Watch the football or Grand Prix on TV and you’ll be bombarded with sponsors’ logos. At a top-end fishing match, though, it’s a very different story.
Aside from the clothing anglers wear and the tackle they use, there’s rarely any sign of a sponsor from inside or outside the sport. Since tobacco sponsorship went the way of the dinosaurs in 2007, match fishing has failed in its quest to find a long-term, lucrative backer for its blue riband events.
Plainly, there’s a problem that prevents match fishing securing its share of outside backing.
So what can be done to take steps towards securing sponsors for the long-term, to benefit not only the anglers taking part, but also the sport’s future?
Sell angling’s benefits - Ben Thompson, Angling Trust Senior Competitions and Performance Manager
Historically, securing any sponsorship has always been a challenge. The angling trade does at least understand how things work, but outside of that it’s tough, because companies and firms don’t understand angling and how it could benefit them. It’s down to how we package and sell it, because sponsors are effectively buying a package that gives them access to a market from which they can sell their products. Doing this requires a certain set of skills, such as a professional marketing executive, something angling doesn’t have. We need to look at this, as I’m sure there are opportunities.
Getting match fishing out in front of people is essential too. Fish O’Mania appears on Sky, we have the press and then a few TV shows, but that’s it. There’s no point in selling just one event across 12 months – we need eight or 10 as a complete package to give a sponsor value for money.
The Angling Trust has around 5,000 entrants for our various matches. That’s not a big figure to take to a sponsor. We need stars who will become big names, and we certainly need to be showcasing matches more.
Stop whinging and act - Rob Hughes, BT sport presenter & England Carp team manager
Angling has a big image problem, and it’s not the most athletic of sports. I can remember a debate I had with a Radio 5 Live presenter. He didn’t understand that a sport doesn’t have to be physical.
Nor does angling have figureheads, real champions. Look at Alan Scotthorne, a five-times World Champion. No one knows who he is outside of fishing, but we could all name a darts or snooker player. It’s not the same people winning or doing well either. We need rivalries like Nadal and Djokovic in tennis.
All that said, I think there are sponsors outside of fishing who could do well. The demographic of angling is perfect for companies like Screwfix or a van dealership, as so many anglers are tradesmen.
We need to change the ethos of how the outside world sees angling. Once we do, they will see how big and how important we can be. Publicising events is crucial too. People need to see the match happening and the drama unfolding.
Angling’s biggest problem is that we whinge in a circle facing inwards.
Instead, we all need to turn around 180 degrees, talk outwards, tell the world what we are and show them what we do.
## Look wider - Phil Ringer, Ringer Baits chief and England star
I’d certainly be approaching fledgling companies for sponsorship, as the bigger boys aren’t going to be interested in fishing. Would Nike get its money back if it moved into angling?
Match fishing isn’t attractive to sponsors, yet if you can tie it in with something that anglers do outside of fishing, there’s a chance. That’s why alcohol and tobacco sponsors worked so well in the 1970s and 1980s.
Barry Hearn told me at a Fish O’Mania final that 20 years ago he couldn’t get a sponsor for anything. Now, there are dozens of online casinos and bookies sponsoring the lot. We all like a bet – is that the avenue to go down for outside sponsorship?
Match fishing isn’t a spectator sport, so there’s no audience to sell to. More fishing on TV would make it work, I’m sure.
Get a stand-out event - Peter drennan, Drennan International boss
Our involvement with the England team wasn’t founded on financial reward, more a sense of pride to be involved with such a successful side full of great lads. Would we sponsor a big match now? I don’t think so.
Something like the National or even the World Champs is a one weekend wonder. A month after it takes place, no-one remembers it as they’ve moved on to the next event and the value of backing it is soon lost. We’re delighted to sponsor the Drennan Cup in Angling Times. It has a rich heritage and is an event that runs for nine months of the year, which means Drennan gets a mention and a good showing every week. Match angling can’t do that. Speaking as a sponsor, the first thing I ask is: “Is there a long-term gain?” In the current market, no. There are too many big events and it all becomes a bit saturated, with no one competition standing out from the crowd.