1. START WITH THE SPONSOR'S NEEDS
Sponsorship is not charity. It’s an investment that must deliver a return to make sense. If you don’t have an idea for how you can help a potential sponsor recoup 101% of their investment in your team, don’t even bother contacting them.
Also, “exposure” is not a viable return on investment. Exposure is cheap - and in many cases it’s free. For a couple bucks on Facebook it’s possible to reach the same number of people who attend a typical Friday or Saturday night show at your local track. Think about other ways you can bring value to the partnership. Can you become a distributor and help the business sell their product at the track? Can you bring your car to their business to attract new customers? Can you help them research and develop their product through your racing program?
Get creative. The more you can offer a sponsor, the more incentive they'll have to return the favor.
2. KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET
I always feel sorry for drivers who send out meticulously written 20 page pdf sponsorship proposals. It’s obvious they’ve put a TON of time and effort into it, but it’s also never going to get read - at least not at the initial phase of the process.
The only thing harder than writing a 20-page proposal, is culling it down to an air tight two paragraphs that are going to motivate someone to sponsor you – or at least write you back for more information.
No one has time to read your life’s story. And if it's not relevant to how you can help that business, don’t even bother telling it. Focus on the absolute most compelling aspects of your offer, customize the material to the sponsor you're contacting and get rid of the rest. Remember the goal is to get your foot in the door. It's highly unlikely your first communication is going to instantly lead to a big check without several follow up conversations.
3. BE PROFESSIONAL
This applies both on and off the track. Sponsorship is a business transaction and if you don’t carry yourself as a professional, no business is going to take you seriously. If you can afford team shirts, buy them. If you can afford a nice wrap for your car, wrap it. If you can afford a graphic designer to create a team logo, hire them.
Appearance is everything. If you make your race team appear like a successful, well-run business, you just might convince a sponsor that you are one.
Likewise, don’t act like a 4 year-old on social media. Use proper spelling and grammar. Don’t get in arguments. Don’t post about controversial topics like politics or religion. Have those conversations in private. You want to cast as wide a net as possible. Don’t alienate half your potential sponsors by ranting about the President or the Pope.
4. CREATE A BRAND/BUSINESS FACEBOOK PAGE
Social media is the most powerful tool you have to build your motorsports brand. The first thing you need to know is that Facebook caps the number of friends you can have 5,000. If you have serious racing ambitions, you’re going to need as big a network of supporters as you can get. A brand page allows for unlimited fans & followers.
It also gives you access to Facebook analytics which can be invaluable when you need show a sponsor what your fan demographics look like. And it allows you promote posts and reach an audience beyond your current fan base.
When you do create a brand page, make sure you present yourself in the most professional way possible. Use a high-quality profile picture and cover photo. Use proper spelling and grammar in your bio. And most importantly, make sure all of your contact information is easily accessible.
5. BUY A GOPRO
As far as I’m concerned, a GoPro is the most powerful tool you can use to grow your fan base and attract sponsors. It takes 5 minutes to it set up in your car, another 5 minutes to download the video and post it on Facebook. And for that minimal effort you can get thousands of views and dozens of new fans each time you post one.
And once you start getting views consistently, you can use your GoPro videos as part of your sponsorship package. Say you’re getting 10k views per video and you charge a sponsor $25 per race to have their logo appear at the beginning of your video. If you run a 40 race season that’s an extra $1,000 in sponsorship.
6. ALWAYS RESPOND
Like most things in life, racing is as much about who you know as what you know. If someone takes the time to acknowledge your existence, ALWAYS make sure to return the favor. You never know when that person might have the opportunity to put in a good word for you with someone looking to invest in the sport. And even if they don’t, there are countless other reasons – not the least of which is just being a good person.
Likewise, when someone takes a moment to comment on a post, you should always respond. It’s hard enough to attract new fans. Do everything you can to keep your existing ones happy.
7. DO THINGS FOR FREE
Unless your name is Kyle Larson, you probably don’t have a line of businesses competing to get their name on the side of your car. If knocking down doors isn’t getting you anywhere, consider offering to put a logo on your car for free. This is more common than you might think. I personally know of at least one World of Outlaws team who is doing this right now. There are a few things that might happen:
- That business might see the value in what you’re doing and sign up (or feel guilty and throw a few dollars your way - hey, there's no shame when it comes to sponsorship).
- Other businesses might feel more confident in sponsoring you after they see your car with a few logos already on it.
- You end up giving a business a few weeks of free promotion on an unused quarter panel that wasn’t making you an money anyway. Nothing lost.