CHASING THE GRAVY TRAIN
Anyone and everyone loves free stuff; it’s that feeling we all got as a kid at Christmas, demolishing that pile of presents sitting under the tree. We are trained to love it from birth, but many foolishly seem to think that building a race car automatically means the gravy train will unload on their head. It’s the ultimate dream, right? Being handed copious amounts of money and/or free parts in return for a sticker on your door. Well, that sort of arrangement might have worked in the 1930s, but in these modern times, when people are hounded by advertising 24/7, sponsorship is no longer that simple, and new racers need to understand that it’s not about their passion as much as it is about business. NZPC is often inundated by people asking for sponsorship or the names of companies looking for drivers, and, 99 per cent of the time, the person asking has no public profile, no results, and maybe hasn’t even driven their unfinished project.
I’m not here to beat down on anyone trying to make their dreams come true, but I really would like those budding drivers to take a step back, and, if they’re serious about doing it, do it the right way.
Sponsorship is simply a form of advertising, so, unless it’s your Uncle Bob’s small business and he is helping you out with some half-priced tyres and not expecting a lot in return, you must think of yourself as an advertising outlet — just like TV, this magazine, Facebook, or one of the hundred other forms you’re competing with. You must be able to show an ‘ROI’ (return on investment) and, if you can’t, don’t waste your time or that of the company’s. It’s easy to have a Facebook page, an Instagram account, go on Snapchat or Twitter, but truly mastering these socialmedia platforms takes a lot of work, and if you’re not doing at least those basics, don’t expect to get very far.
Some people will read this and think I’m harsh, but it’s the reality — sponsorship is not a gravy train, and it never will be. Those people I know who have successfully built brand partnerships work extremely hard to maintain them. If you just want to go racing on the weekends and nothing else, the professional side of motor sport is not for you. But hey, all is not lost — if your dream is to be the next ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett, Shane Van Gisbergen, or Hayden Paddon, there are plenty of free online courses that will teach you the basics of how to put together a proposal and a motor sport programme. If you’re taking the time to ask for ‘free money’, the least you should do is check out these tutorials, or pay a pro to manage your sponsorship.
Start by finishing your car, then build yourself a public profile. Do at least a season of racing to get a name for yourself, some results (hopefully), and an idea of exactly what you actually need from sponsors. What does your fuel cost for a season? What does your accommodation cost for a season? What contingencies are in place if you blow up four motors that season and write the car off halfway through? These are all questions you need answers to. Firing off a half-baked proposal asking a big multinational for massive amounts of money will not get you anywhere. Start small and work your way up. It’s certainly not impossible to achieve, but, by the same token, it’s certainly not for everyone.