Craig Yeaton's Super Stock...
Craig Yeaton's Super Stock sits at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California, home of the NHL's Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The fact that the car is at a venue other than a racetrack lends some understanding about the importance of marketing.
There are plenty of opportunities in racing, but those opportunities come with a price. In the trail to seek out sponsorship, there are pitfalls that must be overcome. Sometimes, the racer runs headlong into the traps and never sees them.
One trap can be exemplified by the thought behind the words of President John F. Kennedy, when he said in his 1961 inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
The businesses that want to sponsor race teams seldom want to do it to help the team. They are looking for exposure, and you have a vehicle that can provide it.
Craig Yeaton races Super Stocks at Irwindale Speedway. The class is not the headlining division. Craig is not a former champion, but he carries one of the best sponsorships in the class. His car is sponsored by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks of the National Hockey League on many occasions. In 2004, he also secured sponsorship from the Los Angeles Dodgers, a major league baseball franchise.
"Many drivers think you have to be a Top 10 car to get a sponsor," Yeaton says. "That's not true. It's presentation and having the right information. The sponsor search is not performance driven. A lot of guys think they can tell the sponsor what the sponsor can do for them. The sponsor wants to know what you as a racer are going to do for them."
A pretty face will get a lot...
A pretty face will get a lot of attention in times of autograph sessions and personal appearances. The more pretty faces, the better. In this case, two out of three ain't bad.
Yeaton's successful sponsorship hunt started with the racetrack. Before meeting the potential sponsor, he did the research. He got a media kit from the track and presented his proposal focused on the number of pairs of eyeballs that would see the message on the side of his car. When you are armed with the information, the next step is getting the information to the prospective sponsor.
"You have to make sure you communicate," adds Yeaton. "You can't find a sponsor unless you talk to people. You have to be careful when you are talking to people, too. You have to know who you are talking to, what you are talking about, and be aware of where you are saying things. There are racers out there who will badmouth their sponsors, saying they're not doing enough for them. I wonder if the driver is doing enough for his sponsor. These drivers are badmouthing the track and maybe the media. You have to be careful with your opinions.
"There's a perceived adversarial relationship between the track and the racers. Guys want to badmouth the track, but have you ever tried to work with them? When I called the track, they were very helpful. We established a line of communication. Drivers don't talk to the track like they should."
Armed with his data, Yeaton could approach the Mighty Ducks about his racing efforts. Through his company, Impact Sports & Enter- tainment, Yeaton had worked with the team on matters that had no relationship with racing. It was a foot in the door, but no guarantee of success.
This art rendering was given...
This art rendering was given to the Los Angeles Dodgers for their approval. Before any sponsorship can proceed, the sponsor needs to be kept abreast of developments, scheduled appearances, artwork, and so on. Communication is a key to success.
"When we went to the Ducks, we showed them how they couldn't afford not to do the sponsorship," says Yeaton. "There was a similar demographic at the track and at the games. The track is within 20 minutes of the Pond [Arrowhead Pond, home of the team]. We broke it down to 4,000 to 6,000 people at the track and figured the cost per set of eyeballs that would see the message. It becomes relatively cheap for them because you're both after the same thing.
"In addition to the 4,000 to 6,000 people in the stands, every driver and crewmember in the pits took notice. Even Late Model and Super Late Model drivers took interest. A lot of that was the girls. They got the idea that we were serious."
Oh yeah, the girls. Let's face it, a pretty face can attract plenty of attention. In the case of the Mighty Ducks, those ladies are employees of the team who are attracting attention to the upcoming home games as well as promoting a race team. In some cases, models may be hired to represent the team and draw attention to the effort. Remember, it's a partnership.