We have all heard stories about that local Time Trial guy who landed free coil-overs, or the one who finds ways to get high-dollar parts at a deep discount — all from sponsorship. What made the sponsor choose him and his car?
Is he the fast-talking, salesman type? It’s possible. Was he a National Champion in his class? Maybe. Was it because his car is an aftermarket magnet? That could be part of it, too. What you can be sure of is that he most likely has a substantial online profile built up. It’s almost impossible to get sponsored these days without being active online. Can you use the web to your advantage in securing sponsorship? Absolutely.
Chances are good that you’re already active online, whether it be through automotive enthusiast forums, NASA forums, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, photo sharing, etc. If you already participate online, turning your online activity into a marketing tool that helps you land a sponsorship won’t be too difficult. A few tweaks to your daily routine and some additional effort can easily result in some extra UPS boxes on your door step, or possibly even some extra cash to help fund your racing efforts.
What Do Sponsors Look For?
Look at it from the perspective of a potential sponsor. If you were investing in a driver, what would you want to get out of the deal? It’s about more than just decals on the car and talking about their products at events. Exposure and a winning car is the obvious answer. Another important factor is the influence and marketability of the candidate. You must show that you can be an authority that people will listen to and trust. And the most effective place to accomplish this quickly is online. Keep in mind that not all companies have the time and resources to effectively use the web for grassroots marketing, which makes your efforts all the more valuable to them.
So Where do you Start?
Based on tips from the Car Sponsorship Guide blog (http://www.carsponsorshipguide.com) it’s all about preparation. The first step is to plan your strategy and keep improving your driving skills. Everything you post online from this point forward will be part of your new “online portfolio.” On the flip side, everything you posted online before this point also will be part of it, which might be a cause for concern for some. Work toward professionalism at all times.
Before you think about submitting any sponsorship proposal, you’ll need to start attending and documenting events. The general idea is to attend events and get seat time, gather photos and videos, jot down some notes about the experience, and organize all of this information for sharing on your blog and in forums later. This will be the foundation for your new portfolio. You don’t have to be a best selling author. You just need to walk people through what you’re doing.
Sponsors will expect you to have a professional looking website or blog set up, an active presence in the popular enthusiast forums, and they’ll also be looking for social media — think Facebook and YouTube activity. Sprinkling content about your build and your event participation in different places online will go a long way toward helping you become an authority in the online world. And don’t worry, a blog can be set up in minutes, with no programming or design skills required.
Your blog will be the central hub where everything is organized. It should contain a few key sections, similar to a corporate website. A basic blog should describe who you are and what your goals are, what you’ve accomplished so far, who your sponsors are, what potential sponsors can expect from you, with photo albums and blog entries that tell the story about your racing efforts. Update your blog after every event and sprinkle snippets of that content into forums you participate in and other social media outlets, always providing a link back to your blog. Rinse and repeat.
Once you feel you have a good amount of content posted online and you notice growing interest in your efforts through forum replies and other indicators, start crafting your sponsorship proposals and look for companies that are somewhat active online, preferably in the same forums you are active in. Why? Because they will already see the value in what you’re doing. Ideally, you already will have interacted with them before sending over a sponsorship request. They should know who you are through your participation in the forums.
What Should you Expect From all This?
You have invested countless hours to better position yourself for sponsorship. What exactly can you expect from all this effort? Realistically, don’t expect much in the beginning unless you have been able to rack up some wins. Shoot for some discounts on product. Freebies would be great. The more successful you are in your series/class, the better your chances of landing bigger deals. Will you be able to cover all of your expenses with sponsorship? No, not even close. Racing is an insanely expensive hobby. But if you get some parts for free and discounts simply for documenting your hobby, the extra effort might be well worth it.
For more detailed articles that describe various methods covered in this article, visit the Car Sponsorship Guide website (http://www.carsponsorshipguide.com) and learn how the web can be your most effective tool when it comes to landing sponsorship deals. — Chris Raymond
Chris Raymond is the publisher of CarSponsorshipGuide.com
Establishing the Value of Your Race Program for Sponsors
Marketing is a black art of sorts. Every company has its own needs, agendas and goals. Developing a sponsorship program for a sponsor requires a race team to be diverse, aggressive and flexible. Every company runs its programs differently, but there are some elements that are key and serve as the foundation for any sponsor. Those key elements are:
- Return on investment: Whether a company is giving you discounted product, free product or cash, the sponsor needs to see a return on that investment.
- Exposure: As a sponsor, being seen is important.
- Added value: A program that will make a team stand out from the rest.
Understanding those elements and how you can establish your team’s value is the key to obtaining sponsors. While each and every company will place a different value on those elements, each company needs to understand what you are offering and what the value is. So let’s help you get some new sponsors and serve your existing sponsors better.
The ROI is measured by what you can provide the sponsor. Are you running a logo on your car? Do you promote the sponsor on your website and your social media? Do you have the logo on your race trailer, your race suit, your team shirts, etc.? There are countless pieces of your race program that provide value to a sponsor.
The motorsports world is vast, with dozens of different types of racing and multiple levels of racing within each, from the casual racer all the way up to the professional team. There is no perfect or ideal way to put a value on any program, but you must be realistic.
For example, club racing as a whole does not have millions of eyes seeing the action, seeing the cars and thus seeing a sponsor’s logo. Also, the amount of people seeing the car and logos will change greatly based on the region you are running in, whether you are running the Nationals, etc. The more you are out there, the more you are being seen and the more you are worth.
Your value goes much further than just those who see your racecar. You need to put a value on your trailer, motorhome, etc. Are you marketing yourself? Do you have a racing website, a presence in social media and so on? All of these things provide value to a sponsor because it provides impressions — consumers seeing their logo and product — and each impression provides ROI. What you have to do is evaluate the value of your entire program so that when you speak with a sponsor and submit your sponsorship proposal, you can present a valid package.
Every sponsor will have a different evaluation of programs because every sponsor has specific needs, specific targets and desires. Evaluation is the key and it starts with you. Sponsors see hundreds, maybe thousands of sponsorship proposals every year. To stand out, your sponsorship proposal must provide value, which means being reasonable. Club racing is a tough market. Most races do not have many live spectators, and there is little in the way of media coverage during or after the race — though coverage in this magazine might help in your efforts to land a sponsor. This limits the amount of impressions of a sponsor’s logo, but each impression counts. The average club racing team can expect to have 5,000 impressions per year, but that is just the start.
Are you running at a National Championship or do you run outside your home region often? If so, you can add another 1,500 impressions. How many followers/friends does your race program have on social media and how many unique visitors does your race team website have? Add each of those to the total number of impressions. Add all of those together and you have a good, yet rough estimate on the total number of impressions you can provide to a sponsor. Those are the basics. Let’s get more advanced and add more value.
Does your team have an enclosed trailer that you use to transport cars to the races? Adding a large sponsor logo and web address to each side and the rear door of the trailer increases the number of impressions. But calm down a bit. Not everyone passing or being passed by your trailer counts as an impression, because that soccer mom in her SUV most likely is not paying attention to your trailer. If she does, she probably has no idea what your sponsor’s logo is, nor will she remember the name 15 seconds down the road.
However, the driver of the Subaru WRX or similar car may know that sponsor’s name and logo and that driver does count as an impression. It is impossible to put a true value to something like logos on a trailer, but it is a piece of your program that provides added value. Creative team owners and drivers can find multiple ways of adding value to present to a sponsor. For example:
- Sponsor logos on race team clothing worn at races and related events.
- Sponsor banners hung at races and related events.
- Sponsor product and/or marketing display put up in the pits at races or at related events.
- Promoting and tagging sponsors on your website and social media.
- Providing race recaps, images and video to a sponsor after each race.
In the end, your value to a sponsor comes down to how hard you and your team work to provide value to that sponsor. As a racer, you can expect to get what you put into it, from discounted product to varying amounts of cash support. The key is to be reasonable. A team running the same car at the same tracks you do in a professional series that races in front of thousands of fans with hours of television coverage gets tens of thousands of dollars for their program for a large logo on their hood and doors. The reality is that your program is worth less based on the exposure it provides to sponsors. It is impossible to provide you with an exact amount because every program is different.
Good luck out there, kids. Remember you started racing for the love of it, not for money.
Mike Deford is vice president of marketing and new business development for Hawk Performance.
How to Approach a Sponsor
Asking for sponsorship is an easy thing to do, provided that you include the correct information to a potential sponsor. First, a sponsorship proposal is a must. It can be detailed or brief and to the point, but every proposal needs to include the following:
- A description of who you are, your history, where and what you race and your goals.
- An ROI breakdown that includes how many impressions you expect to provide.
- Any added-value items.
- A season schedule of races in which you are competing.
- Images of your racecar, trailer, team, etc.
- Sponsorship level options that you are looking for and what you are providing for each.
Never tell a sponsor that you need X amount of dollars because that is what it costs you to go racing. Sponsors are not interested in what your expenses are. They care about what their return will be. Telling a sponsor that it costs you X and you need that much money is a sure way to end the conversation.
Never send a blank, general sponsorship proposal. Contact the company first so that you know whom to address the proposal to. A sponsorship letter or email addressed “To whom it may concern” or anything similar is a clear sign you are too lazy to do research and work for your program.
Be negotiable and flexible in your sponsorship requests. Most sponsors have outlined ideas of what they are looking for, what they want and what works for their marketing and sales plans. Being flexible enough to change your programs to fit their needs goes a long way.
Do not over promise. You know what you can provide and what you can do. Never agree to anything above your means, and always deliver more than you agreed to. Providing a sponsor with added value that does not cost them extra will fast-track you to the top.