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“BIG Changes”
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!

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