I have seen a lot of chatter on VA Outdoors and Facebook about being sponsored by various fishing companies. Most of the chatter comes from company owners about the mistakes anglers make when soliciting their company for sponsorship, or membership on their pro-staff team – and any angler seeking sponsorship will be well served to adhere to their advice.
That said, I remember vividly when I thought that being sponsored, or being a pro-staffer for someone’s company or product was the ultimate achievement. I made some mistakes along the way but I always took sponsorship very seriously and gave it my best. With that, the biggest mistake that I have observed by anglers and companies alike is not having clearly defined expectations between one an another. A lot of local companies use a pro-staff member as a
source of additional sales in lieu of using them to promote and or utilize them as a source to improve their product. Some anglers are perfectly satisfied in getting a small discount and having the privilege of saying they are “Sponsored”. Other anglers take it more seriously and have an expectation to have input to improve a product or bring a new product to market.
A company and angler alike must have a clear vision for their company and themselves; they both must have clearly defined goals. If an anglers vision and goals are the same as a companies vision and goals, then this is a formula for success. There should be a contract between the company and angler that outlines clear expectations from each to achieve a common goal. This can be written in the form of a contract or done on a hand shake. What’s important is that the company and angler both know what the goal is, and work together with one purpose to achieve that goal.
Another issue is not having a plan for success which I have seen made by both angler and local companies. I have seen local companies rise rapidly only to close their doors because they couldn’t keep up with customer orders, or they begin to take shortcuts in quality to keep up. I have seen local anglers do the same. They raise rapidly in popularity and success but cannot sustain their success due to job or family responsibilities. They too start taking shortcuts in character and make foolish financial decisions that lead to bankruptcy, or sometimes resort to cheating to maintain their status. It’s sad but true. It’s so important for a company and angler both to realize when their goals have been reached and their success gets to a sustainable point they are satisfied with.
In summary, I believe that most pro-staff members fail miserably in representing their companies or a particular product. It’s not enough to just put in a plug here and there about a product. An angler needs to tell the consumer why its so good in a clear concise way. Another mistake a sponsored angler makes is keeping a great bait a secret that he is supposed to be promoting. How ridiculous is that?
At the same time a local or regional company has two advantages over national companies that they don’t always take advantage of – and that is the ability to respond quickly to what’s hot and what’s not, thereby taking advantage of small windows of opportunity as they arise throughout the year. Secondly, is the ability to provide a custom made product to an angler in a timely manner. In my opinion a local company needs to do both for lasting success.
Finally is the issue of integrity! Whether you’re the company’s owner, or an ambassador for the company, you must always be honest. Just tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may. Honesty is the best policy – always has been and always will be
Jim Whittman is a regular VA Outdoors contributor and tournament angler.