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.
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.
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
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
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
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.