Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pro-Tips on ProStaff

Prostaff, field staff, ambassador, sponsored, team member, etc.  These are all hot, sought after, positions in the exploding kayak fishing, and fishing, industries.  I have been blessed to pick up several of these opportunities to officially represent the brands I love.  Several have asked me how I do it, so I thought I'd share my experiences here.
My FeelFree Lure, Bending Branches
Angler Pro, Ardent Pro reel.  No, I
am not sponsored by a wizardry
supplier - the wizard staff was found
in the lake and placed in a rod holder
for good luck (it didn't work).

Definition

Each company calls it a different thing, but Prostaff seems to be the most universally used.  People often do not understand the meaning of this team.  Prostaff is short for Promotional Staff.  You are representing the company in different ways in exchange for a discount, sales credit, etc.  I personally do not consider myself a professional angler.  I am not a professional until I can make a living fishing and not have a day job.  Not an easy feat. 

Setting Expectations

Many people have this image in their head of the grandeur of sponsorship. You are standing on the podium with their fully rigged kayak.  Sitting next to Mike Iaconelli, who decided to give a kayak tournament a go.  You need a 9lb. bass to pass him for first place.  Yours weighs in at 9.1 ounces.  

The crowd explodes with cheers, Ike shakes your hand and walks off stage so you can have your moment of glory.  Chad Hoover and Joe Haubenreich approach the stage.  You are being sprayed with champagne as tears swell in your eyes.  Chad and Joe shake your hand, handing you a medal and a check bigger than your kayak.  They hoist you up on their shoulders.  Mark Zona is pushing reporters aside in an attempt to get the first interview.  The sponsors in attendance start thrusting free product and contracts in your arms.  Chuck Norris gives you a thumbs-up and a wink from the front row of the VIP section.  You are on top of the world.

If any of this sounds close to your expectations of Prostaffing, I am going to bring you back to reality.  It is truly an honor to represent these companies, but it is all about hard work, it is a two-way street, and nothing is free.

The Perks

The benefits of being a Prostaff member vary greatly by company.  Some tangible perks can include:
  • Product discounts
  • Product credit for sales and/or events worked
  • Free sample/small/marketing items (decals, clothing, samples, etc).  Don't expect a free rod/reel or kayak.  Though possible, it isn't typical.
Other Prostaff benefits can include:
  • A profile on their website to help promote your fishing 
  • Promotion of your videos/pictures/accomplishments on their social media
  • Opportunities for testing new equipment
  • Inside information on new products
  • A bigger network in the fishing community with comradary of fellow team member
The Requirements

Companies have various requirements or expectations for their Prostaff.  This varies greatly by company.  Some companies require activities, while others recommend it.  They can include:
  • Promotion through your social media channels
  • Exclusive use of their brand
  • Wearing their logo on your tournament jerseys
  • Applying their logo to your boat and/or vehicle 
  • Showing and selling product at trade shows
  • Participating in various charity, tournament, or community events
  • Product reviews
  • Blog posts
The Catch

Sponsorship is a two-way street.  You can get one or more of the perks mentioned above.  In return, you are expected to perform one or more of the requirements above.  So how are you held to that?  Some companies have a contract with various terms, conditions, and duration.  Some companies have things they would like you to do, but no contract (Note: if you do nothing for them in this situation, chances are you won't be retained on the team).  READ THE CONTRACT CAREFULLY.  Make sure you can meet the requirement(s),  Some people aren't willing to use a certain brand exclusively (ie lures).  Some people cannot travel and work at trade shows.  Be aware of what you are signing up for.

Fine, I get it, but how do I get sponsored??!?!?!?!?!?

I get it, you want sponsorship quickly, but it is not a quick process.  Here is my (successful) approach to sponsorship.

1.  What is your Angle(r)?

Continued advances in fishing technology (and technology in general) has opened up unlimited possibilities for the sport.  What do you want your personal "brand" to be?  Too much can confuse your audience or become overwhelming to manage.  What type of vessel(s) will you use?  SUP?  Kayak?  Canoe?  Boat?  Pool noodle?  Arm floaties?  Each type of vessel pulls in different audiences and brands.  Trying to do too many (my opinion) makes it hard to focus and can be financially difficult.  I personally fell in love with kayak fishing and stuck with that.  Though I do use other vessels time-to-time.

There is an important aspect to this point, that is the mechanism(s) you plan to use to promote your personal brand/angle.  Are you going to focus on tournament fishing?  Are you going to be a "social media" fisherman?  Both?  

I personally dove into both, which is great.  However, I found I needed to balance the two.  I'm married, with two young kids, pets, a mortgage, and a day job.  When I started getting more serious into tournament fishing I felt obligated to fish.  This impacted my personal life and my primary mechanism (this blog and related social media) suffered.  I was too tired to write/post.  I was too busy to write/post.  I would get home after an 8 hour work day and 4 hours on the water, sitting on my laptop catching up with my writing.  It wasn't fair to my family.

My balance is focus on my blog/social media.  I still participate in tournaments, but enjoy the competition.  I don't let it define how much/when I fish.  Everyone's balance will be different.  But push too hard and you could get burned out.

2. Don't Think About It

Most people fish because they enjoy it. So go out and enjoy it.  Share your experiences through social media pages/accounts and industry groups.  Take pictures/video of the fish you catch, take beautiful scenery pictures with the products you use and love.  Share them and tag them on your social media.  It will get noticed.  But if you focus on getting sponsors, rather than the fishing, your hobby could become a job.  Not a career, a job.  A job is something you have to do, but don't really love it.  A career is a long-term occupation that provides you with financial stability.   You (on most days) love of the occupation.

3. Check the Ego

We have all seen them.  The self-proclaimed professionals.  They show up to the launch with a wrapped boat/kayak.  Or it is loaded with stickers.  They are wearing a jersey filled with logos.  These may/may not actually be their sponsors.  But the walk, act, and talk to everyone like they are the next big thing in fishing.  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of decals and sponsor logos.  But I don't let it go to my head.  Sure, it turns a lot of heads.  But that is the point.  You want people to notice the brands you use.  I usually fish very early in the morning.  The launch is typically barren.  But when I land in the afternoon, the launches are filled with various types of people.  Every time I land, I get questions about my kayak, my rods/reels, my sonar, etc.  I love speaking with people and supporting the brands I'm passionate about, so I always oblige. 

On the water, I get several boats and kayaks come up to me to ask the same.  Even if it interrupts my fishing, I am always happy to chat (if I was in a short tournament I would have to politely decline but would give them my email address so we could chat later).  I love helping others learn about the brands, industry, and help where I can.  This is a great reflection upon the brands I represent.  

4.  Be Honest!!!! 

Be honest about your accomplishments and credentials.  This should not require a detailed explanation.  However, credibility is everything here.  With social media, you will be caught if lying.  Your credibility will be destroyed.  It isn't worth it.

5. No Hail Mary

I made this mistake early on when I tried picking up some sponsors and quickly realized it was not the right way.  I was messaging several companies via social media, email, etc.  Some of these companies get thousands of requests for sponsorship every day.  Chances of you actually getting one to bring you on without a resume to back it up is slim-to-none.  I quickly became frustrated and discouraged (hence point 1 above).  

I took a step back and thought about my approach.  I was using products from several brands that I truly loved.  Rather than throwing a Hail Mary to every company in the industry, I stopped thinking about it, stopped forcing it.  I enjoyed my time on the water, using my social media to showcase and promote the brands I personally loved.  I tagged them in my posts, participated in their groups, and kept in contact with the company.  Eventually things worked out better than I ever expected.

If you force a sponsorship with a brand/product you haven't used, it will show.  Either it will prevent you from getting the sponsorship.  Or you may not particularly enjoy the product after you get the sponsorship.  I only choose to represent companies I personally use and love.  Your promotional expectations just come naturally when you use and love the product.

6. A Resume, Written More Gooder than ur Txt Msgs lol ;-)

Have a fishing-specific resume.  It should include your address/contact information.  Many sponsors add team members based on representation in regions.  If they don't have staff in your area, your chances of representing them is greater.

Nobody is perfect.  But your resume should be.  Your grammar, formatting, spelling should all be perfect.  I know my blog posts are not perfect by any means.  I constantly find typos, grammatical issues, etc. that I touch up.  Resumes are different.  There is NO EXCUSE for errors on the relatively brief document.  I personally throw out any with errors.  Any errors tell me the person doesn't care enough to pay attention to the details.

Have friends, family, teachers, coworkers, anyone proofread it.  And for goodness sake, make sure you know the difference between "your" and "you're" or "there", "their", and "they're"!!!

7. Be Reasonable and Stay in Touch

I kept in touch with several brand employees while working on sponsorship.  I would send an email to introduce myself, tell them why I use/like their product, why I would be honored to represent their company.  Don't push it, but ask them what they require/would like to see if I would like to join their team someday.  Thank them for their time.  Many will respect the inquiry and provide feedback.  Keep their contact info handy and stay in touch.  Tell them about major milestones (tournament wins, social media following milestones, publications).  

These follow ups show them true interest and update them on your personal brand.  I personally wouldn't bring on any team members unless they followed up on their original inquiry.  If they only inquire once, they are just throwing up a Hail Mary.

You don't deserve to represent a brand.  You work hard to earn the opportunity.

8. What About Prostaffing Companies?

There are companies that provide a platform for aspiring Prostaff to build their personal brand and connect with companies seeking staff members.  I personally haven't used any of these services, but know people who have and found them helpful.  Some companies will ONLY accept staff members via one of these services, which I understand.  With the flood of requests, these services help filter requests.  Just note you will need to pay various fee(s) to leverage these services.  They can be a great platform to start a blog, a fishing network, and augment any social media you may have.  

That is it

The above information and tips is purely based on my experience and opinions.  I know of others that have varying opinions.  However, I wanted to share mine with anyone curious about next-steps.  This approach provided me the opportunity to start working with 5 sponsors this year.  

Getting a sponsorship is not easy.  It is hard work, and it isn't for everybody.  Some prefer to "just enjoy fishing".  That means different things for different people.  For me, that is enjoying time on the water while sharing my experiences, and thus promoting the brands I love, with others.  For some that is travelling the country entering tournaments.  Others it may be sitting in a Jon boat with a container of worms, a cane pole, and a 6-pack of their favorite beverage.  To each their own.  Be humble and kind, respect others, and everyone's time on the water will be more enjoyable.

I hope this article was helpful, do not hesitate to comment with any questions, feedback, etc.  I am also happy to help anyone with sponsorship questions.  You can email me at tyler@smallcraftfisherman.com.  I am also happy to share my fishing resume with anyone interested on a good format and appropriate content.

Be safe, tight lines, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!  






2 comments:

  1. I wouldn't mind seeing how that resume is set up if it's not too much trouble.

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    Replies
    1. No trouble at all. You should be able to see it via this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0By7EdPjytDtwS2tQNTlkbVpBMkE If not, let me know. It is a Word Document.

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