Searching for Sponsorship

KMT Tournament Journals



We awoke at 2:30 a.m. at my Cape Carteret, N.C. home on Saturday morning, March 10. It wasn't even tournament day. In fact, our first event was two and one-half months away, and the desire to catch a king mackerel was only a distant ambition at that moment. Members of my Liquid Fire Fishing Team were preparing to make a five-hour journey to Charlotte, N.C. and relishing an opportunity to represent one of our sponsors, SPRO / Gamakatsu, at the Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic.

After securing our team shirts, hats, and product literature, we departed in my Suburban at 3:05 a.m. and headed to the unfamiliar grounds of the Queen City. (Obviously, she is no relation to the Queen Snapper -- not a bit of saltwater there. However, there is an incredible freshwater fish tank with some monster largemouth bass.) Anyway, after two, maybe three, 24-ounce cups of Hazelnut coffee (cream only please), a long, but uneventful ride placed us at exit 49 on I-85 at 8:00 a.m. Five minutes later, we were surveying the isles of Bass Pro Shops and familiarizing ourselves with the location of the products that we were anxiously preparing to represent.

On this day, we were our sponsor's personification of professionalism - the experts. We did not have to know everything about all of the products -- just be familiar with them, smile, and be honest about its quality and value. The previous day had contained a pleasant lunch meeting with my sponsor's representative, Carl Carson. We discussed marketing strategy, new product line, and SPRO / Gamakatsu's expectations of my team at this popular boat show.

Mr. Carson had done his homework and timed the representation perfectly. In addition to hosting the weigh-in for the local Fisher's of Men Bass Tournament, Bass Pro Shops was having a sale on some of the SPRO artificial baits and Gamakatsu hooks. The SPRO / Gamakatsu products are fabulous and basically sell themselves due to the quality. My team was there mostly as a support tool. It proved to be a successful game plan, as the hooks, crank baits, and top-water plugs flew off the shelf. This was a marketing strategy success, and we were thrilled to be part of it.

One of the many challenges for some tournament teams is to attain sponsorship to help incur at least a few of the numerous tournament expenses, such as: entry fees, fuel, tackle, bait, ice, etc. With sponsorship being one of the "S" words in tournament fishing, many teams work diligently throughout the year in hopes of securing it, and some have been highly successful in achieving this goal. Generally, the depth of sponsorship coincides with productivity a team experiences on one or more of the tournament trails. In return for either financial or merchandise support, the company's expectations involve the partnership benefit advertising and increased awareness of the products and / or services they offer the public.

During the Bass Pro Shops event, I had an opportunity to meet and converse with a respected and successful captain on the SKA Mercury Professional Kingfish Tour. Rob Ferris, of the Mad Mouse Fishing Team and a contractor in the Charlotte area, was at the show representing his boat sponsor, SeaCraft. His new 32-foot, ice blue, center console was proudly displayed. As the masses gathered to hear renowned largemouth bass angler, Shaw Grigsby, give an instructional seminar, Ferris exhibited a welcoming patience as he directed interested patrons, one after the other, onto his new vessel. His smile was infectious and genuine as he greeted each potential customer; the return on investment SeaCraft achieved will be astounding.

The publicity and advertisement the company received by someone they chose to invest in was powerful. There were thousands of potential new boat owners that received personal attention by one of their pros. It was truly an impressive exhibition.

During the day, several of my team members and I spent hours in the lure and hook sections in this incredible facility. We spoke with hundreds of customers that seemed to want to gravitate to the guy with the white Columbia fishing shirt and SPRO ball cap. Maybe they thought I was the custodian and possibly knew how to direct them to the restroom. I even had one 12-year old fishing enthusiast request an autograph. All I could really do is smile and inform him that I was happy to fulfill his request. However, I had to explain with brutal honesty that my signature, coupled with $6.99, plus tax, would get him one of the SPRO Aruku Shad crank baits we were representing. Heck, I'm not even that popular with my own family. Another gentleman made the statement that this must be a great way to make a living. I'm sure it is… for someone. On the other hand, we do it because… well, did you get the opportunity to read the March 15 edition of the Fisherman's Post for "Why KMT Fishing" on page 31?

As our responsibilities began to come to a close, an unmistakable char-grilled scent of a juicy bratwurst caught our attention. A quick pit stop to research the aroma that had infected the crowd's olfactory receptors throughout the day was followed by a visit to the Vault soft drink wagon that was furnishing 20-ounce sample bottles. The quick shot of caffeine "vaulted" me into my driving mode once again. As we departed Bass Pro Shops at 6:05 p.m., we were tired, but content that we were able to answer the call for our backer.

Our team, in unison, had been introduced to the corporate world, and as I pulled into the comfort of my driveway at 12:05 a.m., the journey home seemed almost momentary. The photos and event report that I submitted to Mr. Carson made me proud of my team's efforts to introduce new customers to the product and grow my sponsor's market share. I'm sure we still have a lot to learn, but this was an opportunity to grasp the concept of SPONSORSHIP. It is not about getting as much product or financial assistance as possible; although, generally this is one of the benefits that goes along with being on a national company's Pro-Staff. Building a relationship for long-term success between the team and the company it represents is the ultimate goal.

Working hard for and securing sponsorship is not something to take lightly. Many hours of gathering photos, writing letters, organizing portfolios, and making telephone calls only to have the request turned down more often than not, is tiresome and disappointing, to say the least. However, events like the one we attended as a family and team at Bass Pro Shops builds character. It exposed a couple of my children to a new responsibility and dedication in life. Sometimes these responsibilities require commitment and hard work, which leads to daily fulfillment. Although, I can't lie, a big ol' check to pay for entry fees and fuel sure would be nice!

Until next time, if you have any questions or suggestions for future KMT Journals columns, please feel free to contact us.


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