Bassin’ Aboard Billboards

Anywhere – Competitive fishing takes a page from nascar with floating ads


What’s fast and floats and is read all over?

A bass boat.

The ubiquitous hot rod tool of the professional angler has taken on a new role for anglers and sponsors: floating billboard.

Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway is sponsored by the usual suspects — fishing tackle manufacturers — but his Ranger bass boat sports the Pedigree dog food logo prominently on each side of the hull.

In the parlance of modern angling, his boat is “wrapped,” not unlike the Capital Area Transit buses in Raleigh, which carry advertising that no longer is painted on but instead is applied like giant sheets of vinyl wrap — thus “wrapping” the buses in laminate and in advertising.

And now the boats.

“Anglers have three platforms to promote sponsors,” Thomas said during a trip to Jordan Lake. “Vehicles — boat and truck — shirt and hat. Pedigree is my title sponsor.”

Even his Chevrolet Suburban tow vehicle is wrapped with the logo. Thomas has been with Pedigree, a subsidiary of Master Foods, for two years.

Just as race cars serve as rolling billboards for myriad sponsors, bass boats have evolved into targeted marketing mediums. One main difference is the boats are going slower and are visible to the public even on off days.

“I had to get used to it when I first signed with Pedigree. People used to pull up to me at stop lights and bark and yell, ‘Dogs rule,’ ” Thomas, 46, said, referring to the Pedigree slogan. “It works 24/7.”

That’s the idea, said Dave Washburn.

As vice president of communications for the FLW Outdoors, along with ESPN Outdoors a leader in professional bass fishing, Washburn has an intimate knowledge of wrapped boats.

“We actually had the first wrapped boats in 1999, but they weren’t wrapped, they were painted,” he said from his office in Benton, Kentucky. “2000 was the year for wraps.”

Washburn said that now the FLW tournament trail has at least 70 wrapped boats showcasing 31 brands.

Fishing companies such as Yamaha, Abu Garcia or Berkley naturally would be candidates for the boat-based advertising medium, and they are.

However, off-the-water sponsors are coming aboard, too.

The National Guard, Land O’ Lakes, Duracell and Folger’s Coffee are some of the companies that are new to cashing in on the angling demographic.

“That’s part of what we bring to the table,” Washburn said. “…We have a whole team dedicated to matching anglers and sponsors.”

Washburn said his company can estimate the exposure a sponsor can expect.

“According to the American Trucking Association, if an angler drives 70,000 miles during the course of a season, the sponsor can expect 7 million impressions over the course of a year,” he said.

It’s not just a national medium. A regional car dealership has jumped on the wrap wagon. Powers-Swain Chevrolet in Fayetteville sponsors a fishing team, and three of the team trucks and boats are wrapped in the Powers-Swain logo. It helps the bottom line.

“I fish the BFL [Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League]; there are two or three wrapped maybe,” said Hal Abshire of Cameron, fleet manager at the dealership. “It sells trucks. … I’ve had several guys come up to me and say ‘We’re interested in buying a vehicle from Powers-Swain because you support fishing.”

Abshire, 52, said having a wrapped boat also has helped his bottom line.
“I know it has opened doors for me,” he said. “Just this year I’ve gotten three new sponsors, and I believe 100 percent

Billboard Connection

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