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How To Get A Motorsports Sponsorship

Starting somewhere in January of every year all the way up to roughly June, we get bombarded by motorsports sponsorship requests.  Bomb fn barded.  The rest of the year we get requests as well, but the first six months are crazy.  We get requests from dirt race cars, drag race cars, pulling trucks, mud trucks, motocross, fishermen, race tracks, motorsports events, golf tournaments, charity events, and the list goes on and on.  This is separate from the constant onslaught of regular marketing sales people trying to sell you ad space for whatever medium they represent.  If you are a business owner, I’m sure you can relate.  If you are someone trying to land a sponsorship, I want to explain why business owners are usually a bit cold when you ask and what you can do to up your chances.

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First, let’s put aside charity events.  We get those requests on a regular basis from groups trying to raise money for an individual who is suffering through a health or life problem to large organizations trying raise funding for a cause.   Usually a representative will call or stop by with an ask for a donation to help the cause.  This is a straight ask and the business isn’t looking for anything in return if they donate.  It’s a goodwill donation that tries to help the community that they are based in.  Please understand that a motorsports sponsorship doesn’t belong anywhere near this category but it is how many people asking feel about it.  Raising money to cure cancer or help a family with medical problems is much different than someone who wants to drive a race car on the weekend to glory. 

Next there are usually three types of people who will approach you for a sponsorship.  Customers, people you know socially, and people you have never seen before in your life.  If you already have a relationship with someone either through business or socially, you may be able to short cut the rest of this article and just flat ask the person.  But unless you are super close friends, you will still get put in the clump of non stop askers that the business gets on a regular basis.  Occasionally, you may get lucky and a business might throw a few bucks at you, but more often than not that approach will get you a quick no.  

We need to first define what a sponsorship is so you can see why it’s much different than a charity ask:

Sponsorship: A person, firm, organization, etc. that finances or buys time or exposure to advertise a product, a political party, a service, etc. 

When you are asking us to sponsor your motorsports pursuit, what you are really asking us is that you want to become a partner with us and advertise our brand, business, or product.  The business has to decide whether or not spending that money advertising is going to not only pay for itself, but will it bring in more business.  Most motorsports sponsorship requests go something like this:

Racer: “Hi, I’m looking for sponsors for our race car.”

Me: “Ok great. Do you have a marketing proposal?”

Racer: “Uh, no.”

Me: “Ok. What class do you race.”

Racer: “xxxx class”

Me: “Ok. Where are you going to race at and how often.”

Racer: “Well I’m not sure.  Maybe this place or that place and it depends on my work.”

Me: “Ok.  How much are you looking for and what does that get us?”

Racer: “I don’t know.  How much do you want to spend?”

Me: “I’m going to have to pass until you have a marketing proposal outlining how often you are going to race, what kind of coverage we get on the car for how much money, and what you are going to do to help promote our business.”

Racer:  Blank stare

Then we never see them again.  This happens over and over and over again.  Unless I personally know you, your motorsports operation, and have seen how much you race, there is no way in the world I can make any sort of judgement about how much or even if sponsoring your car is worth it to us.  Can you imagine if the newspaper came in trying to sell us advertising that ill prepared?

Newspaper: “Hi, we are selling ad space in our newspaper”

Me: “Ok. do you have some sort of rate scale.”

Newspaper: “No, we just wing it.”

Me: “Ok. what sections can I advertise in?”

Newspaper: “All or some of them.  I’m not sure.  We have a bunch though maybe.”

Me: “Ok.  How often does the paper come out and how many people read it?”

Newspaper: “Most days, but not all of them.  It really depends.  As for how many people, I would say a bunch.”

Me: “Ok.  How much does it cost?”

Newspaper: “I don’t know.  How much do you want to spend?”

Me: “Get out.”

Can you imagine if the newspaper tried to sell advertising the same way people try to sell motorsports sponsorships to complete strangers?  Oy.

The next thing you need to understand is that despite what everyone thinks, most business owners aren’t just flush with cash they can’t find anything else to do with.  If they invest in sponsoring your motorsports venture, they will need a return from that marketing.  Let’s break it down a little bit so you can see the math.

Most small businesses work on anywhere from a 2-15% net profit margin.  Net profit is the money that is left after all the bills, employees, utilities, etc are paid.  Out of net profit loan payments, taxes, new equipment, and the owner’s pay have to come out.  So, if you are asking for some amount of money, they have to do a calculation on whether or not that amount of money makes sense to the business.

We will use a 10% net profit margin and easy round numbers to make calculations easy.  If you are asking for a $1,000 sponsorship, the business must bring in $10,000 of new business just break even on the spend.  Unfortunately, no one is in business just to break even.   We want a better return.  The whole point of advertising is to bring in more business.  So I always look at it and if I’m fairly certain the partnership will bring in enough new business to cover the sponsorship cost and then some, I usually go for it.  If it works out really well, I just add it to my marketing budget for the next year as a regular expense.  Just as if I had spent that $1,000 with the newspaper, I would expect at least $20,000 of new business to come in for it to make sense at all.  Also, remember that we are using an example 10% net profit margin.  Many small businesses in our area work on less than that.  If you had a 5% margin you would have to bring in $20,000 worth of new business to break even.  A 2.5% margin would need $40,000 of new business to break even.  Suddenly you can see why a business owner hesitates to spend any money on marketing. 

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So how do you go about getting a good sponsorship?  You must put together a package to show the business what they are getting for their money.  In other words, a marketing proposal.  While I understand that motorsports people aren’t always computer savvy and sophisticated business people, a quick google search will give you a ton of templates to start with.  If you are truly passionate about what you are doing and want to land sponsors, I’m sure you can think of a friend that can help you draft this up if you can’t do it yourself.    Not doing this is just flat lazy.  Are you serious about this or not? 

A good marketing/sponsorship proposal includes:

1.       A short biography about you.  How long you have been racing.  Any accomplishments in racing you have achieved.  Why you do it.  A picture of you in your race suit.

2.       A section about the car your drive.  Tell us about it.  Tell us about the class you run.  Why is it better than everyone else’s?  Show us a picture of it. (I’m shocked by how many people never have any pictures of their car or car from years past in their proposals)

3.       Where are you going to race at and how often?  If we are committing money to your operation, we really would like to know what your commitment is. 

4.        What do we get for $xxxx? Do we get a certain amount of car coverage?  Will your race suit have our logo on it?  Will your tow vehicle or trailer?  Are you going to be an ambassador for our brand to the racing community? 

 

That’s it.  Just a one or two page proposal that we can look over and make an informed decision on.  Something to show that you are serious about what you are doing and committed.   I had five asks this week alone for sponsorship and not one person had so much as a paper to give me with any information.  Most were in the form of the conversation outlined above.   When you are getting asked multiple times a week by people you aren’t remotely informed about, it’s super hard to say yes.  After all, even if everyone came in with perfect proposals there is no way you could say yes to all of them. 

As much as we love all motorsports, we have to make sure we are spending our marketing dollars in a way that benefits us.  Take a look at professional motorsports and the way that the driver’s champion the brands that sponsor them.  That is what we are looking for.  Put together a proposal and presentation that makes us believe that you are going to be a good partner and then do it.  I will be happy to open our check book again the next year for you.  Good Luck!