One often asked question in motorsports and karting is “How do I find sponsorship?” When asking this question many drivers are looking (or hoping) for an answer as simple as the answer to the question “How do I get to the nearest 7-11?” The truth is that it’s nothing like going to find your local grocery store – it’s more akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack – a very small needle at that in a very large haystack. If that wasn’t enough once you find that needle you also have to make that needle believe that you will take care of it and never leave it in a haystack again!
Key points you need to understand to get sponsored:
- Hardly any company will get financial gain from sponsoring you.
- Motorsport enthusiasts are the kind of company bosses you should target.
- You don’t get sponsored if you don’t go looking for sponsors.
- People are the key.
- You have to approach the person that can sign the cheque.
- Focus on what you will do for your sponsor, not the other way around.
- Once you have a sponsor, you have to work hard at maintaining the relationship.
You have to offer a sponsor more than patches on your race suit.
You might think that you have more talent than anyone else on the grid and that companies should be lining up to sponsor your racing career because in return they will receive untold fame and fortune. You have to understand that there is very little commercial justification for any company to sponsor anyone (even you) when you’re racing in karts, or lower-level formula racing. Maybe when you’re in the WTCC, NASCAR, DTM, or F1 it’ll start being financially viable for some companies to sponsor you. This does not mean that it’s impossible.
There are other reasons that a company or an individual might be interested in supporting your racing which include simple things such as they like you, or they just plain like motorsports and want to be involved but don’t have the money to sponsor a top-level competitor. A passionate motorsport enthusiast who also happens to own a company is a potential sponsor.
How often do you get something you haven’t asked for? When you get punched in the face it’s likely that you asked for it, when you get a date with that girl you fancy you probably asked her (or maybe that’s when you got punched). So the first thing you have to do to get a sponsor is to go around and start asking! If you’re a kid in karting looking for enough money to buy a new kart next season you should make all your family friends and relatives know that you’re racing and need some help in financing your racing – someone just might know someone that wouldn’t mind helping you out. If you’re approaching companies the best thing is to meet someone that knows someone else in the company – cold-calling makes it a lot harder than having a familiar face.
People are everything in motorsports (and life), they can help you find sponsors and meeting other people within motorsport can help you get that next ride (for free or cheaper than you would otherwise). Meet people whenever you can and make a good impression on them. Even if you think there is no way they can help you out remember that people they know might just be people that can sign you that cheque. If the people you meet actually like you then it’s even more likely that they will be able to help you progress – and even hook you up with a sponsor.
Who in a company do you approach with your sponsorship proposal? You won’t get anywhere unless you get to talk to the guy that actually has the ability to sign a cheque for you! There are many positions that seem like they might be the right person to talk to: Sponsorship Manager, Marketing Manager, Advertising Executive. All these titles sound like they are the one that will be able to give you sponsorship – in reality though they might have no to give away a free pen much less a cheque to a racing driver. Their job is likely to be to carry out marketing and sponsorship decisions that were taken by people above them in the organisation. Finding out who actually makes the decisions can be tough, and getting an inside man can be the key. If you meet a lower-level employee in a company this person might be the most important person that you meet in the company because he might give you the information you need to set up a meeting with the right person to approach.
Getting to the meeting with the right person still hasn’t gotten you even half-way there. What do you ask from a sponsor when you’re trying to lure them into sponsoring you? You make sure you don’t ask them for anything – you tell them and ask them what you can do for them and how you will do it and then worry about what they can do for you. Remember that you’re trying to sell yourself here, you’re not trying to steal their money. You have to go into a meeting with a potential partner armed with a solid proposal that you can use rather than trying to talk your way into a deal by promising things you are likely never going to be able to deliver. If your potential sponsor doesn’t know about karting or motorsports marketing then a large part of your proposal should be getting this across.
The key with making a sponsor feel that they are getting they money’s worth is to under-promise and then over-deliver. You want to make sure that your sponsor doesn’t feel short-changed, and you want to make sure that you can actually deliver everything you promised. If you tell them you will be able to provide 3 pit passes to every race and provide cold drinks at the track give them 10 pit passes, 5-star catering, and a corporate karting day with you as an instructor!
Many drivers make the mistake of getting sponsorship and then not giving the sponsor everything they want and more â€“ they forget to nurture their relationship with the sponsor to make it a long lasting partnership. It’s better to keep 3 sponsors for 10 years than it is to find 3 new sponsors every year! You have got to make sure that you deliver on everything you promise and then some. You’ll want to take your sponsor out to dinner now and then to update them on how things are going and you want to send updates after every single race whether you won or crashed out. This shows that you aren’t in it just to get money and then run into your car and forget about the sponsor. The best drivers (marketing-wise) are able to keep the same sponsor for decades.
Not all sponsorship has to be received in cash, product sponsorship is a lot easier for companies to give to you than cold hard cash. If you want to have you and your mechanic look the business at the race track you could approach a clothing store for a few sets of custom-made pit clothing. If you want to have stickers made for your kart you should see if a sticker company is willing to part with some free custom made stickers in return for advertising on your kart and maybe getting your kart to display in their shop for a few days.
Sponsorship and marketing are extremely vast subjects and we will likely be covering a few different aspects on KartingAsia.com from time to time, however there are others with more experience and knowledge that have already written enough about sponsorship to fill an encyclopedia. Here are some books that are either all about motorsport sponsorship or contain a few chapters or paragraphs of valuable information on getting sponsored:
- Drive to Win
- Speed Secrets: Professional Race Driving Techniques
- Speed Secrets 5: The Complete Driver
- Going Faster!
- Get Sponsored
- The Great Money Hunt: Without Money, You’re Not Racing
A very useful web resource is the Karting website www.e-kmi.com. It contains a lot of articles in its “Sponsor Search” section.