Skip Navigation LinksRacing / Getting Started / Sponsorship

The Wonderful World Of Sponsorship


By Jim Cara

Before you contact a potential sponsor, be prepared. Just as you prepare your machine before a race, prepare yourself ten times as much before you start seeking sponsorship. On the track, you may get another chance to win a race, but a bad attempt at asking for sponsorship may never get you another.

Sometimes the best racers set themselves up for sponsorship failure, while a racer with not much of a winning record gets accused of having a silver spoon when they sport a new additional sponsor every month. Hopefully I have your attention now. If so, I hope you can set aside a half hour of your time to read this and put some of it to use. In this article I am going to explain how anyone can get into the sponsorship game, and how to set yourself up so that sponsors start knocking on your door.

First, let's take a look at the most common way to pick up sponsor cash. But always remember, this is just the tip of the sponsorship iceberg.

Contingency programs


The easiest way for racers to pick up sponsor dollars is in contingency programs. Sure, this pays out to racers who have the ability to run manufacturer’s products and then win races, but what about the racer that is moving up in the ranks? Don’t worry; there is money available for you also, in most cases even more! I’ll explain further down, but for right now, let’s take a quick look at how contingency sponsorships work.

Contingency sponsors pay cash (or cash equivalent) to racers who run their products and win. In most cases, you need to purchase and use a particular product. Make sure to keep your proof of purchase. Then you need to race in a particular class and finish in a top position. At the end of the race, you need to get your contingency paperwork filled out by an official and make sure it is submitted. Soon after, you will get a check from the contingency sponsor.

If you are consistent and can win races, then contingency money is very easy to get. It's pretty simple, buy the products, use the products, win races, get paid. There are racers taking home thousands of dollars per season, just in contingency cash.

Contingency money helps sell products that work, it helps prove that products work, by having racers in the winner’s circle along with decals and company logos. When you hear that Racer X is winning because he is running a Widget Clutch, you more than likely are going to buy a Widget Clutch yourself.

Contingency money is easy to get, and the payouts are great. All too often though, I believe racers think that contingency money is the be-all, end-all of the sponsorship dollar. I’ll argue to the end to show you that it is not.

Promotional sponsorships


Bigger money is available in sponsor dollars set aside for programs that sell far more product and reach outside of the race track. The little known fact is this: This money is available to anyone. What racers don’t like to hear is: To get it, requires a lot of leg work, preparation, and dedication, outside of just getting on a bike and taking it down the track.

Many racers are not prepared or even willing to put the time in. Most just feel that by picking up the phone and offering to wear a product or sticker, or paint scheme that they can get a check to help pay for their racing.

If you ask for money with nothing but the offer of some name exposure, most of the time you will get "no" for an answer. Worse yet, soon your name will become known as someone just looking for a handout for your hobby.

How to get a promotional sponsorship


While you are on your way to the winner's circle, there are thousands of sponsors waiting to help you out. You just need to know how to prepare yourself to ask for it.

Companies know what John Force can do for them, and know that he puts in 300% to make sure his sponsors get premium exposure. They know he runs a tight ship and that they will be exposed to millions in a squeaky clean road show. Of course not everyone can be John Force, and sponsors know that. They are looking for others that put in 300%, no matter what level they are at.

Have you been associated with a local gas station or a local delicatessen in the past? How much did you really do for them? Can you think of something you did that you could show any potential new sponsors? Before you even ask for a penny, you had better be prepared to show a record of what you have done for even the smallest sponsor in the past, as well as what you are willing to do for them.

Give sponsors what they need. Find out who they are trying to reach and who their customers are. Learn about the products and show them what you have done for other sponsors. Even if the sponsor was your friend’s construction company, or the local gas station, pizza joint, or car wash. They want to see how being a part of your program has paid off for a sponsor in the past.

Kick-start your sponsorship program


With the local gas station mentioned above, did you offer to set up a display at the local track, hand out coupons for oil changes, tune ups, tires, sodas? Did you set up your bike on display at the local deli and tie it in to a free sample day, or free soda with sandwich day? Were these promotions successful? Did you take photos? Did you do more for the sponsor than they expected for their money? If so, great! Build a resume of things like this that you have done for even your smallest sponsor and have it ready when you climb the sponsorship ladder to even more money.

Finding it hard to get even a free sponsor that you could do a promotion with? Here is a suggestion. Offer to take your bike to a local trade school mechanics program. How about a local grade school, and discuss how racing has made your life better. Contact the local newspaper once you set it up, and make sure they cover it. Save your clippings and ask for letters from the schools that show your efforts.

If you manage to get into the news, make sure company logos are showing? If so, send it to the company and let them see that you got them free promotion. Show them that you do this kind of thing on a regular basis, and that you would like to work with them on a larger scale. But be realistic, don’t expect to contact Super Cola with a local news clipping and wait for a check to pay for your new engine.

Make an impression


The biggest mistake is the unwillingness to give sponsors any attention, unless you get money first. Even larger a mistake is when racers cover up a sponsors logo when things don’t go as planned. Do either of these and you have shut the door in your face.

Take a look at the Hartman family. Rhonda and John run a pair of Top Fuel Dragsters in the NHRA Powerade Series. Fram gave them a few limited dollars to run a single race in 1999. When the race was up, the Hartman team decided to keep the paint scheme, and make sure Fram knew about it. Soon after, Fram contacted the team and offered to sponsor the rest of the season. The sponsorship grew, and now they have an excellent deal with a complete two-car team sponsored by Fram, as well as its affiliates Autolite and Prestone.

Before you even ask for a penny, you had better be prepared to show a record of what you have done for sponsors in the past, as well as what you are willing to do for them.

Put together your own programs where you can bring them customers. Offer promotion suggestions and get the company involved. Doing this for all of your sponsors and keep a visual record of it shows that you appreciate the sponsorship, and that you are working for the money. Stay on top of anything you can do to help them sell more, or get their image out in a positive way and be able to prove results.

Then, when you think you are ready to call on Super Cola, you have your ducks in a row.

Clean up your act


Look good and be a pro, no matter what level of racing you are at. Does your appearance shine above others? Is the sponsor going to know that by being associated with you that they are promised a positive image? That does not necessarily mean uniforms and a 80ft semi. I’m talking about a clean pit area and bike, properly placed signage and information and a professional look and feel when you come to the line?

Even something as simple as the same color Golf Shirts for everyone on your crew makes a tremendous difference in your exposure. Don’t have friends standing around in sneakers with OZZY and Big Johnson shirts as you do your burnout. Potential sponsors want to see that you care, and will be better assured that by being with your team that they will be represented well.

Now that you have made a good impression on a sponsor, do you think you are ready to ask them for the cash? Think again. Do you know all you need to know about their product? Can you speak well about it; can you project a good image while doing so?

Know your sponsor and their products


Get to know the sponsor before you ask for money. Get them to know you and your team, before you ask for money.

A great way to introduce yourself to a sponsor is to offer volunteer trade show and midway booth support to the companies that you use their products, volunteer to help them with projects. Learn about the product line and the customers. Show some good faith. Do some advance work. When you see a sponsor on the midway, introduce yourself. Take this time to hang-out and learn about the products. Offer your support. If you already use the product, make sure you are representing it positively. Show them what you have done for them. Do this a few times. Court your sponsor long before you attempt to get into their pocket.

Put together a sponsor package that shows what you have already done to promote others. Show your clippings, photos, and thank you letters. Even if it’s your friends construction business, the deli, or gas station. Outline what you are willing to do if this particular company buys in to your program.

If they like you, and what you are about, as well as how you represent their company, then sponsorship is more likely. Purchase, use, and recommend the products that you potentially want as a sponsor. Let them know what you like about the products. Send them pictures of you using the products. Always stay in touch with the potential sponsor, and ask for your contact by name. Make sure they know who you are.

Take some pictures and keep them informed of your progress. Look neat and trim in all the photos and whenever you are using their products. Make sure they see it, and are aware of you. But do it all professionally.

Look like a pro, act like a pro, and no matter how good, rich, or poor you are sponsors will see you as a pro and will want you to be representing their company. Sponsorships will start coming to your door.