How Management Weighs Success
B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin and owner Don Logan enjoy the blurred line between business and pleasure.
There was never a question whether Don Logan would return to Alabama when his time as chairman of TimeWarner in New York ended. There might have been a question of what he would do, but that clearly has been answered.
Along with his two sons, the 70-year-old Morgan County native bought the Birmingham Barons in 2005 and orchestrated their move to a new stadium in downtown Birmingham in 2013. And along with two other investors, Logan bought the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) from ESPN in 2010 and moved its headquarters from Orlando, Fla. to Birmingham.
“I never had any designs or lofty plans about coming in and buying Alabama companies and getting involved in anything other than things that I enjoy doing,” Logan says.
“So it was sort of a dream. I wanted to continue working but I wanted to be involved with things where I wasn’t sure if I was working or playing. It’s like that with the Barons and B.A.S.S. If I’m out fishing, and I’m with a sponsor, is it working or playing? It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.”
Logan lives in Birmingham and has a fishing getaway near Auburn. His upper-tier media savvy and love for fishing is a perfect fit for B.A.S.S.
“B.A.S.S. is not that big of a business in terms of number of employees or total revenues, but its impact is substantial, because it really is a complete media company,” Logan says.
B.A.S.S. has more than 500,000 members, it publishes two magazines, with combined circulation of more than 600,000, and it has jumped feet-first into online communications and social media.
From 2011-2012, for example, B.A.S.S. saw a 25-percent increase in traffic to its Web site and anticipated about a 33-percent increase for 2013.
“Those are strong growth numbers, and I expect that to continue,” says B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “Maybe not at those rates but certainly in double digits.”
B.A.S.S. also has more than a half million Facebook followers and more than 100,000 Twitter followers. And then there’s the widespread media coverage generated by the Bassmaster Classic, which B.A.S.S. owns. The 2013 event in Tulsa, Okla. generated 116.6 million media impressions. That included television, digital and print and was 40 percent more than 2012. That number does not include radio, but several radio stations did broadcast at last year’s launches and weigh-ins.
ESPN will provide 12 hours of coverage for the upcoming Bassmaster Classic, and The Outdoor Channel will provide an estimated six hours, kicking off another year of great media exposure for B.A.S.S., sponsors and anglers.
According to Florida-based Southwick Associates, there are 11 million bass anglers in the United States whose fishing generates $16 billion in expenditures. Although the number of bass anglers increased from 2006-2011, there were actually more bass anglers a generation ago than now, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys.
To thrive, B.A.S.S. is pursuing advertisers and sponsorships from what Akin calls endemic and non-endemic sources — those within the fishing industry and those outside who can gain from relationships within it. An insurance company, GEICO, for example, is the title sponsor for this year’s Bassmaster Classic.
“The challenge and the opportunity is that we can’t rely strictly on fishing,” Akin says. “The endemic sponsorship money is limited, and you have to show non-endemic sponsors how they can reach and why they should reach this (fishing) audience and what a fit it is.”
The upcoming Bassmaster Classic is the first to be held in Alabama since Logan became a B.A.S.S. owner.
“I feel good about B.A.S.S., but it’s still a business, and it’s got to work,” Logan says. “And it’s working.”