Folks often ask me how they can get companies to sponsor their hunting endeavors. Being raised simple and caring about hunting more than anything else during my youth, I never went to any fancy business schools or anything like that. But, I did have the direction of my dad, who, as a construction worker, was one of the best businessmen I knew – not because he learned it from school or someone else, but because he lived life by simple rules.
With my father, what you see is what you get. There are no false trappings or put-on appearances, and these characteristics were passed on to me. Good, bad or ugly, with us you get everything at face value. This has helped me foster relationships with our sponsors greatly.
And that is what it is – a relationship. Just like the one with your significant other and it takes time to develop. Start slow, meet with local companies, and be prepared to show what you will offer.
Yes, you will have to offer something. Companies are not paying hunters just to shoot animals. There are many roles you can play, though. Manufacturers need product advisors, hunters that can help move product and increase exposure. They will be investing in you, and in exchange they will want a return on their investment.
Deals may be hammered out over lengthy meetings and contracts or with a handshake after they see you on stage at a calling competition. Either way, be prepared with a resume of your skills and a proposal for what you are offering and wish to receive in return. Making a name for yourself in the industry will take time, but it will lead to more and bigger doors being opened for you. Don’t waste any opportunity.
In my early days with Realtree, I was always the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave in the evenings when I was working trade shows. Packing boxes and selling some shirts and videos wasn’t glamorous, but I put everything I had in into it because I was thankful for the chance. They saw my dedication and that led to me eventually running a camera.
Get your foot in the door, work hard, go the extra mile and word will get around about your skills. Always remember that it is a partnership and both parties should be benefiting from it. If not, it will not last long. Be realistic in your expectations, too. You have to learn to walk before you run. But when it's all said and done, if you work hard at it, getting bigger sponsors can definitely be done.
I hope this answers some of your questions about how to get sponsors. Bone Collector is incredibly lucky to have sponsors that believe in us, and if you knuckle down, apply yourself and don’t make unfair demands, you will align yourself with great partners, too.