will go in the queue as to when we will deliver the goods. I will send gear when it is convenient and when we have good stock levels, I won’t send gear when we have low stock levels as shop sales must come first before giving away free gear.
One of the most important aspects I see is that anglers should try and create a healthy relationship with their sponsor. As an example, Kris Hickson is one of the most respected anglers on the tournament trail, he is a great ambassador for our brand but also a good friend. Instead of just contacting me for free gear all the time he will just ring for a social call or visit for the same reason. That is highly important to me.
5. What are you looking for in a potential sponsor?
Anglers who can sell themselves and don’t expect me to sell them, angling ability isn’t everything. It’s amazing the amount of anglers who want me to do the hard work for them like getting them in with magazines i.e. for writing or get photos of them in magazines. Anglers have to realize that they are selling themselves to me and I’m not their personal manager, if they want me to manage them then I want a cut in their winnings in return. Every other professional sport works like this.
6. Is angling ability and fishing tournaments the only thing that you’re looking for in a sponsored angler?
Angling ability is an important aspect but I don’t require anglers to be “winners’. Often the best sponsored anglers are not podium placers but anglers who are respected as being approachable, friendly and willing to help out any angler who wants to learn the latest and greatest techniques or want to know about what “Daiwa” gear that they use and recommend.
The best promotion we ever get is most often from anglers who don’t fish tournaments, journalists like Jamie Robley, Warren Keelan, Dave Rae or David Seaman easily provide ten times the promotion than just about any “tournament angler” ever could.
Then you get what I would regard as some of the best self promotion anglers in Australia, the group of guys at Lure and Fly. They have created an industry first and leading website along with a professional Facebook page thus creating a fishing/boating media hub that has made other fishing websites obsolete. On top of that they are the friendliest group of guys who want are promoting fishing professionally and also just for enjoyment.
Tournament fishing isn’t the be and end all of fishing. Many prospective tournament anglers come under the belief that tournament angling is the major strength in the industry, I’d hate to disappoint them but bream and bass don’t control the industry, they play an important part but are not the dominant style of fishing or the strength of sales.
7. How important is personal presentation?
More than anyone would believe. The ability of anglers to present themselves in a respectable and professional manner is the most important part of sponsorship. Dressing well in clean ironed sponsors clothing is expected. First impressions last forever. I visit many events over the years and I’ll take a quiet approach from a distance and watch how anglers act and present themselves. I’ve spent years working with people in the public and can judge a person’s character very well. I have several hates at tournaments that turn me away from prospective sponsored anglers or anglers I wish to drop from our agreement.
- drinking alcohol or smoking at weigh-ins or at briefings, for the brief amount of time that you are in the ‘public eye” I’m sure you can wait till you get back to your accommodation or home, drinking and smoking is a now unacceptable public event pastime and it is illegal in many cases to drink or smoke in public areas.
- Loud mouthed, swearing, spitting, rudeness, yobbish behaviour are all unacceptable traits, the general public don’t accept them neither should we. Remember you are representing a now so called “professional sport’, you don’t see other sports act this way, if we are to grow this sport to a more professional level and get some notoriety from the Australian public, governments and sporting community we need to raise the bar in the public perception of fishing, as at present most of the general public see anglers a boozing yobbos, it’s not far from the truth sometimes.
- Personnel presentation and cleanliness is very important. Shaving, ironed clothes, deodorant go along way in sponsorship. Keep spare clean clothes in the boat or car and change at the weigh-ins, spray on some deodorant etc. It’s difficult to keep clean and well groomed during fishing but not impossible.
8. How often to do review your sponsorship arrangements?
In short yearly, but good sponsored anglers I rarely ever have to review their agreements. But depending upon the angler, good anglers who continually promote and sell themselves successfully, I never really assess their agreements as I don’t need to. But I’m now watching anglers especially tournament anglers very closely as the competition for sponsorship is more cutthroat than ever. I think that after a few years there is a breaking point for many anglers, some just cruise along with the “she’ll be right” attitude towards sponsorship, that is noted and when it comes to reassessment I’ll bring that up with them . Many think that once they get sponsored that they’re in for good, but it doesn’t work like that. Each year I’ll review an angler very heavily and those who don’t promote themselves and us will basically be cut from our agreements. It’s not a nice thing to do but we as a company can’t just give away gear to anyone, we need a return and if you’re not willing to provide or requirements then there is no future for anglers versus sponsors.
9. How should a tournament angler go about getting sponsorship?
Exactly the same way as you would approach a job application. Sending me in a letter with a good in-depth description of you with references to tournament placings, publications you have written for, fishing preferences, gear that you already use etc are all good items to include.
Anglers should include the following
- contact name with address, email, Facebook profile and phone number that I can call during business hours. Not a phone that is always turned off. I will contact all anglers who send in resumes, nearly all give me numbers that just go to answering machines and they rarely ever return the call if I leave a message. It must be convenient for me to be able to contact the angler.
- Personnel references especially from tournament organizers, well known anglers etc. Nearly all anglers who send in resumes I will follow up who they are from organizations like ABT, fishing publications and look for their profile on Facebook, Twitter, forums etc
- a list of gear you already own or use.
- tackle requirements with more emphasis on types of gear i.e. rod weights or reel sizes rather than “I need 5 Certate’s with 5 Steez rods, plus ten spools of braid etc.
- photographs or pictures of yourself
- contact me direct for sponsorship.
- enquire to the distributor or manufacturer when they set their budgets for the following year. All companies have a budget time and if you submit your sponsorship enquiry after this time most likely it will be denied.
- A list of what you can do for your potential sponsor.
- If you do get denied sponsorship spend the next year improving your skills and try and promote the company you wish to be sponsored by. When it comes the time to enquire again you have 12 months of a “resume’ to show them.
10. How not to request sponsorship!
This is an area that I see every day. Anglers looking for sponsorship often send the most simple or ridiculous requests. Here’s a few “don’ts’ that will improve your chances for sponsorship.
- Sending your proposal to multiple manufacturers at the same time and their email addresses are included in the email. It’s amazing the amount of times I receive a request that includes multiple email contacts of our opposition.
- Using a joke style email name like “crazywog69@”, “muffdiver@” etc, these are actual email address I have received and they are just a reflection of your character.
- Sending an email, message, letter etc just saying “I love Daiwa can you sponsor me?’ no other details, no contacts etc. requests like this just get deleted, I do not have the time to reply to an email with no information.
- Sending an email with an attachment file like a PDF, Word file etc but no introduction from themselves in the email.
- “Hitting” me up at competitions or social events and especially in front of other anglers. This can be embarrassing for you if I reject your proposal. Simply if you meet me at an event introduce yourself and ask for a business card and contact me privately.
- If you are rejected sponsorship from a company do not criticize them to anyone, on forums, social sites etc. This will get around and when you do approach another company and they have seen or heard about this they will not offer you support.
- Contacting me via my personal Facebook, Twitter, Google + account. That is my personal life, everyone deserves a personal life.
- Requesting sponsorship via our Facebook page. This can be highly detrimental to the angler and the company and posting a request for sponsorship can do several things:
- If we do not respond on our timeline, people perceive it as we are ignoring them and we are arrogant
- If we respond in simple terms “sorry we cannot sponsor you” we are again perceived as arrogant
- If we do answer then other fans may see it as “wow” if he asks then I’ll ask, thus limiting your chance and making our decision even harder
11. What should sponsored anglers realistically expect from sponsorship?
Anglers should expect support at our convenience, we’re constantly busy and I can’t just drop everything for them. I will supply a reasonable range of gear that we see appropriate, the better the anglers ability or promotion the better the gear and bigger the range provided.
Simply saying the more you work for your sponsor the more support you will receive.