SPEED NEWS

Speed News May 2017

Speed News Magazine - The Official Magazine of the National Auto Sport Association

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Sponsorship How To Get It and How To Keep It Racing is expensive. This shouldn’t be new information to anybody reading this. Any person who races understands that the sport can bankrupt you and ruin your life. Regardless, racers are a crazy bunch and will do it anyway — down to the last dollar in their bank account on some crazy race weekends. The recipe for success in motorsports is to find a way to enjoy your passion for racing and also balance your budget. Many teams find that balance through sponsorships. The question is, “How do I get sponsored?” The answer isn’t easy, and there are many different ways to attract a sponsor. Chances are your first sponsor will not be an energy drink and you won’t get a check that will cover your entire racing season. You have to build up to that. However, here are some ideas that have worked at the club racer level to score that coveted sponsor. One thing to wrap your mind around when it comes to industry backing is that a sponsorship is really an agreement between you and someone else trading goods for services. The goods are products or cash and the service is the exposure you can provide that company. This relationship has to have positives for both sides, which means you, as the racer, need to do your part. Show Me the Money Sponsorship comes in many shapes and sizes. At the truly professional level, it can mean a multimillion dollar deal per year of racing. At the club level, it might mean 15 percent off brake pads — pads that are marked up 50 percent. Where you land between these two extremes depends on your work ethic, marketing skills, and whether your dad owns a few dozen car dealerships. The first thing to understand about sponsorships is ROI, return on investment. A company who is going to sponsor you has to see a reason to do it. Personally, I don’t ask a local pizza parlor to give me $5,000 to put a sticker on my car because I know there is no reality where driving a racecar around a track in the middle of the desert at a local NASA event is going to send $5,000 worth of business to a pizza parlor 200 miles away. It just doesn’t make any business sense, therefore I don’t ask for money from a business that won’t benefit from the relationship. Start small. Begin by asking a company for something that won’t be difficult for them to give you and you can guarantee them a return on their investment. For example, one of my first sponsors was I/O Port Racing Supplies. I asked the owner, Ken Myers, for a racing seatback brace and a window net — both products with his company’s logo on it. Ken sells racing products all day long to thousands of racers and they all want to be sponsored. So why did Ken give me the products for free? Simple: return on investment. I explained to Ken that for the $100 of product he was going to provide to me, I was going to ensure that everybody knew that the best racing seat back brace on the market was made by him because at the time I was writing for Jalopnik, doing motorsports stories, and my blog there earned more than one million hits. Did he get his $100 worth? Absolutely. I understand that not everybody is an automotive journalist with direct access to numerous media outlets. However, most people live in a town that has a local newspaper. If you understand how newspapers work, you know they have to fill all of the blank spaces they didn’t sell to advertisers with news. In a lot of cases, it is high school sports scores, which aren’t exactly riveting to read. Reach out to your local sports writer and provide him or her with a great photo of your car on track — which means you need to buy the awesome photos from the track photographers — and deliver the results of your last race. Provide them with an interesting story. You would be surprised how easy it is to get into your local paper. Once that article comes out, you can use that to send to possible future sponsors to show that you can get their name out there. The great thing about newspapers today is that they are in print and online. Once an article goes up digitally, you can link it to your social media or e-mail it to a future sponsor. Easy money. Social Media A web presence and social media is all any company thinks about these days. How many followers does your race team have? 300? Do you think that is good? A 19-year-old girl in Idaho who takes photos of her butt while wearing bikini bottoms has over a million followers. You need to step up your social media game. Nowadays companies don’t just want a decal on a racecar, they want social media hits with hash tags. The photos need to be quick, up all the time, and they need to be appropriately hash-tagged. For instance, if I take a picture of my car at the local event, in the comments section I will type #carbotech #TEMmachineshop, #sampsonracingscommunication #chandlerautosport. These companies can quickly search their hash tags on the Internet, and if they don’t see photos of your car, then you aren’t providing them the exposure they are looking for. The reason this is important is because companies are busy making products, so they don’t have time to run all over the country taking photos of cars flying around tracks with their stickers on them. That is now your job as the sponsored racecar driver. Don’t have time to take photos and add the appropriate hashtag because you are too busy changing tires at the track? Hand your phone to a teenage girl. She knows how to do social media better than you anyhow. It is important to build some sort of brand with your team. Have a team name, have a logo, have some T-shirts, and make a website. The website doesn’t have to be anything complicated and you can use completely free services like Wordpress. If you go to www.team559.com for Team Double Nickel Nine Motorsports, you will see a very simple web page with all of the required things sponsors want to see: photos of racecars, links to sponsors, schedule of events, YouTube videos of races, with sponsor logos in video, a media archive page with links to every local newspaper article about the team, and a link to the Instagram account. This site was built in about an hour on Wordpress and cost the team zero dollars. If you are talking to a potential sponsor and they have questions about your racing, you can quickly direct them to the website and they will see a legitimate racing team exists. Sign On the Dotted Line Once you land your first sponsor, ensure you clearly understand the agreement you and the sponsor have negotiated. Many companies now require an actual contract between the sponsor and the racer. The contracts outline exactly what parts you will be provided and what racing events, or car shows, you will attend with the car, or what media you “guarantee” the car will be featured in. Many of these contracts require a credit card number be provided. At the end of the season, if you didn’t hold up your side of the bargain — missed a race because the car was damaged, or the media connection fell through — then your credit card gets charged the full amount for the products you thought were given to you for free. Be careful with these contracts or you may find yourself with an ugly debt to pay. Remember to treat your sponsors with kindness and kid gloves. Do not become demanding. In many cases, you will be the last one who gets something shipped to them. Paying customers always come first. Businesses need to be successful to stay alive. You need them to be successful so they can support you. Just because they sponsor you doesn’t mean you are a priority to them. In reality, you are at the end of the line. Oftentimes you have to be patient. You can’t call a sponsor and demand stuff you aren’t paying for. Well, you can do that, but you won’t be sponsored for very much longer. Promote Once you have landed those magical sponsors, do everything in your power to promote their products. Put their stickers on everything. Wear shirts with their logos. Add their logo to your driver’s suit. Put their logo at the end of your YouTube videos. Talk about them on social media. Show them you are doing your job. Sometimes this process actually can have a net zero effect on your racing budget. For example, Hasport sponsored my Honda Challenge car last year and provided its outstanding engine mounts for my car. Once I paid to have a decal made for the car with its logo, added the logo to a team t-shirt, paid for a great photo of the car from a photographer at the track, I think I may have lost money on the deal. I certainly lost more time than if I just ordered and paid for the engine mounts. However, I understand that I am building a relationship with this company. I wanted to prove to Hasport that I would do my part to promote its product. The next time I have a need for a Hasport product, maybe the company will be more willing to support my team than the first time I hit them up. Always think about the future. Not every sponsorship has to be cash or parts. To broker a deal with a sponsor, you need to be creative. What do you need to be a racecar driver? What infrastructure is required to help you succeed? I have negotiated deals with tool companies, like Smart Strings, to provide tools to align our racecars. I worked out a trade with a brewery, Tactical Ops Brewing, to purchase two EZ UP canopies with their logo on them for use in the paddock. This was a win-win deal for both parties because when we aren’t racing, the brewery uses the canopies for other promotional events. But it was my request to them that put the deal together. They were never going to come to me with this idea, but they saw the benefit for exposure and for their own use, so the order went out to EZ UP. Now our team has it made in the shade at the races. We also use these canopies at car shows where we display the racecars when we aren’t at the track racing. Car shows are great exposure for cars and the companies that support those cars. The Follow Through Getting a sponsor to help with your racing effort is literally the first step. If you want to keep that sponsor, you need to keep your side of the bargain. After every race, I collect photographs, newspaper articles, team shirts, and mail all of this swag to the sponsors with a professional business letter with the team logo on top thanking them for their support. This reminds them that we are doing our job. Then I follow up with an e-mail with links to the team website, news articles, social media sites, etc. so they can see the digital footprint we provided the company promoting their product. I hear from a lot of sponsors, “Thank you very much. You are the first team that has ever followed through after we gave them some support.” I appreciate the compliment, but that comment meant a lot of other teams aren’t doing the right thing. Which team do you think will get more support the following season? Yup, the team that followed through. This process is time consuming and it is a lot of work. Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with ensuring I take care of my sponsors. I have brokered numerous sponsorship deals with a lot of companies. Some are small, like the local tire shop, B&G Tires, which mounts and balances race tires when they are having a slow day — remember, we are last. I also have brokered deals with larger more prevalent companies, like Nissan North America, for factory support. Each of these deals took enormous amounts of time and effort — so much effort sometimes that I’m not spending the time I need on the racecar. Occasionally, I wish I were just independently wealthy so I could just write a check for all of the things I need instead of hustling up sponsorship. If I had that kind of money, I would paint my car black and just put a sticker on the hood that says, “ME!” Adapt With Change Even if you do everything right, win a championship, put out a hundred pictures that say #autopower, you might lose your sponsorship anyway. Most sponsorships are interpersonal deals with one particular person at a company. Sometimes that person gets fired or promoted and your deal exits with them. You can e-mail the company a hundred times and nobody really cares. I have had multiyear deals that died because the company just decided to pull out of motorsports altogether. I have received e-mails from old sponsors, like GoPro, that just say simply, “We are going a different direction next year.” Ouch! It is an ongoing process. You have to continue the hustle. And you have to continue to have your car look good. Ensure the sponsor decals are not damaged from contact and keep your cars clean. The more professional you look, the more professional you will become. Fake it until you make it. Work At It I will say that success breeds success. If you start small, score some local support, and get your branding in order, then it will be easier to grab the next sponsor and the next. I have had outstanding success with this model of not asking for too much and then ensuring I give back to the sponsors with more than they expected. It can work for you too, but key word here is work. Good luck, and in the words of Ricky Bobby, “I sure do love Fig Newtons!” To read more from Rob Krider, or to contact him, go to www.robkrider.com. SN

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