What are some good sponsor strategies?
Response by TNBass and RichZ
Editors note: For background, this included entry is a response to the following question:
To be successful in business, you sometimes are forced to make distinctions between business and personal preferences. If I owned a billboard, I'd be looking for people who wanted to advertise, convince them that my billboard is where a lot of people will pay attention to it, and rent space only to people who were willing to pay me. That way I'd make a profit on my investment. Until I had all my bills paid, I would probably postpone offering free space for public service announcements.
As you enter the professional fishing tournament arena, you are the billboard. There's just so much of you to go around. The better you perform, the bigger you will grow, and the more space you will have to rent. But you'll be operating on extremely slim margins especially at the outset, so you can't afford to give anything away.
You're a salesman, right? You own a retail sales business. You know how to market products in ways that convince others to buy. That skill transfers nicely as you shift to the pro fishing ranks. If you like Smelly Jelly or Yo-Zuri or Triton or Mesa Tackle and you want to promote them, put together a sales campaign and pitch yourself to them.
You're coming out of nowhere. You're an unknown quantity. Your envelope or e-mail will be only one of hundreds that boat, tackle, and fishing-related product manufacturers receive each week. You need to be sure your offering stands out somehow and that you make a good first impression. Don't make them wonder if you'd be a good investment; create a marketing campaign that shows off your credibility, effectiveness, organization, enthusiasm and knowledge of their product, and what you can do for them.
One element of your marketing plan should be a presentation packet that includes:
Just creating the packet, in and of itself, will put you heads and shoulders above 98% of your competitors for sponsorship. It will create the impression that you will put the same energy, thought, and professionalism in promoting them as you do yourself. If you can't promote YOU, why should they believe you can effectively promote them? I've read several hundred requests for Secret Weapon Lures sponsorship this past year. They kind of blend together -- all are pretty much the same. I'd give serious consideration to someone who looked like they considered our sponsorship a high priority rather than just copying me on a generic request for support that went to every tackle manufacturer in the U.S.
Out of curiosity, I sometimes respond to requests by asking what was it about our company and products that made them think we were a good match for them, or that caused them to single us out as someone they could effectively promote. I can tell from the answer -- if I get one -- whether they had to scramble to figure out what kind of lures we manufacture. I can check our sales and promotions databases, and I can usually tell when someone is trying to snow me when, in fact, they've never even seen one of our lures first-hand. That does little to persuade me that they would be a good promoter for Secret Weapon.
Other parts of the marketing campaign might include multiple mailings. Give them triple-chocolate nut crunch instead of vanilla. Lead off with an illustrated HTML email rather than a plain text note. Mention that you'll be following up with a packet of information and to be on the lookout for it. Consider a combination of e-mail and letters, starting with a teaser that gets them interested in learning more.
Be creative. Become a Guerrilla Marketer. (The books of that series will jump-start your imagination. Also see http://www.gmarketingcoach.com and subscribe to their newsletter.) Present your story in a unique way that makes people pay attention. For example, send an envelope with three smaller envelopes inside, numbered sequentially. In envelope 1, have an empty lure package (interesting, but of no great value empty). In envelope 2, enclose a lure (effective, good quality, but not properly presented to buyers). In envelope 3, present yourself -- maybe a good photo of you holding up a winning bass at a weigh-in, wrapped around lure, visible through the packaging sleeve) and make the point that you complete the process that they intended when they put thousands of dollars into packaging design -- i.e., establishing a strong, favorable impression of their products. You're the answer to their problem... not merely a guy with problems of your own that you're hoping they can fix.
I know there are excellent anglers out there who do a terrific job of promoting their sponsors, but who never did what I suggested and probably would have trouble doing so. Things seem to just work out well for some folks; they get a few good breaks and capitalize on them. If you catch some lucky breaks, great. But don't count on them. You're not competing with the guys who are being courted by manufacturers -- you're competing with the 10,000 other guys beside you in the looking-for-sponsors line.
I have confidence in both your angling ability as well as your marketing savvy, and I wish you all the success in the world.
Follow-up by RichZ
> If you can't promote YOU, why should they believe
Still, I am a writer by profession, so I will add a bit of detail. Some of you know that I subcontract a good deal of my time to a couple tackle companies. For one of those companies, dealing with the donation and sponsorship requests is part of what I do. In that capacity, I go through stacks of these things every week, to cull out the 2 or 3 a month that the company actually considers seriously, and from which they will likely select the 6 to 10 a year that they may do something with.
Remember, your selling yourself, and the ONLY reason a company is willing to sponsor an angler, or even throw him a handful a free product a couple times a year, is if they feel he can help increase sales.