If you build it…

[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]atching the Bassmaster Classic from the perspective of a retailer is interesting. For the first time ever, I spent the entire day at the consumer tackle show (the Expo) and never even glanced at the weigh-in (though I have to admit I was tempted).

Instead, I looked for things I believe will help a retailer make more money.

One of the things you can’t escape at the Classic Expo is the presence of professional anglers, television hosts and other celebrity anglers. They’re everywhere! If a manufacturer exhibiting here has a pro staff angler, that angler is in the booth to help draw a crowd.

There seem to be two schools of thought among retailers when it comes to these personal appearances.

The first says, “If you build it, they will come.” These retailers believe that bringing in big names will draw big crowds to their stores.

The second group is unconvinced. They say “Stars don’t work.”

Both are right.

The believers are right because stars will draw crowds under two conditions:

  1. If the star is big enough — Bill Dance and Kevin VanDam will always — draw it works.
  2. If the star is used properly — after all, you have to know how to use them and put them to work — he will draw a crowd and sell product.

The non-believers are right because stars don’t draw crowds unless:

  1. They really are “stars” — but a “star” can be the guy who just won a local tournament. It doesn’t have to be Bill Dance or Kevin VanDam.
  2. They’re the centerpiece of your promotion, but not the main course.

Watching celebrity anglers at the Classic Expo is a lesson in promotion and execution. Although there are crowds here, a crowd does not surround every celebrity — not even close.

The crowds gather around the biggest celebrities and around the “celebrities” who are being well utilized. So how to you best use your celebrity angler?

Don’t keep it a secret.

Most promotions fail because they’re not … promoted. No one knows about them.

When you want to host a promotion of any kind remember that you’ll need to spend a significant part of your budget getting the word out so that people will know about it. If you don’t, even the greatest promotion will fail.

Does spending a significant part of your budget on promotion take away from the overall promotion experience? Yes, it does. But would you rather have an amazing promotion that no one finds or a very good promotion that your audience knows about and attends?

Pick the right celebrity.

Not every famous angler helps to sell product. Some are great, work hard and have a personality that keeps merchandise flying off the shelves. Others are terrible, stand around like the walking dead and emit an aura that says, “Don’t talk to me. Don’t ask me for an autograph. I really don’t want to be here.”

It’s up to the retailer to identify the right celebrity for the job. If the celebrity doesn’t seem like someone you want to work with or be around, it’s a good bet that your customers will agree.

Some celebrities are good and personable and engaging when they’re “on,” but real jackasses when they’re not. Sometimes you have to learn this the hard way. Sometimes you can get advice from others who know them. If you’re dealing with one of the celebs that needs to be “on” to be effective, all is not lost. Just keep your promotion brief — an hour or two — and don’t expect the celebrity to keep his best face on for an entire day.

Create the right atmosphere.

At a personal appearance type of event, it’s probably true that image (the celebrity’s image) is everything, but there’s room for the right atmosphere, too. If you don’t create the right mood for your event, it’s going to crash and burn.

Have a designated place for your star to stand or sit. Don’t have him wandering all over the shop.

Keep him close to the products he’s promoting. A lot of things can happen with your customer’s resolve if he has to walk all the way across the story to pick up the item and make a purchase, and few of them are good. When a customer finishes interacting with the celebrity, he should have the product in his hands … unless it’s an outboard or boat.

Dress the area up a little. It needs to look good, be clean and well-lit. It’s not about impressing the star; it’s all about creating a good welcoming environment where customers want to interact and then buy.

Give your celeb something to sign and give away for free — a photo or cap is good. Your customers want a souvenir so they’ll remember the event.

Whether you think celebrity angler appearances work or don’t work, you’re right.

But you also control the answer.