Landing a Sponsor

Friday, January 24, 2014 at 3:12pm Written by:

Finding sponsorship for grass-roots racers may be getting more difficult. The economy has slowed, but the cost of auto racing isn’’t declining. So for a lot of racers, this may mean getting out of the sport, or finding some serious sponsorship to finance their racing efforts.
Many grass-roots racers have no idea what they should be doing to attract sponsorship, and many aren’t willing to learn, or invest, in hiring someone to assist their efforts.
We want to share 20 key points that a grass-roots racer should keep in mind when going after sponsorship. In fact, these basics of sponsorship can be used by just about anyone seeking a marketing partner. They are listed in no order of priority, every one of these points can be useful in your sponsorship efforts.

1. Don’t sell too cheap.
If you don’t feel that what you offer is worth much, businesses will agree. Set a realistic figure— based on value offered, and make it higher than what you need (that leaves room for negotiations). You can always come down with your fee, but it is almost impossible to increase the amount.

2. Request a realistic amount of money.
Too many sponsorship seekers think a serious primary sponsor should finance the race team. A sponsor— a successful businessman— is only going to give you what he thinks the deal is worth to him. If you can show that the package you offer will affect the bottom line, generate exposure, and bring customers in, the chances of getting that businessman to sign on as a sponsor are much improved.

3. Run the race team like a business.
Don’’t leave all your business sense behind when you go through the pit gate at a speedway. Run the team like a real business, and you will impress potential sponsors.

4. Don’’t beg.
Never tell a potential sponsor that if you don’t get a sponsor, you won’t be able to race. They don’’t care. At least those offering serious sponsorship don’’t care.

5. Talk racing as it pertains to increasing the sponsor’s business.
Most sponsors don’’t care about your auto racing. They do care about their business, and what you can do to help their business. Show that you have a way to attract customers, and they will listen. Telling them about all the wonderful things you have done in racing and plan to do, will do nothing for the business, and they will have no interest.

6. Add value to the package.
Many sponsorship packages are done backward. Ninety percent is devoted to the race team, and 10 percent is devoted to the marketing efforts to make the sponsorship work. It should be just the opposite. The days of offering to paint the sponsor’s name on the race car and calling it “sponsorship” are long gone. You have to offer a package that includes, perhaps, signage at the track where you race on a regular basis, include a night at the track for the sponsor, and include program advertising and billboard advertising. Public address announcements can also be included. The racer should be spending part of the money received from the sponsor to keep the sponsor happy. You need to have a marketing fund in place to make sure the sponsor gets the exposure they paid for. Twenty percent is a good figure to work with.

7. Use the hauler as a rolling billboard.
More people will see the logos and names on the hauler as it travels to and from the races than will see the race car at the track. Sell the benefits of the hauler exposure, and charge for it.

8. Generate exposure for the sponsor.
Create and distribute a media release when the sponsorship is secured. Keep the media informed with news releases and newsletters. Create stories on the team, including sponsorship names, for program books and organization newsletters. Make sure the announcer at events where you compete has an information sheet on the team—, including sponsor names. Keep in mind that the exposure generated in program books, newsletters, and in the media is basically free. This requires just a little work by you or someone who has some writing talent.

9. Know the difference.
There are two types of sponsors— those who, more or less, just give you money (supporters/fans) and expect nothing in return, and those who are the serious sponsors who actually expect a return on their investment.

10. Don’’t promise what you cannot produce.
Don’t promise to win races and championships. Don’t promise to get the sponsor exposure in all area newspapers, trade publications, and other media. Instead, tell the potential sponsor that you will be giving it all your very best effort.

11. If you can’’t talk business, or you can’’t write an effective letter, or you can’t develop a proposal, or don’’t understand selling, you must hire someone to do it for you.  Don’’t expect anyone worthwhile to do it on a commission basis. Either hire someone to help you, or buy some marketing materials that will help you do it yourself. Be certain that the finished proposal or cover letter includes good grammar, correct spelling, and the proper names and titles of those who are being contacted. And don’’t forget, there is nothing worse than a greasy thumb print on the letter or proposal.

12. Research the potential sponsor.
Be sure that the sponsor can benefit from the program you offer. Be sure they can afford what you are asking. Custom-tailor programs that incorporate current marketing objectives, and try to expand on the need for on-site hospitality cross-promotions between your sponsors.

13. Don’’t conduct business on the telephone with the TV playing in the background or kids talking.
Have a dedicated phone line installed (it is not that expensive). Only those who are involved in the sponsorship marketing program answer the phone. If you cannot have someone there all the time, install voice mail. It will all pay off. If a potential sponsor calls and ends up talking with your children, chances are good that your program will not be taken seriously.

14. Mass mailings don’’t work.
There is a very well organized program that includes contact letters, postcards, proposals, telephone calls, and more that does work. Mass mailings to people you have not talked to in advance will probably end up in the wastebasket. Many times, well meaning secretaries will save their boss the trouble of reading a proposal—one that was not expected—by tossing it in the trash.

15. Develop a relationship with the track promoter.
Let him or her know that you are available to do personal appearances, car shows, etc. It gives you the opportunity to meet more sponsorship prospects, and at the same time you are doing the promoter a favor. That can put you in a position to get better rates for your sponsors when they want to try some marketing opportunities at the track.

16. Get involved in local charities and local civic organizations.
A lot of business people belong to these organizations and this is a great way to meet them. Cultivate relationships.

17. Grass-roots racers should not be seeking sponsorship from corporate America.
You may stumble on something and get lucky once in awhile, but you’d do better to spend your time working on the local and regional companies that will have more interest, and derive more benefits, from the exposure you generate for them. There is always the opportunity to bring in several sponsors rather than just one primary sponsor.

18. Bring them out to the races.
Give your prospective sponsors the “royal tour” at the speedway. It may not seem like anything special to you, but to people who have not been there before, showing them all the behind-the-scenes activities can sell the deal for you. Give the tour, a bag of goodies to take home, and have someone go with them to explain what is going on. This is where the promoter, whom you helped by doing personal appearances, can kick in with some tickets and pit passes to make sure the potential sponsor gets VIP treatment.

19. Put it all in writing.
To avoid problems in the future— even with the small deal— make sure that everyone involved understands what they should expect. Put it in writing and have the principals sign. There will be no doubt as to who does what, when.

20. Once you have made a commitment, the sponsor’s needs come first.
We’’ve all heard too many stories about teams, even champions, who could’n’t be bothered to show up for an autograph session or a radio interview. Then they are surprised when the sponsor doesn’’t want to continue to support them. When you have that sponsor, make sure that you act your best at the races and everywhere you go representing your team and sponsor. You never know who may be watching. Dress and speak properly when representing your team and the sponsors, and make sure the sponsor is kept informed of what the team is doing all season. Be in touch personally from time-to-time, by telephone, newsletter, and more.

There are sponsorship dollars out there, from companies excited to get their business name in front of the crowds.  Are you the driver to help them do that?


  1. Joshua Stewart says:

    Very good blog. As being a sponsor of a couple diesel teams, I know it’s very hard on them to sell the sport. With that said, I would like to leave 1 comment. Be very cautious of the placing of sponsorship on the side of the truck or trailer. I’ve heard stories of teams being stopped by DOT for inspections, and other transportation paper work. Please look into laws and regulations before spending the time and effort in lettering a truck and trailer.

    • Piston says:

      Thanks for your comment, Josh. I’d not heard of that happening, but did a little research. A truck and trailer become “commercial” when weighing over 10,000 pounds. After that time, they’re required to do as a trucking company would do and log hours of driving etc., and have a DOT sticker visible. Having something as simple as spray paint or bug spray in the back could be considered “hazardous”. Drivers over 10,000 pounds would need a DOT sticker to be in compliance. It is required in OH. I would imagine painting, or eluding to, the fact that they’re a race car in the back and not seeing a DOT sticker would be a flag for authorities. Especially for the larger haulers.
      Thanks for the heads up. Great to know for these guys traveling state to state, and on the interstate.

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