From overnight success to market leader
Launched in March 2002, this year sees Shimano Tribal celebrate its 20th birthday.
At the time of its launch Tribal was a game changer. Carp fishing had grown massively throughout the previous decade, but larger companies had failed to capture the imagination and support of the carp fishing fraternity. In fact, for a time it appeared that being a large company was most definitely a disadvantage - although Shimano dominated the carp fishing reel market in the form of the Baitrunner.
Yet on one fateful night, the stars would align for the late Jan Porter, one of Shimano’s most respected and long serving ambassadors. Jan had always been a visionary. He made his mark in match fishing and the ‘Man In Red’ fished at the very highest international level. In the ‘90’s he had turned his attention to carp fishing, drawn by the ethos, beauty and almost spiritual nature carp fishing delivered.
Fishing one evening during an international football match, he couldn’t help but notice how many of the anglers on the bank of the large water had begun to gather in groups, listening to the commentary and cheering every goal. Fishing rivalries were dismissed, as anglers young and old banded together to support their national team. Before darkness fell new friendships had been made and more importantly Jan had seen the future, and its name was Tribal.
That was the night the Shimano Tribal concept and brand was conceived. The perfect solution to what seemed an impossible riddle. A brand that met the demographic head on and perfectly captured the identity of carp anglers new and old. Fortunately two other influential Shimano employees agreed that the Tribal concept had potential and within 6 months the new brand was ready.
With a range of high quality clothing and luggage, Shimano were the first company to launch a high definition camouflage under the Tribal banner. Back in 2001 it was a daring move and one that was met with a certain amount of resistance by the tackle trade. But it captured the imagination of carp anglers and the huge demand quickly broke down any barriers and reticence. Carp fishing apparel changed forever.
The almost instant success put Shimano Tribal on the map, as a truly dedicated carp brand, and a market leader. The phenomenon quickly spread across Europe, leading to the launch of additional products, including rods in 2004 and the formation of Team Tribal.
But it nearly didn’t happen, as Gerard Bakkenes remembers. “I had only been with Shimano for one year when Tribal was conceived. As the soft goods product manager it was my responsibility to source, develop and deliver the new Tribal clothing and luggage, my job literally depended on it succeeding. At the time the Shimano European MD wasn’t convinced it would work, and gave it just one year to succeed! Now, 20 years later Shimano Tribal is part of carp fishing history and folklore. Not bad for an overnight success!”
Unfortunately Jan passed away in 2016, but his memory and vision continues through Shimano Tribal. The other member the fateful Tribal trio was Shimano UK MD Craig Brew, who left the company a few years ago, but still remains good friends with many of the Shimano staff.