Last month we took an in depth look at how one goes about securing a money paying sponsor for your race team. Hopefully you were able to take that article and turn it into some real dollars for the season. Now that you have the sponsor, the real work begins.
Hopefully you have a contract/agreement that outlines the sponsorship package and who does what. The contract/agreement should also outline the payment arrangement. When you are involved with a sponsor that is paying serious money, all the money is not going to be paid up front. Remember, this payment structure should be manageable for both the team and the sponsor. And hopefully you have made sure that the money you receive is enough to fund the entire season, unless, of course, some other length of contract has been agreed on.
Make sure that everyone involved knows who is responsible for making things happen in regard to the sponsorship. This brings up the all-important communication question. Communication is an important part of sponsorship success, so make sure everyone involved is aware of what is being done and when it is supposed to be completed. Identify a key contact person for the race team and, ideally, the sponsor should have a key contact person as well. It will make for far fewer mistakes and fewer headaches.
Despite the many forms of communications that are available these days, real communication seems to be a lost art. There is still nothing like picking up the phone and talking to someone directly or even writing a letter. When was the last time you wrote a letter? If you want to really stand out, when someone does something nice for you, such as a mention in an article, send a handwritten thank you note. It will get their attention and gain their respect. Little things like that are what make sponsorship programs work.
At least once a month the race team should be filing a report with the sponsor, making them aware of what has been done to assure that the sponsorship is a success. And the sponsor should be doing things on its end to activate the sponsorship. This is most often where sponsorship deals fail; there is no activation of the sponsorship.
All of the things you promised to do in your sponsorship proposal in order to obtain the financial support now must be done. There should be no broken promises. Often times this is when the race team finds that some of the things that it promised as part of the proposal probably can't be done. Hopefully you have budgeted part of the sponsorship money for marketing so that you are able to do all that was promised.
In this picture of Steve Casebolt's...
In this picture of Steve Casebolt's pit area you can not only see that he is selling T-shirts (look to the left of the hauler's door), but you can also see the black curtain masking the upper level has sponsor decals plastered all over it.
Since I don't know what is included in your contract/agreement and have no knowledge as to the sponsor's objectives, I am going to throw out some key things that I think you should be doing to help make certain that the sponsor will be happy and will want to continue.
It is time to announce the sponsorship. It is amazing to me how very few race teams create a news release announcing their sponsorship. The news release should be created so that it is a mix of the sponsorship announcement, plans for the season, information about the team, the driver, past successes, and so on. A news release that just talks about the sponsorship will have less chance of being used by the media than one that includes both the sponsorship announcement and real news.
There are many media outlets that will use your news release if it is written in a professional manner and sent to the right people. There are trade publications, local print media, Internet sites, and more. If you don't have a command of the English language, hire someone to create the news release.
Damion "The Demon" Gardner...
Damion "The Demon" Gardner dominated the Bubba Army Nationals at East Bay Raceway Park in early February and thanks to where he is standing, anyone looking at this Victory Lane shot can clearly see who is supporting the car.
Work with the sponsor to create your race car and hauler graphics. It is important that your sponsor, based on what was paid, gets a location on the car that can be seen by fans in the stands, TV cameras (if you are fortunate enough to have TV coverage), and photographers. The sponsor name/logo should be readable. Take a look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars and the way many of the successful teams, successful with sponsorship, present their sponsor logos/names. Bold letters work. See how Budweiser does it.
Many racers come up with a variety of excuses for not having the sponsor logo/name on the hauler. Most of it is nonsense. If you price your sponsorship properly you will be able to include a great graphics package on the hauler and make the sponsor stand out. There will most likely be more exposure for the sponsor's name on the hauler while traveling to and from events than there will be for the name on the race car.
Here is a serious mistake made by many race teams. Sponsors pay for exposure, at least most of them do (there are other reasons for businesses getting involved as sponsors), so why is it that when the race team wins, often times the sponsor name can't be seen because the there are so many family members, friends, and others in Victory Lane that the race car is obscured from view?
There is no question who sponsors...
There is no question who sponsors this car. Bold letters and big logos work great to deliver a sponsor message or brand. Courtesy Of NASCAR
Victory Lane should be a great marketing opportunity for the sponsor. The driver should be visible so that the hat with the sponsor's name on it can be seen and the uniform with the sponsor's name can be seen. There will be photos taken that will appear in a variety of media, so make sure that your sponsor's logo is clearly visible when those photos are being taken.
Try this in Victory Lane. Have all the friends, family, and others stand behind the race car and only the driver in front of the car, but be careful that he or she is not blocking the sponsor logo.
Where did the driver get the hat with sponsor name/logo? There should be one in the race car so that as soon as the driver is in Victory Lane he or she can remove the helmet and replace it with the hat. In fact, that should be the case even if you don't win. As soon as the helmet comes off, the sponsor's hat should go on.
It seems pretty basic but...
It seems pretty basic but Jason Bowles presents a professional sponsor driven image with the matching hat and uniform. Photo by Steve Himelstein
No, not personal appearances, your appearance. You will need to work with the sponsor on the uniforms, the hats, the hero cards (for autographs), and anything else that will fit in your budget, including promotional items that the sponsor is willing to provide. Everything should be not only be professional appearing but have a uniform and cohesive message.
The vast majority of race teams fall short on this one and it's the easiest and most inexpensive to do. Create a race team fact sheet for the announcer at each event you participate in. If you run the same track on a regular basis you will only need to do this for the announcer at the first event and then update it as needed.
The fact sheet should include information on the race team and the sponsors. It will make the announcer's job easier and could very well result in exposure for the sponsor. Having been a race announcer at 174 different tracks during my career, I am amazed at how few teams provide fact sheets.
Hero cards are an economical...
Hero cards are an economical way to deliver a sponsor message and make yourself a fan favorite whether at your home track or while traveling.
Create a packet of information that includes a fact sheet, some sponsor promotion materials, a feature story with a photo about the race team and driver so that it all can be available for the sanctioning organization and track PR people along with the media that cover your events.
Create a relationship with the media. A good rapport with the media can go a long way toward helping your sponsorship deal be a success...or a failure.
Do you have your website up and running? Websites can be a very important part of the sponsorship success story. Having the sponsor linked to your website is a great way to increase exposure and, perhaps, create some business for the sponsor. If you have more than one sponsor, you should try to get all your sponsors together so that they can work out business-to-business relationships that are beneficial to all and earn you kudos from the sponsors.
Media kits can be simple and...
Media kits can be simple and inexpensive, like this SSBC one...
As for the website, it's important to have an informative website that is easy to navigate and is kept current. Even worse than having no website is having a website that is not current.
How about putting together a story for the track program book? Many of you are racing at weekly short tracks that offer program books to the fans. Over the years I have published a number of program books, and in doing so was often looking for some editorial content. You should be in touch with the program book publisher and offer to do a story on your race team for the book and include some photos. Here is a great opportunity to gain exposure for the team and for the sponsors. It may even catch the eye of a business owner who just might think that he would like to be with a team that promotes its sponsors as you do.
Over the years I've seen sponsors increase their participation with a team or renew for the following year based just on the program book story or public address announcements that you have been able to get. And it costs you basically nothing.
...or custom printed like...
...or custom printed like this Mast Motorsports one. Which you choose will, obviously, be dependent on your budget.
There are many local weekly newspapers that are popular with readers that could use some editorial help. Most of the weeklies are understaffed and would welcome a weekly or monthly column about local auto racing. You could offer to do the column for free but that column would give you the opportunity to gain additional exposure for the team and sponsors. Keep in mind though that the column could not just be about you.
A revenue source for you and more exposure for the sponsors is sportswear. Offer T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other items with the team name and sponsor logos on them. Work out a deal with the track or sanctioning organization that you race with to have your sportswear sold. You will have to pay a percentage to them but you will also expand your opportunities to have your sportswear sold and in turn sell more product.
At the hauler, you should have sportswear available for sale. Have someone in charge to take care of customers and collect the money. Don't be Mr. Nice Guy and give a lot of stuff away free; it really cuts into the profits. In addition, you should have a rack at your hauler that holds promotional literature on all your sponsors. Make sure it's available to fans who visit with your team.
A well-designed and informative...
A well-designed and informative website can go a long way in promoting sponsors. Up and coming Late Model racer Tiff Daniels showcases 11 marketing partners on her website. Courtesy of Charlie Daniels Racing
A tent with the sponsor names and logos could be set up to cover the team work area and gain more exposure for the sponsor. They are not that expensive.
Bobby Gunther Walsh may be one of the most successful short track racers when it comes to attracting sponsorship and keeping sponsors happy. During the 2009 season he had more than three dozen sponsors on his NASCAR Whelen All American Series Modified racing at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania. All of this despite the fact that Walsh has never won a feature, although he has won a few qualifying events. It proves that you don't have to be a winner on the track to keep sponsors happy. He is able to do it by promoting his sponsors. At the track, he arranged to give away gift cards, financed by his sponsors, for gas, fast food, and Dunkin Donuts. He had his giveaways promoted by the track PR person and announcer.
East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa,...
East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Florida, puts out a weekly program. It's printed in color and chock-full of information about and pictures of racers and events. A well-placed sponsor decal on the cars almost inevitably will be seen in the program. Courtesy of East Bay Raceway Park
Each race night he has the announcer read off some prepared announcements and that creates interest amongst the fans and they head back to the pits to visit with Walsh after the races. He often has long lines waiting to receive bowling passes, gadgets from sponsors, and even some coupons good for Mrs.T's Pierogies. All this stuff works, as sponsors keeping coming back. Some of his sponsors have been with him since he started racing 13 years back. Walsh, who works as a morning radio personality on WAEB-790AM radio in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is very active in local charities and that gains his sponsors additional exposure. He even talked this writer into wearing a rather silly looking Mrs. T's Pierogies hat and a photo of that has shown up often in different publications and websites. Anything for sponsor exposure.
I know of some race teams, not the NASCAR major leaguers, that have show car programs. It is something that creates interest in racing, creates exposure for sponsors, and can be a revenue producer. Trade shows, community events, malls, fairs, and other sporting events can be great places to display the race car. Arrange with the promoter at the track where you race on a regular basis to give out their schedules/brochures in return for some courtesies for your team or sponsors. It is also an opportunity to sell some of your sportswear to a market that you wouldn't reach without the show car program.
Racer Bobby Gunther Walsh...
Racer Bobby Gunther Walsh keeps his sponsors happy and renewing by constantly promoting them at the track. See his race car behind the giveaway table? Photo by Scott Hahn
Talk to the sponsor about a sweepstakes. Perhaps the sponsor offers a product or service that would make a nice prize for the winner. Have fans deposit their entry forms at the hauler. It will show the sponsor how much interest there is in its sponsored race team. If it's a significant prize, the contest could continue all season.
The list of things that can be done to make your sponsorship deal successful is endless. Let your creative juices flow. Keep in mind that the sponsor is looking for a significant return on investment for its sponsorship that is directly proportional to the amount they spend. The more things that you do to attract attention to the sponsor, the more chance there will be that you will be able to renew the contract with the sponsor for a significant increase for the next season.
Have a great racing season, and keep the sponsors smiling.