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April 21, 2022

What do My Childhood Fishing Memories Have to do with Experiential Marketing?


Fishing has always been a central part of my life, having resided in the coastal areas of Florida my whole life. The thrill of finding a new spot, beating personal fish weight records, and just being at a peaceful lake has always enticed me.

When I was 12, my father bought us a B.A.S.S annual membership. I remember opening up the gift that included a hat, stickers, and some free lures. There was a pamphlet with fishing tips and some hot spots in my area. I was so excited to try these new lures, especially in the new spots. My dad made me wait a week until he was able to take us to one of these new spots. On my first cast (using the now vintage FISH-Obite lure received with my B.A.S.S. membership), I caught a whopping 4 lb. bass! I was so excited to have a new personal record and was ecstatic that the new lure helped me land that fish.

I also remember the life lessons shared by my dad as part of that trip. He explained the virtue of patience needed for fishing. He also told me about the need to give back to the environment, always leaving an area better than when we found it. He expressed how important it was to join associations with great causes such as the B.A.S.S. I was hooked (pardon the pun) on fishing and everything related to water.

At the age of 18, I became a marine mechanic mainly because it would provide me more opportunities to be in and around the ocean and lakes. I was fortunate enough to work for one of the best boating manufacturers, Mako Marine. However, in 2003, they made the decision to move out of Florida and I was unable to relocate with them, however, I continued to pursue other career opportunities in the same field.  

Fast forward to the present day. I’m still hooked on fishing and still support the B.A.S.S. Association. I’m no longer in the marine field but still an avid fisherman. For the past 10 years, I have been designing and building custom vending machines. From live bait to fishing shirts, we have done them all.

Four years ago, we decided to open a new division in the field of Experiential Marketing. For those unfamiliar with the term, experiential marketing is a uniquely fast and effective way to build brand awareness through face-to-face connections with consumers, unlike most traditional or online marketing efforts. It engages all five senses, sparking emotions that form lasting memories which have been shown to drive brand loyalty. We have been working with brands to create unique experiences around the brand’s message, using vending machines to create custom Stations as a place for people to gather and for brands to engage with the consumer while gathering great feedback and other data.

As you can imagine, the Covid pandemic pulled the rug out from underneath this division, as all public events were abruptly canceled. Luckily, our automated retail division was still strong at the time. In fact, it became stronger than ever as consumers were looking for the type of contactless solutions our clients were able to provide via automated retail. Automated inventory control also grew, with businesses and other organizations needing to manage their PPE supplies. But we missed experiential marketing!

Breath of Fresh Air:

We cautiously watched as the U.S. started opening back up, anxiously wondering when events would start to take place again. Finally, the phone rang. One of the largest, best-known fishing brands (Berkley/Pure Fishing) wanted to do something really cool for the first major event coming out of the pandemic. As you can imagine, our team was ecstatic. But when I heard which event it was, I nearly fell out of my chair. It was for the Bassmaster Classic in Lake Ray Roberts, TX! I had never attended but had always heard and read how amazing it was. The event dates were right around the corner, but we were able to quickly create three custom Stations for dispensing soft and hard bait lures. We also created a custom old-school claw/crane game. The call-to-action simply required the attendee to scan a QR code (or take a survey) at the Station to receive a free lure. At the Claw/Crane Station, the attendee got a chance to grab a free hat or shirt. Both were fun ways for Pure Fishing to reward attendees with free Berkley items, continuing to build the brand’s image and reputation while thanking their loyal customers.

The 4-day event drew in a record attendee count of 147,197 people. Optimal Station had the one Clear View Jr. Station located at the GO/Outside expo, another at the Stockyards, and a third at Lake Ray Roberts. The Claw/Crane Station was located at the main expo. All the assets drew in a crazy amount of crowds. The machines were a huge hit! The lines were always 30-40 people deep and attendees were willing to wait more than 30 minutes to have an interaction with the Station. More importantly, Optimal Station helped convey the Berkley message, which is “Your Fish Our Science.” Berkley fans were impressed with the brand’s initiative to give away some of the hottest trending products during this event. People were often confused, not understanding that these great lures were being given away. Oftentimes they thought they were waiting in line to purchase the lures. You can imagine their delight as they learned that they were free prizes! I immensely enjoyed engaging with the Berkley fans as I was assisting with the activation. Adults and kids alike sported big smiles, completely enjoying the entire expo. It was gratifying and rewarding to once again see people enjoying the outdoors and loving our Stations.

If you’re like me and love fishing and the outdoors, I encourage you to join the BASS association for as little as $15 a year. They help with conservation, school scholarships, and much more.
By the way, a big congratulations to Hank Cherry for winning the tournament!

First free lure received with BASS Membership circa 1992
Happy Family with Berkley Baits
Early morning at the launch site
Claw Game with hats and shirts.

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