NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS: WAR­REN SARE PHO­TOS: NZPC ARCHIVES

he ed. re­cently asked me to put some­thing to­gether on spon­sor­ship, fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tions we’d had over the years and as a bit of a follow-up from dis­cus­sions over the PA at Mad Mike’s Sum­mer Bash. Why me? No idea, re­ally — I’m no mar­ket­ing ge­nius and have no for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions, but I can tell you that I’ve been asked this ques­tion plenty of times over the past 15 years, so I’m known to have a view and to have shared it with a few peo­ple over a brew.

I’ll be up front here: there isn’t re­ally a right or wrong on this topic, given most re­la­tion­ships are pretty much based on per­sonal in­ter­est or benefit, but there are some very ba­sic things peo­ple seem to for­get or ig­nore when try­ing to get spon­sor­ship when they chase their dream.

You’ll have to for­give me if this seems very much a ‘you can’t’ ar­ti­cle, but the idea here is to chal­lenge you and bet­ter pre­pare you, if this is re­ally some­thing you want to pur­sue. Spon­sor­ship is clearly a com­mon topic in work­shops, around the din­ner ta­ble, and on ev­ery dig­i­tal medium there is. Af­ter all, it’s some­thing for free, right? And that’s money you don’t have to spend, which is a good thing, right?

OK, so here is the catch that peo­ple for­get — the say­ing re­ally is true: noth­ing is gen­uinely free! Trust me when I say that the tap can get turned off faster than it was turned on, and that can have long-felt af­ter-ef­fects and al­ter friend­ships. If you are new to the game, then, as most driv­ers and team man­agers will tell you openly, most peo­ple will strug­gle to ever get a dol­lar, and there isn’t an ath­lete or event on this planet that doesn’t work f**king hard to gain and keep what they can get.

Want $5K? You’d bet­ter of­fer a benefit worth $10K plus, and that’s not in sales, that’s in profit

What I will try to do is cover a few often-dis­cussed points, with the aim of aid­ing and as­sist­ing you be­fore you all de­cide to go and be­come the next Ricky Bobby with fancy pro­pos­als, lengthy emails, and spams to ev­ery com­pany you can think of. Trust me, it’s been done al­ready, and, un­less you truly stand out, it will all fly straight into the delete folder.

Be­fore we go fur­ther, ask your­self this ques­tion — and think about it, ac­tu­ally se­ri­ously think: do you re­ally want to be spon­sored, and do you un­der­stand ex­actly what it means to be spon­sored? If you don’t know, and think it’s just about slap­ping on some stick­ers, then stop now and avoid the dis­ap­point­ment.

If you an­swered yes, then I’d also sug­gest ask­ing ob­jec­tive peo­ple what they think about your prospects. Don’t bother with peo­ple who tell you on the daily that you are 100 per cent the next LBJ or Mad Mike. Oh, and while you’re at it, have a think about those mates who are es­sen­tial to your car be­ing able to com­pete. Po­ten­tial spon­sors will also have eyes on them, so, if they aren’t pre­pared to play the game, iden­tify now that you’ve got a po­ten­tial prob­lem.

Right, you’ve de­cided you still want to go ahead with this, so you need to un­der­stand who you are, what your brand is, and how your team and sup­port struc­ture fit into that. Sorry to break this to you, but not every­one is fit to be the face of an en­ergy drink com­pany or ma­jor re­tail brand, or to be­come a house­hold name. Be­fore ap­proach­ing any­one, do your re­search and un­der­stand who a com­pany is try­ing to tar­get and whether you ap­peal and can de­liver ben­e­fits in that mar­ket. Can you give them some­thing they don’t al­ready have that is com­ple­men­tary and sup­port­ive of what they are do­ing? If your whole ap­proach is based on ‘brand­ing’, maybe con­sider just stop­ping now, be­cause per­haps you don’t quite get it.

Re­ceiv­ing spon­sor­ship is es­sen­tially a job, a con­tract to de­liver some­thing in ex­change for some­thing. Can you and your team de­liver a re­turn to some­one on the in­vest­ment they make in your team? I’ll ask that you fo­cus on the word ‘in­vest­ment’, as that’s what a per­son, com­pany, or brand is mak­ing in you. If you think you can sit back, do noth­ing, and keep peo­ple happy, think again. You’ll be talk­ing, mak­ing ap­pear­ances, and shak­ing hands, and if that’s not your thing, then sorry, you need to look else­where.

If you are still read­ing, then I will as­sume you un­der­stand what spon­sor­ship means, and what it en­tails.

Now you’re ready to start think­ing about your spon­sor­ship. First, what you are ask­ing for? Is it money, parts, or labour? If it’s money, which is usu­ally what peo­ple de­fault to, then the ex­am­ple I use goes some­thing like this. The av­er­age small busi­ness owner in New Zealand might turn over $1M per an­num in sales, and af­ter all costs, debts, pay­ing staff, etc., that owner might have $100K left a year with which to pay them­selves. Now, when you email or walk in ask­ing for $10K (10 per cent of the prof­its), you had bet­ter have a pretty strong case in favour of what you are sell­ing. Think of it like this: what would you say to some­one ask­ing for 10 per cent of your salary? Ask any mar­ket­ing man­ager — they will tell you that you had bet­ter be of­fer­ing far more than you are ask­ing, or it’s just not worth it. Want $5K? You’d bet­ter of­fer a benefit worth $10K plus, and that’s not in sales, that’s in profit. As a disclaimer, yes, there is an as­pect of ‘brand­ing’, but what makes you any more use­ful than a well-con­nected lo­cal tradie who is happy with the odd box of brews and some free T-shirts?

Al­ways be re­al­is­tic with your re­quest and keep in mind what you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing. If you are tak­ing part in grass-roots sport with mostly fam­ily and friends watch­ing, where is the gain for the in­vestor? Make sure you know what your cho­sen se­ries or event brings to the ta­ble and be equally sure you can ex­plain it in de­tail.

If you’re look­ing for parts or labour, ap­ply the same logic. Dis­counts are nice and help keep al­most all motorsport go­ing, but it takes a pretty strong case to get some­thing for free. I know every­one looks around and says ‘oh but X got this or that’ — chances are they prob­a­bly spent over $100K to get to that point.

So, now you know you want to be spon­sored, and how much for. Have you got a point of dif­fer­ence? What is it? Why should the po­ten­tial spon­sor go with you, over the 1000 other peo­ple all ask­ing for and of­fer­ing the same? You’d bet­ter be good at telling your story. I also hope you have some­one you can use for de­sign work. You will need a way to present your­self. De­sign and what works best are a whole other topic, so those can be left to some­one else. Ei­ther way, get it done and stick to the prin­ci­ple of KISS (keep it sim­ple, stupid) — no­body has time for your 20-page Pow­erPoint.

Per­haps the voice of For­mula Drift, Jarod DeAnda, put it best when he said, “You want spon­sor­ship and to keep it? You need to win be­fore you turn up! You need the right prod­uct, the right peo­ple and the right at­ti­tude, and even then there are no guarantees.”

Happy hunt­ing, team. I wish you all the best, and hope­fully this has been of some help. The best piece of ad­vice I can give you is, if you can’t af­ford to do it with­out oth­ers, maybe motorsport just isn’t right for you.

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