The sponsor situation at FLW Outdoors continues to deteriorate. After the recent loss of Land O'Lakes and Pure Fishing, Kellogg's pulled the plug on its involvement with the league and ended a 10-year relationship. Pros were informed last week.
At the same time, Yamaha is in a holding pattern until the Genmar bankruptcy is resolved, and there's no indication that BP
will continue its heavy involvement. In fact, Castrol – a BP brand – recently downgraded its sponsorship of the league and will field just two pros next season.
And Walmart – the company that many consider to be the glue that locked in sponsor deals for consumer-goods companies like Land O'Lakes, Kellogg's and Castrol – is well under or even off the sponsor radar as the 2010 season approaches.
Furthermore, the shocking loss of so many team deals for pro anglers has again turned a spotlight on FLW Outdoors' restrictive logo policy, which only allows the display of FLW sponsor logos on the final days of fishing.
Currently, 18 pros have lost team deals, and if the BP sponsorship does in fact disappear, that would add another nine pros to that list for a total of 28.
Cabela's is expected to field a team next year, which would shave that number down, but still, there's every possibility that only 25 or so pros would fish for a sponsor team next year. If the Tour fields 150 boats as hoped, that would mean FLW Outdoors would restrict the logos of 83% of its pros for the benefit of 17%. For a much-reduced overall purse and fewer contingencies no less.
As for the Kellogg's team, which this season included Clark Wendlandt, Dave Lefebre, Alvin Shaw, Jim Tutt and Greg Bohannan, they're left without a title sponsor about a month before the start of the FLW Series, and just 2 months before the FLW Tour kicks off.
Kellogg's, upon inquiry, did not specify a reason for its departure, however, its involvement was believed by many to he heavily tied to Walmart's presence. For example, there was a period this decade when the FLW Tour Angler of the Year appeared on the front of Kellogg's Corn Flakes boxes sold in Walmart.
After Shaw issued a statement about the loss of his sponsorship, BassFan spoke with three additional members of the now-defunct team. Clark Wendlandt is fishing in Mexico and cannot be reached.
Their reactions to the loss of their Kellogg's sponsorships appear below. Like Shaw, Lefebre opted to furnish a written statement. Bohannan and Tutt were interviewed.
Shaw Faces Uncertainty
Shaw, along with Tutt and Wendlandt, was one of the founding Team Kellogg's members in a deal that stretched back 10 years. Most recently he represented the Cheez-It brand.
Shaw's statement read: "It's a huge disappointment to all of us who've worked together on behalf of Kellogg's for so many years. Not only will Kellogg's be extremely hard to replace in a financial sense, it will be difficult to find a sponsor of Kellogg's caliber. The company truly represents everything good about America – innovative, focused, fiscally responsible, dedicated to providing the best product available, and extremely loyal not only to its employees but its customer base and the communities in which it's privileged to operate. I'm just so grateful to have been a small part of this wonderful company for the last 10 years."
Shaw did bank a $200,000 nest egg last year when he won at the Detroit River, which that year was the Chevy Open, but
his statement addressed his plans for 2010 and seemed to hint at the possibility of retirement.
"While the FLW organization has done a wonderful job of bringing the excitement of top-level competitive fishing to many sections of the U.S., for the individual fisherman it's an extremely expensive venue in which to participate. Without major sponsorship, most would-be participants are unable to compete, and I'm no exception. I'm currently talking with some outstanding companies and hope to have the opportunity of turning all of my energy toward representing one of them. If nothing materializes though, I can honestly say I've had the best 14 years possible, and with more free time, I can always just "go fishing.'"
Alvin Shaw is looking for other sponsor opportunities, but realizes that competition may be unaffordable without major backing.
Lefebre 'Not Jumping Ship'
Lefebre happens to be coming off a career year, which included a Top 10 at the Forrest Wood Cup (after he was runner-up the year before), a runner-up points finish in the Eastern FLW Series and a win at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. In 10 months, he posted more than $375,000 in combined FLW Outdoors and Texas Bass Classic winnings.
He represented the Keebler brand throughout his time on the Kellogg's team.
Lefebre's statement read: "It's been an awesome ride. Kellogg's was a blessing and I wouldn't be where I am today without them and FLW Outdoors. It was an honor to be a part of that team for five seasons. As with any sponsor whom you believe in, it was actually fun promoting them over the years, mainly because it centered around the younger generation – speaking at grade schools, working the Kellogg's Ranger Boat simulator, giving out cookies. I'm obviously saddened by our relationship coming to an end. Keebler has become my identity for the most part over the years, but it's not the end of the road. I look at it as a new beginning, and honestly I'm excited about what the future may hold. It's unhealthy to look at it any other way. God is so good and I'm learning to trust in Him more and more every day.
"As far as my plans, I'm sticking with FLW. The Northern BASS Opens are without a doubt enticing to me and I had an early invite through Yamaha, but after some thought, I passed. I have several BASS friends and trust me – the grass isn't always greener. For now I'm going to thoroughly enjoy my time off with my family and not worry about things. I've been in hyper-panic mode basically since I started fishing pro in 2003 and it feels good to just forget about it all for a while and start fresh in 2010. Usually I have all my contracts signed by now and I'm going over final graphics for my next boat and RV, but this year I haven't signed a single contract – everything's word of mouth. But I have faith."
Jim Tutt will put his marketing degree to work.
Regarding his plans for 2009, Lefebre's statement read: "Almost everyone's in the same boat. All we can do is wait and see what happens. I'll be fishing the FLW Tour and I'll also look into the Eastern Series, as FLW is trying to give us some options to make the payouts stronger. It's got to be tough for them because some guys are upset that the Series has been cut in half, but there are others who really like the changes. You can't please everyone, but FLW's truly trying to satisfy both sides and so far I like what I'm hearing about what's in the works. FLW always listens to us and tries so hard to make things right. Sponsors or no sponsors, that's the main reason I'm not jumping ship."
Tutt Disappointed, But Will Fish Tour
Texas pro Tutt, as noted, enjoyed a 10-year relationship with Kellogg's. He was likewise appreciative of those years, and likewise disappointed it's come to an end.
Most recently, he represented the Rice Krispies brand.
"Obviously it's a huge disappointment – not only financially, but from a friendship standpoint as well, because I had a great relationship with them," he told BassFan. "So it feels like losing your job, but also they were a good sponsor that I think was really good for the sport. I really appreciate all the things they've done for us. We had a good team. It's a bad deal. I just want to say thanks to them again."
Tutt already paid his money for the Texas Strens, and will fish the Tour, but isn't sure about the Series. The payback just isn't there in the Series given travel costs to Florida and New York, he said. As of now, he's funding all his entry fees on his own, and his main sponsor is Evinrude. He does have a degree in marketing from the University of Texas, and he's putting that to work "right away" in search of new sponsors to help ease the burden next year.
He also has access to daily work through a painting company owned by his dad and brother.
Greg Bohannan gave up his day job 3 years ago to turn pro, and doesn't plan to turn back now.
"I've done that my whole life (painted)," he said. "I can work pretty much when I want to. There's a lot of fishermen right now who don't have any backup plan, and I don't know what they're going to do. At least I can work."
Bohannan Staying Positive
Bohannan, who lives in Rogers, Ark., landed his Kellogg's Pop Tarts deal halfway through his rookie season last year. So his ride was comparatively short, but nonetheless fulfilling.
"Of course we're all extremely disappointed," he said. "Kellogg's was such a great company to work for and work with. I really enjoyed it. But I'm still going to fish. I quit my day job 3 years ago to do this, and I'm not going to let this stand in the way. I'm currently searching for new sponsors for next year and I'll pay my way until I can find one."
He did note that he's talking with "two or three corporations" in the Rogers area about sponsorship, but time is short with the season fast approaching. "I've been fortunate enough the last 3 years to win close to six figures each year, and I hope to be able to continue to do that," he noted.
His plans right now include the Tour and the PAA Series. He'll drop the Strens and the FLW Series.
"Everybody I know around me, whether they're in the fishing industry or not, is having a tough time," he added. "All you can do is stay positive, work hard and hopefully the Good Lord will take care of the rest."