What is the link between racers, fans, and businesses potentially involved with sponsorship in racing? That is the link that racers need to determine when looking to secure funds from any business. It may be an obvious user-defined link such as a racing vendor supporting a car or a home improvement center sponsoring a NASCAR team. The sponsor is looking to get its name in front of a specific set of customers and associate the company name with racing. It is an act of associating multiple passions with a need and a name.

At the highest levels of our sport the linkage between the sponsor, the driver, and even the team or organization is inextricable. When you hear the name Jeff Gordon one of the first things you think of is DuPont, or possibly Pepsi, and with Tony Stewart the immediate link is with Home Depot. These businesses have recognized and developed a link between their customers and the racers, so there is a clear and distinct linkage between these teams, drivers, and the sponsors.

This does not happen by accident. It takes work and a long term relationship between the sponsor, the racers, and the team to get this kind of recognition. The value to the business is difficult to place a dollar value on, but it is measured and can be determined right down to the penny. There are numerous businesses that track just how often a product is mentioned and the amount of time the product is seen within the media, including TV, radio, print, and movies, to name a few.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that it is difficult to field even a local Saturday night racecar solely out of the pocket of the racer. Even if you were to win every week, the purses at the local dirt track or paved oval just could not support the program. Without some additional funding from friends, family or a sponsor of some type, the show would be much smaller or non-existent.

So, how does the local Saturday night racer get a sponsor and the funds to help run his team? The tried and true way is to develop a sponsorship package-a document that defines the team in a favorable light. This document, along with an impassioned pitch, is supposed to get the potential sponsor to see the light and give the racer a very favorable financial package.

The majority of sponsorship packages are trying to sell the prospective sponsor on the driver and the car. The problem is that most racers are trying to sell something when in reality you are entering into a partnership with the sponsor. For the package to really work where both parties benefit, they need to work together. It is much more than just writing a check. Let's examine the content from a typical sponsorship package and see what many drivers are showing to potential sponsors. The document will often include text and photos that delineate:

• Historical points that revolve around a win/loss record of the driver and/or the team
• A profile of the driver
- Some personal information
- Marital status
- Education
- Likes and dislikes
- Length of driving career
- Experience level and types of cars raced previously and the success in each prior division
• A profile of the team and the members and possibly some team history, often with pictures and a profile of the team members in uniforms.
• Past or current championships that the driver has won or the current points battle and how the driver and team are doing
• The look of the car in its current state.
• Pictures of the tow rig and trailer.
• A cost breakdown for the weekly needs of the team, although rarely a budget of weekly costs are included.

The document may also show pictures of the racecar in the potential sponsor's logo and painted in the sponsor's colors. This is easily done with a digital photo and good photo manipulation software.

These are all important details but they are not enough anymore. To win in this arena you will need to bring more to the table. What is separating your sponsorship package from the rest of racers looking for the same deal?

At times racers have a problem with sponsorship because they have yet to get their mind wrapped around the fact that not everybody is as passionate about racing as they are. Difficulties arise when racers approach a potential sponsor and the communication breaks down because they are not talking the same language. Words travel back and forth between the racer and the business person but communication is not taking place, often because racers are talking racing and business people are talking business. Even if the business person is a race fan they are still thinking about the business reasons that are, or should be, compelling them to enter into a business relationship with a race team.

At the core, what the racer is really proposing, whether they know it or not, is a business relationship with the sponsor. You, the racer, are proposing an advertising relationship with the potential sponsor. For "X" amount of money, you, the racer, will place the sponsor's name and/or logo on the "Y" component-the car, the driver, the trailer, and so on-and that placement is the value provided by the racer.

This arrangement may include a number of personal appearances with the car and team at a sponsor's place of business or even developing some additional advertising using the car, the driver, and possibly the team. The problem with this arrangement is that the racer often sees a clear value in this operation while the potential sponsor needs to be educated about the value. From a simplistic perspective that is the core value package you are presenting to the business. You will be representing that sponsor's company at the track and potentially beyond. It can be just that simple. But more often than not it is a bit more complex. The first question that a potential sponsor will ask is, "Why should I do that?" For the same or possibly less money they can buy some advertising on the local cable TV station and possibly reach more people. The real issue, the racer should point out, is not just the number of people you reach, but that you are reaching the right people, the ones who are potential customers.

As a racer you have to discover the linkages between your racing and the sponsor's customers or potential customers. That is the most common missing link, as the racer often misses this critical linkage between the business, racing, and the customer base of the sponsor's business. That customer base could be new or existing customers, and it is a critical linkage that is in the best interest of the racer to help determine. This should be determined prior to the first meeting with a potential sponsor.

How is this accomplished? The racer does this through research, hard work, and planning prior to even approaching the sponsor with a proposal. First and foremost, you should develop knowledge about any business you approach for sponsorship. This is a key point. Write this down and make sure you have knowledge of the potential sponsor's business before you ever contact the sponsor for a meeting. If they make widgets you should be able to talk about widgets with some level of knowledge. This will show that you are a knowledgeable, interested, and enthusiastic partner.

The problem is that the racer usually has not provided the missing component of data that the sponsor will need. How will sponsoring your racecar put money in the pocket of the sponsor? That is the question you need to answer before the sponsor has the opportunity to ask the question. You as the racer need to try and develop that metric. How will sponsoring your race team put more customers into your sponsor's place of business or have customers asking for the sponsors goods or services? This is the value that a racer will help to provide. Another key point, and write this one down, too: Be able to explain how sponsoring your race team will improve the sponsor's bottom line.

Value. Racers need to show that sponsorship will provide a value to the business. How will giving a racer a sum of money to put the sponsor's name on the car help the business? What is that linkage between the spending of the money and an increase in business for the sponsor? Data is something that many racers leave out of the equation. They bring passion to the table and often forget about the data that will help the potential sponsor get as passionate about the idea of sponsorship as the racer. What kind of data do you need to bring to the table to accomplish this shared passion? The most logical answer is, it depends.

First, just how many people will see the sponsor's name each week? This eyeball count is not just going to happen at the track. You need to look beyond the track. It is going to happen on the way to the track. Remember your racecar trailer is a moving billboard and people will see this on the way to the track and possibly where you park it between race weekends. You are in a competition with the print and broadcast industries for this advertising dollar. They have this data; you need to arm yourself with the same data. In fact, you do have an advantage over the print and the broadcast media. The racing fan is a loyal supporter of those who support racing. Given a choice most race fans will pick a product of a racing sponsor over a non-racing product. This is not conjecture-it is a fact demonstrated by many marketing surveys over the years.

For example, let's concentrate on just the track. The data from the track is something you can get and it gives you an advantage. What is the weekly attendance at the track? Remember there are people in the pits as well as the stands and they all count. You need to start gathering some data about track attendance. If it is not made available to you by the track, gather it yourself. There are plenty of clever ways to gather this data. Make a fair estimate of weekly attendance by counting seats. Go into the parking lot and do some data mining:

• What kind of cars are in the parking lot? This might give you some insight to what kinds of cars the race fan is buying-a data point that may be of value to the local car dealers.
• Are there more foreign cars than domestic? A simple metric with two data points; is this spread different at dirt or paved tracks?
• What kind of tires do they have?
• Do they have accessories like aftermarket wheels? Valuable information if you are looking at local tire dealers for sponsorship.
• Are there more trucks than cars?
• Are people coming to the races in groups?
• Are they doing any sort of tailgating prior to the races?
• If they are tailgating, what are they doing-cooking, using prepackaged food, or fast food?
• What kind of bumper stickers do the cars have? (Are they promoting racing, and do they have a notable number on the rear window or bumper?)
• Remember that all short-track fans are not NASCAR fans and some short-track fans are very loyal when it comes to supporting their favorite drivers or the sport they love.
• Look in the stands and see what the fans are wearing. Are they wearing the shirts from their favorite local racer or from a national series driver?

Data Mining
Remember, racers are in a very competitive marketplace. Your team will not be the only team in the pond looking to land that next big sponsor. Key ingredients are often missing from the presentation package. The one key ingredient is why the sponsor should be giving your team money to place its name on the car. What are the data points that are driving that decision? In developing this package you need to answer some questions that the potential sponsor will have about why it should even consider this proposal. It is better to ask and answer these questions prior to being asked by the potential sponsor. These questions and answers should be part of the presentation package.

These are fairly easy data points to gather. The point is that you need to understand who is coming to the races and just what demographic these fans fit into. A potential sponsor, especially if new to sponsoring racecars, needs to know who will be seeing the company's name on the car.

Once you have some numbers you can craft them into your presentation to a prospective sponsor. The presentation should be tailored to the respective business. For example, if your potential sponsor is an automotive related business, show that you can reach more customers who are in tune with their cars than other ways they may choose to advertise. Your audience is more passionate about their car; they will see the link between the sponsor's business and sponsorship to your racecar. You have established a linkage, with the sponsorship and the sponsors business.

I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time at racetracks and spend a great deal of time talking to racers. A common thread is that every racer wants a sponsor; another common thread is that they have very little data that helps them determine the value they can provide to a sponsor. The side of the car has value, for example, and you need to determine what that value is worth.

One more critical component in the sponsor search many racers do not give enough thought to is how much money they need and how much money they are going to ask for. Approaching a sponsor with a well-developed sponsorship proposal with no idea of how much funding you are looking for is not a good sign. It can make you look less than prepared for the meeting. You need to understand how much money you need. If you are spending $500 a week to fund the car and keep it competitive, state as much in your proposal to the potential sponsor. Don't be shy when asking for the funding. Your season may run 22 races and that means that you need $11,000 to fund the car. That could be a starting point for the negotiations. The point is that you do not just want to say that you will be willing to take whatever they will offer. You need to be an organized and well informed racer.

The real takeaway is that getting and keeping a sponsor is an important part of a well-run race team. The sponsor will be more than just a source of operating revenue. The sponsor will become a racing partner. You and your racecar will become part of a total advertising package. The car, team, driver, and the sponsor are all now linked to each other, and hopefully to a loyal fan base of new and existing customers.

Another thing you need to know is how a potential sponsor is currently advertising. Are they using print advertising? Are they using radio or TV? Do they already advertise at the track in any way? Your job is to illustrate that you can reach a core demographic faster and for a better value than any other single advertising medium. And that the racing advertising has more impact.

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