You don't have to be Jay Yelas with big name sponsors all over your shirt to be successful in the sponsorship side of tournaments. Cyrus Ruel tells you about some useful options here in 'How to Attain Local Sponsors.'
You don’t have to be Jay Yelas with big name sponsors all over your shirt to be successful in the sponsorship side of tournaments. Cyrus Ruel tells you about some useful options here in ‘How to Attain Local Sponsors.’

I’d like to begin by giving credit for the idea of local sponsorship to Scott Rauber the author of Fish for Free.

A couple of years ago a friend and I were kicking around the idea of tournament fishing. We heard about an up and coming tournament being sponsored by a local radio station and we decided to sign up.  I was so excited the night before I couldn’t sleep.  I woke up later than I wanted to that morning and we had to rush to make check-in time.  We didn’t do very well in that first tournament but we found another tournament to fish a month later.  We fished the second tournament and did a little better but it was still nothing to write home about.  That led to fishing the entire tournament trail the next year and it turned out to be a great learning experience.  One important lesson was realizing that tournament fishing is expensive and it would be really nice to have help covering the costs.

Attracting and signing local non-endemic sponsors is a great way to generate income for your tournament fishing.  When I refer to local non-endemic sponsors I am referring to the non-fishing products and services that you use every day.  Every tournament angler dreams of big name fishing industry sponsors but most of us would be really happy with just small name endemic sponsors.  The unfortunate truth is that most of the big name sponsors are not going to be interested in relatively “small time” amateur tournament anglers.  If they are interested, the majority of them are not going to write you a check.  It is more cost-effective for them if they give you free or discounted products or services.  This is not a bad deal, but it doesn’t help you cover your costs of gas, oil, lodging or entry fees.

So, look for sponsorship in places like the local coffee shop, your auto mechanic or even your insurance guy.  Try and think of any business that would benefit from advertising to a tournament or non-tournament audience.  For example, most people, tournament angler or not, like to drink coffee and if you can advertise for a coffee shop to 100 anglers at a tournament on Saturday and another 50 people fishing for fun on Sunday, you just potentially introduced 150 new people to the coffee shop. From the perspective of the coffee shop owner it’s an easy thing to endorse.  Everyone wants more business because as we all know, more business equals higher profits.  In most cases you and your buddies have been loyal customers and drank enough coffee over the years and the coffee shop doesn’t mind helping you out.

One of the best ways to acquire sponsors is to leverage existing relationships.  If you work for or own a company that sells a product or service that the average person can use then start there.  If a friend or relative has a business that might benefit from your advertising help, then talk to him/her.  If your father in-law has a friend that runs an automotive dealership, see if he will introduce you to him. Realistically the worst thing anyone is going to say is “no”.  I believe that you may be able to get a couple of sponsors based on curiosity alone because they are interested in learning more about tournament fishing or simply because they enjoy fishing themselves.  Also, if your sponsor shows an interest in fishing it would be a good idea to make time to take them out fishing.  A couple hours of your time, for the sponsorship they are giving you is certainly a good investment.  It all comes down to sponsor relations, and don’t forget to offer to buy the “beverages” for the trip.

Another idea that Fish for Free gave me was the use of a tournament vest or shirt.  Scott Rauber, suggests that you add up your tournament expenses, divide by the number of sponsors you want and ask for the same contribution from each sponsor.  I have taken that idea and changed it a bit.  In my opinion different sponsors are willing to spend different amounts of money.  I use both a tournament shirt and my boat for sponsor advertising.  I offer each sponsor placement on either or both in varying sizes, depending on how much money they want to invest in their advertising.

Pricing the advertising can be one of the hardest pieces to complete.  I cannot tell you what you should charge but I can give you an idea of how I determine my sponsorship packages.  I created a sponsorship levels price sheet based on the amount of exposure the business will get and the size of the logo.  For example a large logo on the boat costs more then a large logo on the shirt.  The reason behind this is the boat goes almost everywhere I do, the shirt is only worn during tournaments and weight-ins.  This means the logos on the boat get a lot more exposure then logos on the shirt and in my opinion that space is worth more money.

I have also taken my idea that boat space is worth more than shirt space and refined it further.  I feel that logo size should also determine price, regardless of shirt or boat.  For example; a full chest or full back logo on the shirt is worth more then a pocket sized logo.  I also think it is important to provide a quantity discount on advertising.  Meaning; if the front chest of the shirt is worth $200.00 and the back of the shirt is $200.00 that you might sell the same sponsor both spots for $300.00.  Keep in mind that $300.00 for both is better then the front for $200.00 and nothing for the back.  Also, if you have a customer that wants both boat and shirt then cut them a deal.  I think you need to be flexible in order to make this work out for both you and your sponsor.

Another good way to gain sponsors is by trading services.  For example, you will need the graphics and boat decals for the new sponsor you just signed.  Take your boat to the sign shop and ask if they will do the vinyl work for advertising space on your boat.  If you need embroidery on your tournament shirt ask the embroidery company if they are interested in adding their advertising to your shirt for the cost of the work you need done or a least a discount.  The shirt is paid for with the first sponsor, so you can afford to be flexible at that point.

Now, here are a few of the challenges that I have encountered in creating this process.  The tournament shirt is probably the biggest challenge related to the entire sponsor process.  True tournament shirts come in many designs and fabrics and are made by a variety of different companies.  Once you identify the company you are going to use and pick out the shirt you like it will take 4 to 6 weeks to get the shirt made and shipped to you.

The cost is approximately $50.00 to $75.00 per shirt.  Once they arrive you need to get them to the embroidery shop and get them embroidered.  This can take another couple weeks to complete.  The point is; try and get you shirt sponsors signed on early.  The second biggest challenge is losing a sponsor.  This means you will be going through this entire process again next year.  Here is the reason you will want to keep the relationship strong with each of your sponsors.

I already talked about taking them fishing and making an effort to spend some time with them if possible.  Another key component is communication.  They want to hear from you.  Keep them interested in what you’re doing.  Let them know how you’re scoring.  You may want to suggest they create a coupon for their business that you can hand out around the tournament as part of your support of their sponsorship.  The more your sponsors feel like your “partner” the more likely they are to sign on next year.  They need to know that their advertising dollars are getting their business something in return. It is not out of the question to have $150.00 to $200.00 tied up into shirts every year.  It would be great if you could avoid starting from scratch at the beginning of each season.

Sponsors are a great resource and a huge benefit to the local tournament angler.  I think a lot of people think about getting sponsors and dismiss the idea because they feel their tine is worth more than the money a sponsor will contribute.  I personally feel that idea is a little short-sighted.  The majority of sponsorships can be handled completely by phone and/or email and at the most a 15 minute meeting.  I think it is well worth your time.

One last thought; there is nothing wrong with getting paid to do what you love or for something you are going to do anyway. There are probably people in your area that would be willing to help you pursue your fishing career if you take the first step.  It just takes a little effort; some creative thinking and you can smile all the way to the bank.

Want more about getting sponsored? Check out: Looking for Sponsorship? – An Insider, Business Owner’s Perspective

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