What does “sponsorship” mean?
The first thing I tell people is that sponsorship means different things to different people. For some, receiving a percentage discount on gear is enough to “letter up” the kayak and advertise a business. For others, it means selling the ad space on their kayak for cash. For me, I think the answer lies in the middle. Gone are the days where companies can afford to pay an angler to represent them. The economy and low profit margins won’t support it. It is entirely reasonable, however, to expect some kind of consideration for your product placement and word of mouth. This can range from displaying a sticker of your local tackle store on your kayak in return for 20% everything you purchase to a kayak manufacturer giving you a kayak to use exclusively in exchange for your fish pictures in the aforementioned kayak. So, basically sponsorship is getting something in return for your promotion of a company or item.
How does someone get sponsored?
Stand out from the hundreds of thousands of kayak anglers out there! Kayak fishing is still relatively young, and there are already a few big names out there. There is still a lot of room at the top. Hone your skills and fish a few tournaments, or start a blog. Learn everything you can about being a better angler on a kayak. Post your fishing reports on as many forums as you can find. Learn how to take better pictures - exceptional pictures are mandatory! If you have a company in mind, start posting pictures on their Facebook page showing how successful you are at using their product. Once you have done all of this, you still have to ask. No one will come out of the woodwork and ask to sponsor you. You have to email, call and write to make it happen. Out of every hundred or so contacts you make, you may get one sponsor. The more you stand out, the easier it will be to sell yourself to potential sponsors.
Do you have any tips?
Try to have a thick skin - be prepared for denials. No matter how good or valuable you think you are, it’s their decision to sponsor you. If they say no, be prepared to move on. I once had several kayaks from a particular manufacturer. I loved their products and I contacted them. I informed them that they didn’t have to give me a thing, as I already had everything I needed. I just wanted to be on their pro staff. I was denied and have since moved on and am now on another kayak team.
Stick with companies whose items you use anyway. You already use them and like them, so try not to ban yourself from using them. A good friend of mine used soft plastic lures from a certain company. He always caught fish with them and bought them by the dozen. He made the mistake of accepting a pro staff position with another company that makes soft plastics, and can no longer use his favorites because they are “competition”.
Don’t “give it away”. Everybody makes stickers nowadays, and it’s not uncommon to see a lot of them on someone’s kayak or vehicle. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you want sponsorship keep your kayak uncluttered. Why would your favorite bait store offer you a discount on purchases when no one will see his sticker on your boat? Why would a lure company offer you a discount when you already sport their logo?
Lastly, have fun. When it comes down to it, it’s just fishing. No one that I know makes a living fishing from a kayak, so don’t take things to the extreme. Worrying about sponsor obligations and tournament performance can easily take the fun from the sport. A very close friend of mine recently sold his kayak and stopped fishing altogether. He told me he didn’t think there should be so much pressure for something that was supposed to be fun.
If you are lucky enough to get the attention of a sponsor, always remember that you now have another job. You have to represent that company as much as possible by working hard to get their name out there. That means lots of pictures, fishing any tournaments that come your way, and using their product all the time. Consider carefully what you want out of sponsorship and whether it’s worth it. Good luck.
About the Author: Bob Bramblet is an avid tournament angler, competing in local, regional and national events. He is the President of the Southwest Florida Kayak Angler’s Association at www.swfkaa.com, and Captain of the Blue Line Fishing Team at www.bluelinefishingteam.com. Bob also writes kayak fishing articles and reviews for several online resources and kayak fishing magazines. He can usually be found fishing his home waters of Estero Bay or Pine Island Sound, where he has been fishing for over 20 years.