If I hear this one again, “How can someone get sponsorships?” I think I’ll take up sand painting. Don’t try and figure out how to get a sponsor. Instead, try and build an image, try to be the person the companies want to sponsor–which means, you have to be on their radar.

Every time I check in with Tami Curtis (check her out), now living in Texas, I find she’s involved in yet another industry-related coup. True, she’s got a very nice “portfolio,” but she is also using her professional skills in sales, reading markets, web design, as well as regular co-anglering.

While many very good bass catchers moan that their angling skills are under-appreciated, the fact is, they’re right.  Marketability begins with recognition or visibility, but there is nothing in the marketing rule book that says that only comes with a weigh bag in your hands.

I’ve heard it argued that if you catch enough bass, you won’t need the marketing skills–that winning will set you up for years. Well, Mike Hart has won more than Brent Ehrler, Mike Folkestad and Dean Rojas combined over the last 10 years. But you’d have to be a pretty savvy guy in Texas, Alabama or North Carolina to know Hart’s remarkable track record out here.

Winning is great, but marketing takes a pro-active approach. In the old days when print media dominated and TV was the novelty, if your image/name appeared a million times a year: say 8 times in WON, once in Western Outdoors Magazine, twice in the Fish Sniffer, and half a dozen times in Fishing & Hunting News, you could be a household name in 12 months!

In fact, I used to tout a system called the “12-month Hero Program.” The idea was to generate as much visibility as quickly as possible.  Dean Rojas’ early career might be categorized that way. Starting with local activity in San Diego, his image quickly spread so that he was practically a household name by the time he whacked that record catch in B.A.S.S. Yes, it still took several years to develop into a first-tier traveling pro, but Dean was already riding solid name recognition.

Now look at him.

Today, of course, there are fewer publications in which to be seen and the Internet has created “instant experts.” Though some posters may actually be experts, the problem is a casual viewer cannot tell which response (of 40 “Which is the best rod for roasting marshmallows?”) is the most credible. We’ll listen to a Gary Dobyns; we’re not so sure about Freddy Backwater.

And while “instant” isn’t a bad word, the fact is, as fast as opinions appear on the web, they quickly slide off the home page. The real secret to credibility is not for you to stand in a crowd and wave your resume in front of sponsors, but rather, for a third party…like a radio show host, webmaster, tournament director, fellow pro or even a plain old media guy, to make the introduction, literally or figuratively.

There is nothing wrong with posting on the message boards, but the reasonable, even polite response puts you in a better light. Call into the fishing radio shows, continue to send your photos into the local fishing paper (if you can find one), read the local outdoor guy’s column and respond with an idea, suggestion or offer.

We can all laugh about it, but Rich Tauber’s nickname (“The Milkman,” for milking his 1982 U.S. Open win) is the best evidence that careers are not all about fishing.

Marketing is about visibility. They never sponsor the guy they never heard of.


11 Responses to “The ol’ sponsorship question…”

Thanks for the mention George.

You brought up some very good points.
Visibility/exposure is a huge part of it all, and yes it is A LOT of hard work to market one self.

I’m not an Iaconelli, Folkestad, Bain, Reese, or Danica Patrick…but I an only able to fish because of my sponsors.

…and the truth of the matter is that I wouldn’t have the sponsors if it weren’t for the third-party folks like yourself, that create media exposure.


by Robert Schneider

Hey George,
“How can someone get sponsorships?”
Good article/blog. You hit the nail on the head.


PS. Looking forward to seeing your first sand painting. LOL

by George Kramer

And here’s a nice “add” to the “Milkman’s resume.” Could Rich Tauber win Ultimate Match Fishing 2010? He actually took down easterner Marty Stone by more than 7 pounds and there are only 6 anglers left in the title race. Next up, Denny Brauer, May 12 at Buggs Island. Obviously, marketing hasn’t hurt the Tauber myth…

Nice write up George. So many good fishermen don’t understand the promotion/marketing concept. When someone with, and I use the term loosely, “lesser” talent gets the sponsor glory, they get the Vulcan eyebrow raise by their peers. Derby wins are nice on the resume, but can that guy help bring more sales to a Mfg. promoting the next Syxe Chartreuse Clown Laser Eye Spinner Crankbait?

Good read.. Well said..

Who’s George Kramer? 😉
I really like this one, George.

by John Caulfield

George: I have so many friends who fish tournaments at varying levels who never send me photos for consideration in WON… Yet they wish they had more sponsorship support. While I do not make the decisions as to which photos make the cut…I do have some good pull with those that do. And I am always glad to help. 95% of these guys just don’t get it.

You can lead ’em to water but you can’t make ’em drink!

by George Kramer

It has always been a mystery to me. Maybe they don’t think the fish is big enough or probably it’s just too much trouble. But marketing is a numbers game. Not every photo may get published, but 100 percent of those never sent will certainly never be seen.

Ah the “Want to Bee’s” … “what can you give me (always having their hands out)” “I know how to catch bass better than anyone so why can’t I get a sponsorship?”! I have heard it all G-Man. Anytime you want to talk about it give me a call … maybe its time to go out and catch some more greenies!

A+. Not sure you see responses to articles over 1yr old but I just ran across this one while surfing tonight. As usual, very relevant information. Perhaps even worthy of recycling for the T-shirt salesmen out there looking to up their game. Maybe even include a social media addendum?

by George Kramer

But wo, wo, wo. They’ve heard of Mike Hart now, haven’t they? 🙁