Sponsorship is a difficult topic for many racing drivers to talk about. You need money to race, and most people do not have the kind of money it takes to race. Motorsport is an elitist sport. Many people see it as the playground of the rich.
However, it’s not necessarily the truth. You can get sponsored to go out and race. The problem, however, is finding those sponsors who are willing to pay the extraordinarily large amounts of money required for you to go and race.
The good news is that it is possible, but it is extremely difficult, and you need to be ready to face rejection many times before you find your success. This article will discuss how you can get sponsored to go out and race even when you have no previous racing experience.
Do You Need Experience?
Many potential racing drivers think that only experienced drivers can get sponsors to race. Even some drivers who are already on the grid still think that you need to win championships to get sponsors. But that’s not entirely true either.
In fact, you can get sponsors to get race before even stepping into a race car. Of course, it is easier if you do have a track record with previous race results, and even better if you have already won a championship.
Drivers do not always get sponsored because they perform well, although it can be a big selling point. You might have seen some drivers who win championships, but they still can’t get sponsors. This is because they can’t provide value to their potential sponsors.
Winning a championship is great, it shows that you have the talent to match your passion. But if you are just offering potential sponsors a sticker on your race car, you won’t get sponsored. The value of that sticker is not worth $20,000 even if your car finishes first in every single race. This leads us onto the first major mistake that drivers make when looking for sponsors, their mindset.
Change Your Mindset
Most people go out there trying to find sponsors thinking like a racing driver. “If you give me $20,000, I will put your logo on my kart and my racing gear”. Unfortunately, this does not bring much value to the business you are asking. They might get their logo seen by more people or featured on your social media channels or perhaps even in the newspaper. But when you are proposing this, most people do not sell this point to the business. They sell the sticker.
Your mindset needs to change from racing driver to businessperson. The way you should be selling your sticker on the kart is by telling the business that their logo will be seen by 2,000 people (for example). Then you need to go into detail about the demographics of these 2,000 people and how they fit the target audience of their business. In addition, people will see this logo on TV, social media, and in the newspapers.
This is a small example, and a sticker on a go kart should not be your selling point. It’s not the biggest value benefit you can provide to a potential sponsor. On the other hand, the business you are in touch with might have no interest in motorsport and might know nothing about it.
Imagine this scenario: You are a business owner selling an energy drink. One day you receive an email from a country singer asking for $10,000. In return they will put your company logo on their stage for the year. Would you give them $10,000?
The answer is most likely a no. That person might be extremely passionate about what they do, and they absolutely love country music. But your energy drink company has no relevance to country music, you don’t like country music, and how many people that do attend the shows will take notice of your logo on the stage?
However, if that same person contacted you, and said that 40% of their fans are fans of extreme sports and actively participate in extreme sports, plus they will actively promote you as their go to energy drink, then suddenly there is a connection. Your energy drinks company becomes relevant to at least 40% of the people who will be attending their shows and following them on social media. That musician has just increased the value of their offer simply by selling it in a different way.
The key is to sell your racing like a business would. You should see your racing as a product or service that you sell to businesses. Imagine yourself as a brand. You are offering the service of marketing another business’ products or services using your brand (which is racing). If you look at most modern-day Formula 1 drivers, most of them have their own ‘brand’. Even though they are tied to teams, drivers have their own logos, coloursand ‘vibe’. This is their branding which they use to sell to sponsors.
How To Find Potential Sponsors
This brings us onto finding potential sponsors. Once you have established your brand, you will have a better idea of your goals and the type of ‘business’ you are running. Now you need to find other businesses that match that type of brand.
You need to do extensive research into each business. Look at how they do their marketing, who their target market is and what their goals are. If those match up with how you operate, then you could be a good match.
Most drivers will send out a standard blanket email to hundreds of companies and just hope for one or two of them to reply and show some interest. However, you will most likely only get a few replies, and if you are lucky, they will say no. Most companies either won’t reply, or it will go straight to their junk folder.
The importance in contacting companies is personalization. If they see that you have actually done some research into them, and you know what their company is about, then they will take more time to consider your proposal. Rather than sending out a standard email to 100 companies, try to spend some time researching everything about 1 single company and contact them.
A good way to find potential businesses that your brand could work with is to think about what connects you to them. If you have any other hobbies or interests, then that could be your way into the business. For example, let’s say there’s a driver who really loves cooking. More specifically, they really love pasta. This will narrow down their search to more specific businesses who specialisein this industry. Perhaps it’s a pasta restaurant, or a company that makes pasta and sells that to restaurants and grocery stores.
Once you have identified that hobby or interest, now you suddenly have a link between your brand and multiple other companies. You are the link between racing and pasta, and now you are using your career to sell more of their products and bring them more business. The beauty of this concept is that it creates a personal connection between yourself and the business.
It’s something that you love, and it becomes more than just a business that is paying for your racing. This is how you will stand out to businesses over the crowds of other racing drivers asking them for money.
If you can demonstrate good knowledge of the industry and the company you are requesting sponsorship from, it will become much easier to work with them and to carry them on throughout the rest of your career as a racing driver.
How To Contact Businesses
Contacting the business is a crucial step. At this point, you would have done your research, and you know the business as well as anyone else who is already working there. The key here is to get in touch with the main decision makers within the business.
Ideally you would want to go straight to the CEO or the Marketing Director. Normally the CEO is best as they can override the decisions made by the marketing directors. If you go the marketing director route, you will still need to convince the CEO to sponsor you.
The key to networking is to make contact a personal touch. Do not barge your way in and immediately start selling your racing and demand money from them. It’s a good idea to slowly introduce yourself to the business and talk more about them rather than yourself. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and psychologically it makes them like you more.
A good way to do so is to use social media. The best one to use in this case is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an amazing tool to meet people in a more professional manner than the usual social media. You are able to search for people based on their jobs, companies and locations.
Use the search tool to connect with the CEO’s and Marketing Directors in your targeted businesses. Once you are connected try to talk to them about something unrelated to motorsport. This might seemunproductive, but it works. If you immediately message them about your racing you could easily just be blocked or ignored. Start off by talking about them, or something their company has done recently. Perhaps it’s something they posted on social media, or its an event they had recently.
Most people will ignore messages if you start talking about something unrelated to them or something, they have no interest in. The important part is to get people to start talking about themselves and what they do.
Once you have got them chatting and are starting to get to know one another, you can gently guide the conversation towards cars, motorsport or yourself. Generally, people will ask about your career and they might show an interest in the ‘racing driver’ title, and this is an easy ticket to move the conversation onto your partnership opportunity later down the line.
People are much more likely to sponsor you if they feel like they know you. They most likely won’t sponsor you if they do not know you and know nothing about you. So, start to build a relationship first, and then sell your brand once the opportunity comes along. This takes time and patience, if you rush this process, you could close that door and burn the bridge on your way out.
How To Create Value
This is something that every single driver struggles with. The standard ‘offering’ is usually “I can put your company’s logo on my kart and that looks cool, people will see it”. Is that really worth $2,000 though (or however much you are asking)?
You need to find ways that you can provide value to your potential sponsors. If they are going to be spending money on you, you need to give the same value back to them in benefits. Sponsorship should be an exchange, not a charity. There are a number of ways that you can do that, but you will need to get creative and think outside the box. You need to go past offering corporate hospitality packages.
Of course, those are a good offer, but you need to personalize it to the business’ goals in order to really make it valuable. Let’s take an example of a company that is heavily focused on sales performance, a car dealership. The dealership’s goal is to increase the motivation of their employees and get them to sell more cars.
What you can do here is to say to the company that you can offer 4 VIP tickets to a race weekend. The company can then use that as an element to motivate their staff to sell more cars. The salesperson that sells the most cars in February wins 4 VIP tickets to the race weekend for example. Now you are using something you can offer and directly linking it with the goals of the business and helping them to achieve that.
It might sound simple, but sometimes you really need to spell it out for people and make it easy for them to understand. Sometimes you offer something to a business, and they don’t really know what they can do with it and how they can make it work to their benefit.
The key to providing top value to your sponsors is to link it directly to their goals and what they want to achieve. You need to do this in a more creative way though in order to make your offer more appealing to them.
A good way to do so is think of every possible thing that you can do as a racing driver that has a kart to use for various events. Grab a pen and a paper and write down every single idea that comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous you might think it is. After you have written down all of your ideas you can go back to each one and develop it further to see which would work and which won’t.
There are no stupid ideas (remember: Red Bull did a pit stop in zero gravity!), anything can work! If you are able to develop your idea and justify why it will work for the company, then you have added a benefit to your offer that can add more value to your sponsorship. The key is to get creative, think outside the box and do something different to what everyone else is doing.
How Can You Keep Your Sponsors Coming Back?
Keeping sponsors on for multiple seasons is the end goal. Of course, you would want to keep your sponsors on for your entire racing career because it saves you from constantly having to go and find new sponsors every single year.
You need to put your sponsors first. Many drivers promise a good-looking kart or car filled with the logos of sponsoring companies, and the benefit that sponsors get from that is extra social media content. But most sponsors end up having to do extra work in order to get that social media content. Putting your sponsors first means that you go out of your way to literally create their social media content for them and all they need to do is post it.
Find some of your favouritephotos from the race weekend and transform then in social media ready posts. This saves your sponsor from having to do the extra work, and all they need to do in the end is post the photos. A great tool to use here is Canva, which is an app that easily allows you to edit your photos and turn them into creative social media posts. Take an hour or two after a race weekend to create some awesome social media posts and send them directly to your sponsors.
The same goes for sponsor events. Help their team to set up for the event and play an active role in assisting with the event itself. It goes a long way to show that you care about your sponsors and you’re not just taking their money and using it to fuel your racing. You’re not a Formula 1 driver, so the unfortunate reality is that you need to make their experience of sponsoring you a pleasant experience. You need to get involved with your sponsors.
Another way that you can keep your sponsors onboard is by meeting with them to see what has worked for them and what hasn’t. For example, has their social media reach and interaction increased after hosting an event? Do their motorsport related posts get more likes and views than others? Work with your sponsors to get creative in what they can do within the motorsport sphere.
Try to gather as much statistics as possible regarding their growth in terms of social media marketing, sales, mentions etc. You can use these statistics to see just how effective your sponsorship programmeactually was, and you can use it to show potential new sponsors proof of how sponsorship within motorsport works and how it can benefit them.
How To Find More Sponsors
Finding more sponsors will take you further into motorsport, taking you to bigger championships. Once you are able to secure one sponsor it becomes easier to secure more. This is because you know what works and what doesn’t in terms of offering value to a business. In addition, you will have learnt from your experience of securing your first sponsorship.
Many drivers stop looking for sponsors once they have reached their budget for the season. But it is a good idea to always be on the lookout for potential businesses that you can approach. You should be constantly researching new businesses to which ones match your brand and which ones don’t.
If you happen to find a new business you want to approach in the middle of a season, you can offer them a ‘trial’ sponsorship. Allow them to sponsor you at a smaller fee for one race weekend to allow them to see how your benefits work for their business. Afterwards you can review how the weekend went for them and how they want to proceed with the sponsorship.
It will also give the key decision makers from your potential new sponsor to spend some time with people from your current sponsors. And of course, if your current sponsors are happy with how it’s going for them, it can have a huge influence in convincing your new sponsor to jump onboard.
If your sponsors are hosting events, it will be a great networking opportunity for you. You never know who might attend your sponsors’ events, it could be a CEO or a marketing director from a business that you didn’t even know about. If they like what they see, they might even come to you and open the door for a new sponsorship deal.
If you and your sponsors’ social media reach is good enough, it could attract the attention of other businesses as well. If a lot of people are talking about your racing or your partnership with your sponsor, you might even be approached by other businesses who want to sponsor you. This is extremely rare, and if a business approaches you for sponsorship, then you are definitely on the right track. Always make sure you research new businesses though and find out how you can make their sponsorship deal as effective as possible. Each business is different, and so their sponsorship programmesand benefits should be as well.