Racing programs cost a lot of money. Sponsors can help support your program or elevate it to the next level. But, how do you go about getting a sponsor? We’ve talked with representatives throughout the industry and asked them to share positive experiences as well as some of their pet peeves.
- Treat your Race Team as a Business. Contacting a sponsor is like contacting a potential employer. Your true request is that you are asking to be part of the sponsor’s sales team. Keep this in mind with everything you do regarding sponsorship.
- Sponsorship Proposal. Before you even consider approaching a sponsor, put together a sponsorship proposal. At a bare minimum, the proposal should contain: Background information about the team, a driver profile, geographical information about the racetracks, levels of sponsorship with pricing and items/services included.
- Research the company. Know what they do. Have a good idea about their target market. And then, use this information to think about how you may be able to deliver their message. This doesn’t have to be a long process, but it definitely needs to be done before the first approach. For example: You are thinking about approaching a local car wash to be a sponsor. How big is the radius that the car wash serves? Is there a nearby track where you race? If the nearest track is 50 miles away, what value could sponsorship bring to them? In that case, probably none. If however, the track is close, what could you do to bring them customers? A couple of ideas include handing out coupons at the track or making a personal appearance with the car at one of their facilities. These are the types of ideas to develop before making any first approach.
- Establish a Relationship. Before seeking any sort of sponsorship, develop a relationship.
- Do Business with a Potential Sponsor. Doing business with a company before asking for any financial consideration goes a long way. It really makes no sense for a company to provide sponsorship to a team that is a non-customer when they have hundreds of loyal customers that they could sponsor.
- Appreciate Technical Assistance. Not all sponsorship is financial. Receiving technical assistance with your racing program is often more valuable than money. Recognize that and reward technical sponsors accordingly.
- SUPPORT YOUR SPONSORS! I’m not a big fan of the Caps Lock button, but this point cannot be stressed enough. In fact, we received so much feedback on this item that we will be publishing another article dedicated to this topic.
- Use proper spelling and grammar. This applies to every form of written communication: messages, emails, texts, etc. Remember, every contact with a potential or existing sponsor is business communication.
- Be gracious. Whether the answer is yes, no or maybe, thank the person for taking the time to consider your proposal. Business people are busy people with many tasks in front of them.
- Follow up when you say you will. If a potential sponsor says, “call me Monday and we can talk about it,” you have been given a golden opportunity. Call him/her on Monday! Not Tuesday, not Thursday, Monday! This is your chance to show that you will follow through on your commitments.
- Start early. Nothing is worse than calling a manufacturer and needing sponsorship for a product two weeks before the season starts.
- Never use the phrase, “What can/will you do for me?” Sponsorship is about what you can do for a sponsor. They are paying you for a marketing service, not handing out money or products like candy.
- Don’t contact Sponsors after Business Hours. You may see a sponsor or the owner of a company on social media at night. Just because they are online does not mean they want to talk about business. Respect that. If you decide to send a private message to the person or page, do it during working hours. Keep in mind, some companies see Facebook messages for sponsorship as tacky, so this isn’t necessarily the best route to go. Regarding contact times, this also applies to texting and phone calls. Email is ok, as this is less intrusive than instant messaging because an instant answer isn’t expected.
- Don’t try to sell stickers. Every sponsor knows that their logo or message will be displayed on a car if a deal is struck. When a sponsor receives a message like, “your business' logo can go on the hood for $500!,” they just see it as an expensive sticker.
- Don’t seek Sponsorship at Trade Shows. This is the time when racing businesses are focused on making sales and generating revenue. It is a good time to meet them in person, but try to stop in their booths when it is slower and keep the conversation short unless you are buying. Don’t even bother giving them a sponsorship proposal as it is very likely that it will end up in the trash. Our sponsorship expert, Annamarie, from Marketing at Full Speed has a great blog post on this topic. Click here to check it out.
- Don’t Sell a Sob Story. Whether your cause is personal or charitable, placing the focus on the sob story detracts from the purpose of seeking sponsorship—to make sales for the sponsor. No one wants to look like a jerk, so seeking sponsorship in this way creates an instantly awkward situation for any sponsor reading the request. It’s even worse when a sponsor says no and the racer’s response is, “that’s why I told you it’s for charity.” With a response like that, you may as well say—“you’re a jerk!” And guess what? You will never get a sponsorship of any kind from that person.
- Don’t Keep Pushing After a No. One of my favorite sales books is “Go For No.” The book talks about reaching a definitive answer in sales. Sure, you want yesses, but statistically speaking, it will take a lot of no’s to get to yes. People want to be nice, so you will also hear a lot of maybes. “No” can mean “not now” or “not ever.” Listen to understand the difference. And, “not now” normally doesn’t mean next week. But, when there is a no, accept it and move on. Being a pest will only result in a “not now” becoming a “do not ever contact me again.”
While this list is not exhaustive, we hope it gives you some insight into the experiences sponsors have had and some tips to approach them in the best way possible. We truly wish you luck on your quest for sponsorship.