RACING IS NO CAUSE FOR CHARITY
I’m going to let you’ll in on a little secret: very few people are paid to race in this country. Usually, it’s the car owner’s bank account that takes the hammering each time the car is loaded onto the trailer for a weekend’s racing. For the most part, these people are business owners who write off a lot of the cost through their own companies. Motorsport, even at a lower level, is an expensive hobby. I get it — I’ve seen it gobble up Lotto millions; send once-thriving businesses into the toilet; lose families; and even put guys in prison, some of who are still sitting in a small concrete box. Funding this obsession is a never-ending hustle, and securing meaningful cash sponsors is close to impossible for most, so I understand some desperate racers taking to crowdfunding websites to beg for dough.
A poet by the name of Shawn Carter once spat the line, “The purest form of giving is anonymous to anonymous”, but I, for one, will never be handing my hard-earned cash over to anyone who sets up a Givealittle page to fund their own racing, especially if it has no significant impact behind it.
The website’s byline is “Fundraising for the things that matter”. Now, everyone will have a different definition of what ‘matters’, and I’m as selfish as the next self-funded racer, but I don’t deem paying for a new engine, or crash damage so you can make your next local event, something that ‘matters’. I’d say that funding some life-saving cancer treatment for a child is something that matters. Go ahead and call me harsh, sure, but I’m clearly not the only person who feels this way, as the performance of most of these campaigns is about as lacklustre as the effort that went into them in the first place. Over the years, I’ve seen a few successful ones, but these were few and far between, and from racers who had plenty of racing history, experienced success, and had a clear plan on where the money would get them on an international stage.
If your racing has some sort of true significance, then funding, or at least part funding through sponsorship, should not be impossible. But be warned, getting marketing managers to hand over fistfuls of cash is no walk in the park, even if your name is Ken Block. As any racer who is currently sponsored will tell you, it’s almost a full-time gig chasing leads, closing deals, shaking hands, and ensuring that you’re delivering on promises made; and all that is on top of actually running your race car.
This is why I can see the allure of begging on crowdfunding websites, as I’m guessing these people have given sponsorship a crack and failed to gain traction. Gone are the days of slapping a sticker on your door that would see the sales spike come Monday if you won. Essentially, you need to become a brand ambassador, and your race car is simply another advertising platform.
There are a few really good sponsorship podcasts that any racer could benefit from listening to — it’s a hard road to get there, but it’s not impossible. If you are going to go the crowdfunding route, at least offer something tangible in return: a sticker, a T-shirt, a ride in the car — anything … as asking for money when you’re offering nothing in return is no better than the guy panhandling in front of the liquor store; he’s just feeding a different addiction.