By Rick Jones

    Welcome to the chair! Take a seat.


    There are two simple (yet not simplistic) sides to every business – Do the right things and do things right. These are not mutually inclusive skills. I’m really good at that first part, so I’ll discuss it in more detail – how to do the right things – but I’m not so good at that second part. Thankfully, I have an amazing staff that is really good at doing things right.


    So, just how do you do the right things in sponsorship?

    It always starts with your audience and what behaviors you want to change or reinforce for that audience. Then, the key to the right thing is providing value to the desired audience through the sponsorship program. Let me repeat myself. You have to provide real value to the target audience you wish to reach and to get the credit for providing that value in the minds of the target audience.


    In our business, most of the time both our corporate clients and the corporate sponsors of the properties we represent want to reach college sports FANS.

    One of the simple things we do for Werner Ladder, the official ladder of March Madness and NCAA Basketball is to allow consumers to climb the real ladder of cutting down the nets after the national championship game. We take the ladder on a tour of the Final Four city; have a ladder at Westwood One’s Radio Row at the National Association of Basketball Coaches trade show at the Final Four; and, also have a ladder in the March Madness Fan Festival.


    Another great example is what Infiniti does in college basketball using coaches. College coaches have become the stars of college basketball and fans like to support their favorite coach. Several years ago we helped create the Infiniti Charity Challenge, where fans vote for their favorite coach to help him raise money for his favorite charity. This makes each fan feel good about Infiniti and puts Infiniti in the consideration set the next time that fan wants to purchase a vehicle.


    Last fall we created the Dollar General Big 12 Championship Tour. The Tour was designed to promote the new Big 12 Football Championship Game and traveled to each of the ten Big 12 schools. Dollar General wanted to both promote it’s designation as the official Homegating and Tailgating Retailer of the Big 12 and to promote select products available at DG. We knew we needed to really engage the fans and did a number of activities to do just that. We displayed the newly designed Big 12 Football Championship Trophy and allowed fans to take pictures with the Trophy. We displayed all ten Big 12 teams’ helmets and asked fans to post their pictures of them holding or wearing their favorite team’s helmet on social media for a chance to win the helmet. We held tailgate toss and ring toss games for terrific prizes like Big 12 t-shirts, team logoed socks, koozies, Cheez It bags and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. We gave out product samples and coupons and even hired celebrity BBQ chefs to cook and serve free BBQ samples. Fans raved about the activations and we provided great value to Dollar General, their vendors, the Big 12 and the Big 12 schools.


    By Rick Jones

    Coaches Care! And, our coaches’ trade associations are making a big difference in the lives of those less fortunate.


    The official charity of the NABC is “Coaches vs. Cancer”, a joint venture between the men’s college basketball coaches and the American Cancer Society.  Founded in 1993 by NABC former president Coach Norm Stewart of the University of Missouri who had successfully battled prostate cancer, Coaches vs. Cancer unites coaches across the country in the common mission to provide help and hope to all people facing cancer.  Today, more than 500 college and 100 high school coaches are involved with the program and nearly $40 million has been raised through their collective efforts.  Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams serves as the current president of the Coaches vs. Cancer Coaches Council. Coaches and their wives raise funds through a number of initiatives including Black Tie Galas, golf tournaments, banquets and other activities.  The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic is held annually in Madison Square Garden in New York City featuring four top college teams.


    Many college basketball coaches also support The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  Started in 1993 by Coach Jim Valvano and ESPN shortly before Jim lost his battle with cancer, The V Foundation seeks to make a difference by generating broad-based support for cancer research through advocacy, education, fundraising and philanthropy.  ESPN hosts an annual Jimmy V Week in December featuring the men’s and women’s Jimmy V Classics and other activities. Proceeds from the ESPY Awards also benefit the V Foundation.  Many of our coaches participate in V Foundation activities including the annual V Foundation Wine Celebration, the Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic and the Dick Vitale Gala. Since its inception, The V Foundation has raised over $70 million and awarded research grants in 37 states and the District of Columbia.


    The NABC Foundation funds three major initiatives – Ticket to Reading Rewards, a middle school reading incentive program; the College Basketball Experience (CBE) and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City; and, The NABC Foundation Benevolent Fund, providing funds for down-on-their luck college and high school coaches.  The NABC Foundation raises funds through a number of initiatives and will hold its inaugural fund raising gala this April in Chicago honoring USA Basketball President Jerry Colangelo.


    The official charity of the WBCA is the Kay Yow WBCA Cancer Fund.  Founded in December 2007, the Fund is named for North Carolina State Head Coach and Hall of Famer Kay Yow, who lost her battle with cancer in January of 2009. Many of America’s top women’s coaches including Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma and Vivian Stringer serve on the Board of Directors along with executives from the NCAA, ESPN and The V Foundation. The Fund is the major women’s cancer initiative of the V Foundation for Cancer Research and will provide research grants for breast, ovarian and other cancers affecting women.  The Fund’s major initiative is the annual Pink Zone in February where coaches, fans, students and corporations unite to raise awareness and funds for the cause.


    The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) supports a number of charitable and recognition initiatives. The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team recognizes college football players that make a significant difference on their campuses and communities through community service/charitable activities.  The AFCA also supports and funds The Jason Foundation, an organization dedicated to youth suicide awareness and prevention and The National Child Identification Program which has provided over 14 million Child ID Kits enabling parents to record their children’s fingerprints and physical characteristics in case they are lost, kidnapped or run away from home.


    FishBait’s newest client, The National Football Foundation (NFF) annually awards post-graduate scholarships to college football players and managers to pursue graduate studies. The NFF also provides funding for Play It Smart, an educational program that assists high school football players from economically disadvantaged environments.


    Wow – what a lineup of causes and charitable endeavors!  For more information on how you or your company can become involved with one or more of these charitable organizations and related programming, please contact me directly.


    By Rick Jones

    In 1963, the late great singer Sam Cooke wrote and recorded “A Change is Gonna Come,” a song that became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement in America. And, yes, in every facet of life, change is going to come.


    I once watched an interview of a one hundred-year-old man on his birthday. The young reporter asked the man if he had seen any changes in his lifetime, and he said, “Yes, I have, and I was against every one of them.” Pretty funny. But also pretty pointless.

    The truth is, you can fight it, embrace it, or lead it. That’s it.


    Put another way—there are three types of people in the world: those who make things happen, watch things happen, or say, “What happened?”


    I choose to make things happen. I choose to change before change changes me. How about you?


    As all of you know, we recently suffered a great tragedy here in Charleston, but good things have come from it. The old confederate battle flag, a symbol of repression and hatred for many, has finally been removed from the South Carolina state house. This is positive change and I commend our governor and other leaders for making it happen. I’m also proud of the way decent people in our state rallied in support of the victims, their families, and their church. Coach John Wooden said it best, “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”


    This past spring also has been a season of change at FishBait Marketing. After 11 years of representing both the NABC and WBCA, we lost the account to another agency. Change can be hurtful if you let it, or you can embrace the change to make you even better. Of course, you hate to ever lose business, but sometimes things simply run their course. We ran a great race for the coaches we represented but that race is over for us. It’s now on to other things. As Satchell Page said, “Don’t look back. Someone might be gaining on you.”


    Much of the previous is from my new book ANALOG ADVICE IN A DIGITAL WORLD published by Advantage Media Group. Pick up a copy here!



    By Rick Jones

    My friend Kim Skildum-Reid, co-author of The Sponsor’s Toolkit and The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit has written a terrific article entitled “Last Generation Sponsorship”.  She says that sponsorship marketing has finally matured to its final level – a level that allows the sponsor to “use the most emotional and personally relevant marketing media to improve your brand’s relationship with a target market and, more importantly, their relationship to your brand.”


    I could not agree more.


    Kim calls the new model of sponsorship, The Conduit. The Conduit is the stickiness that glues the sponsoring company to the sponsored event and to the target audience/market.


    I like to use the term CONTEXT.  Context is the ability of the sponsor to provide incremental value to the audience of the event as the essential element of their sponsorship.


    I am now advising corporations to only sponsor activities where they can bring a compelling added-value component to the targeted consumer in conjunction with the consumer’s participation with the event and, most importantly, get the credit by the consumer for bringing or enhancing the experience!


    Context creates the big idea that adds magic to the consumer’s experience.


    Several years ago we helped MasterCard exploit their sponsorship of the 1994 World Cup.  Many agencies had suggested to MasterCard that the only way to successfully leverage the sport of soccer in the United States was through youth soccer activities.  I strongly disagreed.  A young soccer player might ask Mom for a Coca-Cola or a trip to McDonald’s but would never ask Mom to go and use the MasterCard.


    We instead focused on the economic impact of the first World Cup to be held in the United States and had MasterCard sponsor visitor enhancing activities that not only promoted their brand but also directly impacted the issuance and usage of their cards and other payment system products.  We coined the tagline “MasterCard:  Welcoming the World to America”, which really meant, “welcoming the world’s money to America.  And, we had plans to get a disproportionate share of that money via the use of a MasterCard card through each of our promotional programs.


    Most importantly, the consumer “got it” and knew exactly why MasterCard affiliated with the World Cup.


    Today, smart sponsors and even smarter properties are creating unique and proprietary context in building their activation programs.


    Isn’t it time for you to do the same?


    By Rick Jones

    FishBait at 10


    Someone once posed the question, “Why are the years so short but the days are so doggone long”?  I can certainly agree that the years are short.  On February 6, 2013 FishBait Marketing turned ten years old but it seems like it was only yesterday that we started this adventure.  I had the opportunity to start (and sell) two other agencies, but I vowed this one would be different.


    We specialize exclusively in the collegiate sports space.  We began with a partnership with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), the trade association of college men’s basketball coaches, and this partnership has been one of the great joys of my life. We quickly added the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) giving us great assets in both men’s and women’s basketball.


    A few years later, we began adding multiple college football assets including the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), the Legends Poll, the National Football Foundation (NFF), the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, and the Football Bowl Association (FBA).

    We also added the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and are now implementing a new sponsorship program in the area of sustainability and green initiatives.


    We have the honor to work with multiple charities affiliated with our clients including Coach to Cure MD, the partnership between the AFCA and Parent Project Duchene’s and Ticket to Reading Rewards, a charitable program of the NABC Foundation.


    We’ve also had the opportunity to work with the College Basketball Experience (CBE), the CBE Hall of Fame and Coaches vs. Cancer Classics pre-season basketball tournaments, the Cowboys Classic football game, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and the SEC BeachFest, the Capital One Cup and Werner Ladder.


    Now eleven years later, there are so many people to thank.


    Firstly, I want to thank both our current staff and others who have worked with us the past eleven years. We have a great team of sports marketing specialists who work tirelessly to create value for our clients and the corporate sponsors who support our client’s programs and activities. A very special thank you to my wife, Charlotte, who has worked tirelessly to make FishBait a great place to work.


    Secondly, I want to thank our our current and former clients for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to serve them.  These include Jim Haney and the entire team at the NABC; Beth Bass and her team at the WBCA; Mark Lewis, Keith Martin and David Knopp and the entire team at the NCAA (including former staff members Tom Jernstedt, Greg Shaheen, Peter Davis and Sue Donohoe);  Grant Teaff, Mel Pulliam and Vince Thompson at the AFCA;  Bob Vecchione and team at NACDA;  Wright Waters and Steve Hogan at the FBA; Andy Curtin and the Legends Channel coaches;  Steve Hatchell and Matthew Sign at the NFF, John Stephenson and Brad Olecki at the Atlanta Hall of Fame; Jim Satalin, Natalie Morrison, Howard Goodrow and the entire team at Coaches vs. Cancer; Brad Todd and Kimberly Gailbreath at CTCMD; Manny Ohomne and his team at Samaritan’s Feet; Herb Malone, Joanie Flynn and Beth Gendler at GSOB; Byron Daub, Tricia Gibbs and team at Capital One; and, Chris Filardi and team at Werner Ladder.


    I’d also like to thank the media partners who have worked with us and continue to help us provide value for corporate sponsors.  Special thanks to my good friends Rob Temple, Pete McDevitt and Tom Hagel and all of our friends at ESPN; Chris Simko, Devron Edwards and Jeremy Altabet at CBS; Greg Millard, Will Funk, Katy Mollica, Christina Miller and Val Immele and the team at Turner Broadcasting; John von Stade and team at USA Today (along with former USA Today staff members Terry McIntyre and Robert Skelton) and Barry Loudis and team at XOS Digital.


    Special thanks to my mentor, Jim Host, who helped me create FishBait, Mike Slive and team at the SEC, Burke Magnus and team at ESPN, Mike Alden and team at Mizzou, Gordon Whitener, our great friends Vince Thompson, Michelle Grech and Julianne Rymsha at Melt, Shaul Zislin at the Venture Group, Ray Mallouk and Charley Green at Breakaway Sports Marketing, Sam Dunn and Malcolm Jennings at Bluegrass Management and Shane Lasby at Turnkey Creative.


    Finally, a million thanks to the corporate sponsors and agencies that have supported our clients the past 10 years.  There are too many of you to name here but I am grateful for, and to, each and every one of you.


    We’ve been a part of lots of great work over the past ten years.  Here are my top 10 favorite endeavors of the past ten years in no particular order:


    The creation of the FINAL FOUR COACHES CLUB which recognizes all the coaches who took their teams to the Final Four in past years at a special dinner at the Final Four each year.  I get to emcee this event each year and treasure the stories and camaraderie of these coaches.


    The INFINITI CHARITY CHALLENGE AND ROUND BY ROUND BRACKET CHALLENGE that raises funds for multiple charities of our basketball coaches including a major contribution to Coaches vs. Cancer.


    The ALLSTATE AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM partnership that spotlights all that is good about college football players.


    The FIDELITY INVESTMENTS partnership with the NFF which celebrates both the NFF’s annual Hall of Fame Class and Scholar-Athletes.


    The SEC’s 75th ANNIVERSARY and our small part in helping develop the strategy for Melt’s brilliant campaign STORIES OF CHARACTER that spotlighted former SEC student-athletes and their significant contributions to society.


    Working with The University of Missouri to develop the ALL THINGS MIZZOU branding and campaign.


    Helping to bring together the V Foundation and the WBCA to develop the KAY YOW CANCER FUND, honoring the life of Coach Kay Yow and raising funds to find a cure for cancers that affect women.


    Creating the first tourism sponsorship of college sports by Gulf Shores & Orange Beach and the inaugural SEC BEACHFEST, a pre-season celebration of SEC Football at the Alabama Gulf Coast.


    Creating the pre-game festival at the COWBOYS CLASSIC for ESPN.


    The WERNER LADDER CUTTING DOWN THE NETS program at the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours each year.


    It’s been a terrific ten years, and we look forward to the next chapter of FishBait Marketing.  To all of our friends out there, we humbly say thank you and ask you to remember to FISH OR CUT BAIT!






    By Rick Jones  

    The people who market college sports (and I’d be one of them) need to always remember that FANS pay for everything.  No TV viewers, no TV rights fees; no people in the stands, no hot dog sales; no tribes, no licensed products sales.  Fans also pay for all tickets, parking and game programs, and make each and every donation to their favorite school and team.  In other words, Fans are the Bank of college athletics.

    So, how are we treating our bank?  Every school needs to work to provide better services to their fans. And, they need to realize that fans come in multiple demographic and psychographic groups (which we call Fan Personas) and that one size fits all really means today that one size fits none. FishBait’s sister company EngageMint Partners helps athletic departments with fan engagement strategies and tactics, the creation of new experiential areas for fans and trains both fulltime and part-time staff in serving fans in more compelling ways.  With partners with decades of experience working at the Walt Disney Company (who knew a things or two about engaging fans), EngageMint brings a wealth of subject matter experts to solve problems and maximize opportunities.  For more information, go to


    By Rick Jones

    They are also teachers, leaders, businesspersons, public speakers and humanitarians.


    One thing they all have in common is that they belong to their respective professional trade association.


    For football coaches, it’s the American Football Association (AFCA). For men’s basketball, it’s the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and for women’s basketball, it’s the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).


    FishBait Marketing is proud to represent each of these trade associations.  All have a number of special events, charitable causes, trade shows and promotional and hospitality programs for corporate sponsors.


    Looking for ties to college sports?


    Think star power.  Think Coaches!


    By Rick Jones

    One of my favorite songs is the Willie Nelson classic, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”. I’m a cowboy kind of guy. And, in the sponsorship world, I am one of the last of the cowboys – the hired gun – the commissioned salesman. I come from a long line of sponsorship salespersons that I greatly admire and love, and have tried to emulate. Cowboys like Rob Prazmark, Harlan Stone, David Falk, Jeff Jonas, and Jack Birch, just to name a few.


    Selling corporate sponsorships is hard. The easiest thing in business is to spend money. The next easiest is to count money. The hard part is actually getting someone to give you money. In so many classic western movies, cowboys like Gary Cooper in High Noon and Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven are asked by the townspeople to rid their town of the bad guys and to do it all alone. Same with sponsorship sales. Often those individuals and organizations who cannot sell, ask me to come aboard and make it rain money for them. My compensation is pretty straight forward. I get 20% of the revenue I generate for you. I cover all of my travel and other prospecting costs, and then get paid only if you get paid. You keep 80%.


    Let me repeat myself. Selling sponsorships is hard. I try to bat 300. After all, that will probably get you to the Hall of Fame in Baseball. But, what that really means is that you fail 7 out of 10 times. And, I don’t mean counting the folks that don’t call you back as one of the seven failures. No, I mean, seven companies that engaged fully with me and finally said no. The losses are all disappointing. But, that’s always been part of the territory. Yet, lately, I find that the wins are not as much fun as they use to be either.


    A commissioned salesperson is a marriage broker. I do my best to make sure that both the Property and the Corporate Sponsor are equally benefiting from the relationship. All I ask in return is to be invited to the wedding and to get paid what we initially agreed to.


    Sponsors are not what they use to be. Recently, I sold a new sponsorship only to have the sponsor come to the event and not show up for the sponsors’ luncheon nor anything else the Property had planned to show them. In other words, the bride failed to show up at the wedding. It was totally disrespectful. And, extremely disappointing.


    But, it’s gotten even worse on the Property side.


    I recently had one client fail to pay me fully for my commission for the third year of a three year agreement I had negotiated for them. Their excuse was that the work to service the client was more than they had expected. Really? My client later renewed their agreement with the corporate sponsor that I had brought to them, but did not feel they owed me anything from the renewal. Really? When is 80% not enough?


    I brought a sponsor prospect in a very unusual product category to another Property client. I had proposed a fee of $X. The Property said they wanted to handle the negotiations and did a deal for a greater amount than what I had initially suggested. The client only paid me a fee of 20% of what I had proposed and only for the first year of a multi-year agreement. Really?


    Last summer I was informed by a longtime client that they would not be paying me for the 4th and 5th years of a deal I did for them. The contract was for three years, with an option by the sponsor for years 4 and 5. The Property does not feel they owe me for those years, even though the sponsor exercised the option to remain the sponsor. The option that I had negotiated for my client on the front end. Really?


    They also informed me that my services would not be needed in renewing another sponsor that I had brought to them and renewed twice already for them. Again, really?


    And, just this week a sponsor decided they would go around me and negotiate directly with a group that I had secured tickets from last year for a major sold out event. Once again, really?


    I’ve decided that I am no longer asking if things are right or wrong. There seems to be too much grey area in everything to definitively arrive at an answer. No, I am now simply asking if it’s honorable or dishonorable.


    I still have faith that most people will do the honorable thing. The late, great Mark McCormack, founder of IMG (and arguably the best cowboy salesman of them all), told this terrific story.


    Doug Sanders is a former PGA Tour golf professional who won twenty-one PGA tournaments in his career. In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Mark McCormick’s agency IMG represented the colorful golfer Sanders. IMG’s deal was that they would receive 10% of all of Doug’s earnings both on and off the golf course in return for managing his career, finding sponsorships for him and creating other financial opportunities.


    One day Mark was opening his mail in his office in Cleveland and found a handwritten envelope from some motel in west Texas, addressed to him. On the back of the envelope was a scribbled word, “Sanders.” Inside the envelope was $400 in cash. There was no note.


    Mark called Doug and said, “Doug, did you send me $400 in cash and, if so, what for?”


    Doug relied that, yes, he had sent the money to Mark. Sanders had booked a corporate golf outing without any help from IMG and had been paid $4,000 for that outing. The $400 was IMG’s commission.


    Now that’s honor. No one at IMG would have ever known, but Sanders did the right and honorable thing.


    I think that I have a lot of game still left in me and that this cowboy will continue to make it rain for my clients. But, I now have just one question that I ask of any potential client. “Are you Doug Sanders?”


    Well, are you?


    03/27/2020 BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT, MOVE ONBy Rick Jones  

    The Coronavirus pandemic crisis has reinforced one thing for me.  People not only desire events, but they need them in their lives.  That’s very good news for all of us who work in the event marketing business.  American citizens cannot wait for this to be over so they can once again attend games, races, concerts, festivals, museums, zoos and other events. I miss March Madness, Amen Corner, the Cooper River Bridge Run, the Grand Ole Opry and the ability to high five friends and strangers.But we will not return to normal.  Normal, as we knew it, is over for good.  There will be a new normal but not the return to what we once knew.  September 11 changed our lives and our industry in monumental ways and so will this crisis.  How it will impact us long-term, no one knows, but it will impact all of us. We may add Purell stations next to the metal detectors at the entrances to our facilities and gate attendants there taking our temperatures. We also may never go back to shaking hands.Yet we will come back.  Fans will attend events; sponsors will need to reach these fans with unique activations, and life will go on.

    Those who know me know I am a huge Jimmy Buffett fan. After Hurricane Katrina, Jimmy wrote and recorded a song that gives us a road map for coming out of disasters.  He says ‘Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”  Words to live and learn by.  God bless each of you. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.



Rick Jones

Office: 843-557-0535

Cell: 843-412-5605


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