The reasons many racers are unsuccessful in finding sponsorship support is that they never start looking or they are ill prepared for the adventure. And looking for sponsorship-serious financial support-is an adventure with many downs and only some ups.

Unfortunately, a majority of racers would rather whine about the lack of sponsorship, how difficult it is to obtain financial backers, and how lucky those with sponsorship are rather than actually go after sponsorship.

Racers need to be prepared to earn a sponsorship because the competition for sponsorship dollars is fierce. You are competing for sponsorship opportunities available in just about every sport, in the theater, and everywhere there is a gathering of people. So in order to be successful at securing sponsorship, a racer must have a marketing package that stands out and offers an outstanding return on investment for the sponsor.

If the sponsor is looking for media exposure, then the racer has to make it happen. If the sponsor is looking for more traffic at a retail location, the racer has to make it happen. Far too often, a review of a racer's sponsorship package indicates that the package is backward. There is 75 percent about the racer and the team and just 25 percent about the marketing plan that is going to make the sponsorship successful. It should be just the opposite.

No sponsorship proposal should begin with begging for money so that an engine can be purchased to go racing. If a racer is going after sponsorship, that racer should already have the equipment necessary for racing.

We are offering a number of tips that we feel will help a racer's sponsorship efforts significantly.

Racers should keep a record of races run and results. Have current photos available. And make sure you have a portfolio of all media exposure that has been generated. All that information will come in handy when preparing the sponsorship marketing package.

1. There are two types of sponsors: business owners and fans. Some just enjoy seeing their name on a race car and are looking for nothing in return other than being a supporter of the sport. (We know there are also trucks and other vehicles in racing, but for ease of writing, we are using the term race car.) Then there are the more serious sponsors who are actually looking for a return on their investment, whether it is in media exposure, foot traffic for their business, or the opportunity to use the sponsorship for hospitality and entertainment at the race events.

2. Keep in mind that racers operating their race team as a business find success in sponsorship more often than those who do not. It is rather inexpensive to head down to the local Staples and have them create letterhead and business cards. They can also help with the creation of a professional sponsorship marketing package. First impressions count.

3. Telephone service is not that expensive. Set up a telephone line that is dedicated only to race team business. Make sure the people answering that phone understand the importance of a good image. Many think that having children answer the phone is cute, but it can be the undoing of a potential sponsorship deal.

If someone isn't there to answer the phone in a professional manner, install a voice mail system. And the voice mail greeting should not be, "Hey, this is Jimmy. You know the drill." Create a pleasant, business-like greeting that invites the caller to leave a complete message that includes a good time to return the call, the name, and the telephone number.

Return calls in a timely manner. This also holds true for e-mails. If you are using e-mails in your sponsorship marketing efforts, do not use instant message and do not use the popular abbreviations. Business people want to deal with professional people.

4. Oftentimes, we see racers requesting unrealistic amounts of money. They think the sponsor should finance the team, and they feel that it is OK to go back and ask for more if the original amount was not enough. A sponsor-a successful business person-is only going to give a racer what they think the opportunities offered are worth. There are no secret formulas that racers can use to figure out how their sponsorship package should be priced, but it has a lot to do with what your package includes, along with attendance figures, the number of events being run, TV involvement, and more.

5. With that being said, we also see many racers selling too cheap. It is best to start high and be able to negotiate down if necessary. If you place a low value on what you are offering, the potential sponsor could decide that it is not worth getting involved. Cheap is not always best.

If you are going after serious sponsorship, you will most likely find that the business you have approached will be doing a thorough check of your credit and personal references. Don't be surprised.