Kevin VanDam, the current leader of the World Rankings for Bass Fishing in the USA is 40 years old, has been a Pro Bass Angler for 18 years and has cumulated more than 3 Million US Dollars in prize winnings during his career. This does not include the money he receives from sponsors.
His sponsors include brands such as Strike King Lures, Mustad, Plano, MotorGuide, Quantum, Bass Pro Shops, D&R Sports, Biosonix, RMR Industries, Nitro Boats, Mercury engines and Toyota vehicles.
The top 50 leaders of the World Rankings in 2007 earned 10 Million US Dollars in prize winnings.
Having been a sponsor for quite a few CIPS-FIPS world championships in Europe, I am permanently perplexed at the fact that nothing in Europe compares in anyway whatsoever to the American success.
It is a clear fact that Bass Angling marketing in the US is a powerful way to advertise and promote fishing related products and services and offers a unique opportunity to reach new customers and keep existing ones. An effectively implemented Bass Angling marketing campaign helps build brand awareness, gain market share and increase sales. If that wasn’t the case, the Bass Tour would never have become the multi-million dollar sport it is today!
Competition fishing in Europe starts at club level; it is then managed at national level by elected volunteers through multiple Federations that often only deal with particular techniques such as Fly Fishing, Fresh Water Match Fishing, Sea Angling and Casting.
The National federations are regrouped into the following International Federations:
The International Fresh Water Sport Fishing Federation (FISP-Ed)
The International Fly Sport Fishing Federation (FIPS-Mouche)
The International Sea Sport Fishing Federation (FIPS-M)
The International Casting Sport Fishing Federation (FIPS-Casting).
These International Federations organise the annual World championships, the European Championships or cups and others international events. According to CIPS; an average of 30 to 40 countries of all continents take part in these events and teams are made up of 4 to 6 athletes per nation.
One of the main problems incurrent to these championships is the amateurism of the organisation. When the FIPS congress decides to hold an annual world championship in a particular country, it nominates the National Federation of that country as the official organiser. The National Federation then looks for a suitable spot for holding the event and delegates all local coordination to the local club.
Occasionally, the National Federation attempts to find a sponsor for the event. I must admit that I have fallen for such a proposition a few times in my career as a company decider; the end result of my past experiences can be resumed in two words: “Never again!”
In the nineties, my company bid for sponsorship of the World Freshwater Angling Championships. We co-negotiated with a well known ground bait brand that we represented and paid up over 20,000 Euros in cash and goods. A solid contract was signed with the National Federation of the organizing country. I quickly realized after a couple of meetings that the organisers had absolutely no interest in the promotion of the event whether on a local or on a National level; all they seemed to care about was how well they would receive the participating teams. A clause in the contract stipulated that the dossards would carry the brand names of the two exclusive fishing tackle sponsors. These were produced and supplied. At a meeting on the evening before the start of the event, FIPS members voted against the brand presence. As a result of this, many participants covered up the sponsor’s names with tape in total breach of the agreement.
On another occasion a few years later, a similar amount was paid up, a contract signed: Things went relatively smoothly that time; except that when the President of the company who sponsored the event turned up for the formal prize giving dinner, there wasn’t a table for his group. The main sponsor and financer of the event had been forgotten and all places in the dinner occupied by local authority representatives who had nothing to do whatsoever with the organisation of the event.
As at the end of the day, relatively small clubs are put in charge of organising these World Championships; they are often exposed to pressures and influence by large national federations or team captains. This can be particularly important when it comes to the choice of a fishing spot or a boat. I count a recent World Champion as a personal friend; he has opened my eyes on the maneuvering that goes on behind the scenes of any major event.
As a major participation sport in Europe, Angling deserves much more than the current setup in regards to the competition side of our sport.
As a trade, we need to see a professionalisation at least at the organising level so that potential feedback from major events is not scuttled by benevolent but amateurish coordination. After all, we are professionals in our trade and we have plenty of competent marketing people on our payrolls but we accept the fact that the cutting edge of our sport and therefore the cutting edge of our product development is handled by amateurs with little or no training whatsoever in event organisation and marketing.
Even if the European market is smaller in size than in the US, we still have in the region of 25 million anglers and represent an important economic potential. I am sure our market could be much more buoyant if it was driven by a strong competition tour in an image carrying fishing technique.
It comes back again to Europe: A united market with a divided mentality as we have seen so recently in the last referendums for the European constitution. We are divided in our trade representation, we are divided or invisible in the representation of our sport when it comes to National or European level and we aren’t even capable of organising our competitions so as to benefit from them as a whole.
With such a trend, we shall remain a little business, in a shrinking market, with no other way forward but down the hill.