The do’s and don’ts with Brian Fox


Here at PASMAG, we get end­less amounts of ques­tions about spon­sor­ships. It's like some of you guys think we give them out some­times, I swear. To be hon­est, our knowl­edge on the topic of spon­sor­ships was get­ting a lit­tle foggy, too, so to clear the air, I sat down with Brian Fox, the head hon­cho over at Fox Mar­ket­ing, and asked the mas­ter him­self about the art of spon­sor­ship.

Why Brian Fox? Fox has been on both sides of the spon­sor­ship spec­trum. He man­ages high pro­file ac­counts like Takata and BASF, so he knows what he wants when he's look­ing to spon­sor. Alternatively, he also chases spon­sors as he builds for clients like Lexus, Nis­san, Hyundai and Ford to build stand­out show ve­hi­cles. Throw in over 16 years of in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence, and who else would you think to ask, re­ally? MICKY: How can you make your­self stand out from the crowd when ap­ply­ing for spon­sor­ship? BRIAN: I think it re­ally has to do with the op­por­tu­nity that you present to a spe­cific com­pany. It's all about be­ing unique at the end of the day.

Cre­at­ing your own unique look, look­ing at the trends that are go­ing on, look­ing at what the mag­a­zines are fea­tur­ing - you have to re­ally do your re­search. You have to size up the com­pe­ti­tion. Look at all the cars that were built in that cat­e­gory and make your­self dif­fer­ent. Don't try and im­i­tate; in­no­vate. That is the best thing that you can pos­si­bly do. Try and be the first to mar­ket with some­thing.

M: Say some­one's got an older model year car that's not nec­es­sar­ily the hottest car out there. What would be the best way of get­ting that car no­ticed? B: If you're build­ing the most awe- some thing out there, it's go­ing to get at­ten­tion, right? If you're build­ing some­thing that looks like a car that was done 10 years ago, what's the sell­ing point here? We're vis­ual. We're at­tracted to things. That's why we love cars. That's why ren­der­ings are so im­por­tant to cap­tur­ing your idea and get­ting it can­vased.

There are mar­ketable ve­hi­cles and there are not mar­ketable ve­hi­cles. You have to look at the com­pa­nies that are mak­ing af­ter­mar­ket parts. If it's a car that's sell­ing a lot of those said parts, then it's way more mar­ketable than a ve­hi­cle that no­body else is hook­ing up. It's good to be unique within your chas­sis, but you also need to be re­al­is­tic.

Look at the Scion FR-S. There's a ton of them at shows. That might give you a lit­tle bit bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to get spon­sor­ship, but the com­pe­ti­tion is a hell of a lot harder, too. You've got to find that happy medium. Look into mag­a­zines. Look on­line. Google is your friend. Use your friend. Do your re­search and cre­ate some­thing awe­some!

M: What's the best way to ap­proach a com­pany about a spon­sor­ship? B: It's all about your vi­sion, your plan, your ren­der­ing and your con­cept. Take that con­cept and make it sales-driven. I want to know about that per­son's net­work. They might be­long to a lo­cal car club or have a great reach. You need to tell us about your reach. How is your reach go­ing to help me im­pact my sales? Paint isn't cheap. When I spon­sor some­body, it's a $3,000 to $5,000 in­vest­ment. That's a lot of cake, so I bet­ter sell 10 paint jobs off of that and you bet­ter have a plan to do that. That's what I want to see.

You've got to un­der­stand busi­ness and how it op­er­ates. You've

got to work for it; it's not just a free handout. What are you go­ing to do for that man­u­fac­turer? What are you go­ing to do to help the lo­cal busi­ness that's help­ing you out with dis­counted la­bor? Think about it lo­cally and on the na­tional level.

M: So, at the end of the day, it's all about Re­turn On In­vest­ment (ROI)? B: I don't re­ally like all those fancy mar­ket­ing terms, like ex­po­sure, brand­ing and ROI. If that ve­hi­cle cre­ates a lot of at­ten­tion, you're go­ing to get ex­po­sure and that per­son look­ing to spon­sor you should have enough vi­sion to see that. You're go­ing to get ROI be­cause the op­por­tu­nity (if right) will au­to­mat­i­cally pro­vide that for the brand. It is go­ing to help you drive sales be­cause that's its job.

The busi­ness also has to ac­ti­vate its spon­sor­ship. It has to use it in its mar­ket­ing and you should be dis­cussing that plan. It has to be an ac­tive part­ner­ship with the per­son. Truly, spon­sor­ship is a part­ner­ship; a part­ner­ship be­tween two par­ties that are equally vested in that said op­por­tu­nity. Have the mind­set of talk­ing part­ner­ship, NOT spon­sor­ship. There is a dif­fer­ence. M: What dif­fer­ences in the spon­sor­ship world have you no­ticed to­day com­pared to when you started? B: When I first started out, you had to have con­firmed mag­a­zine ex­po­sure. If you weren't go­ing to get in a mag­a­zine with a ma­jor fea­ture, you weren't get­ting any­thing from any­one.

So, de­pend­ing on what chas­sis I was build­ing, I'd con­tact the edi­tor first. I'd put to­gether my pro­posal and I'd send it right over to the edi­tor. I'd say, “Okay, this is what I'm build­ing, but I'm build­ing it for your mag­a­zine.” You'd have to get that fea­ture guar­an­tee.

They have to know you can de­liver and where you're go­ing to have it de­buted. When is it go­ing to be done? I've done 76 cars in 16 years, and there hasn't been one that wasn't de­buted when I said it was go­ing to be de­buted. Your name is ev­ery­thing in this in­dus­try, but your team you work with needs to know that as well. It's your name on the line and you only have one chance to make a first im­pres­sion.

M: Now, there are a lot of cars that have never had any mag­a­zine in­volve­ment, and they're get­ting spon­sor­ships be­cause they purely have thou­sands of fol­low­ers on Instagram. Can you speak on that? B: As a spon­sor, you have to look at that per­son's reach or net­work, and in some cases that can help ob­tain a spon­sor­ship. A lot of com­pa­nies make mis­takes and spon­sor peo­ple they shouldn't just be­cause they have this huge fol­low­ing. I look at the net­work that per­son has, the in­ter­ac­tion on their ac­count to see what is real and what is not. Per­son­ally, I don't just spon­sor some­one be­cause of their Instagram ac­count. Sorry, but I need more ex­po­sure than that.

M: Are there com­pa­nies that pre­fer that you are only spon­sored by a min­i­mal num­ber of other com­pa­nies, or is it the more the bet­ter? B: I do not like a ve­hi­cle that is spon­sored by 30 peo­ple. You get lost with all the other brands on board. How is your brand go­ing to stand out? They re­ally need to get cre­ative on how they're go­ing to mar­ket and ex­pose my prod­uct, and how they're go­ing to sell my prod­uct at the end of the day. I look for the guys that have maybe five or 10 part­ners, or some­one who has an awe­some car with no sup­port. Those guys re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate things.

Some­times what I do is call some of my in­dus­try part­ners and I'm like, “Dude, this guy is build­ing some­thing pretty epic here.” I'll get them in­volved, too. I'll get them spon­sored by some­body else be­cause that's more mar­ket­ing for the com­pany that I'm rep­re­sent­ing, as well. It gives us more legs. The more mar­ket­ing and the more help we can get from the in­dus­try, the bet­ter. It's about the part­ner­ship at the end of the day.

M: Should you tai­lor your pro­posal de­pend­ing on what parts you're af­ter? B: I get univer­sal pro­pos­als all the time. They never tell me what they're look­ing for. They never tell me what I'm go­ing to get out of it. They'll send it to a tire com­pany. They'll send it to a har­ness com­pany. They'll send it to a wheel com­pany. You put no thought into this. You re­ally don't care. You're just look­ing for free parts. Do your re­search on the com­pany first, please!

I want to make sure that peo­ple that I work with are ed­u­cated on my prod­uct so you don't sound like a quack when you're stand­ing next to your car. This is not a brag­ging con­test, like telling ev­ery­body that you're hang­ing out with that you're spon­sored by Rock­ford Fos­gate, for ex­am­ple. I want a per­son to SELL my prod­uct and tell them what kind of amp it is, how much wattage it's got, why you se­lected it in your car. You've got to in­ter­act with peo­ple. If you're not try­ing to in­ter­act with peo­ple and have fun with this stuff, why are you at a car show? Fel­low en­thu­si­asts ask ques­tions be­cause they want to learn what to do with their car. Help them!

M: Does gen­der have any ef­fect on get­ting spon­sor­ship at all? Should that info be in­cluded in a pro­posal? B: Ab­so­lutely. Look at it. This is a male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try, right? You go to SEMA or any car show and it's dudes ev­ery­where. The most mar­ketable thing in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try is an awe­some girl that's got a badass ride. She's go­ing to get more ex­po­sure than any dude can pos­si­bly get be­cause she's a girl. It just adds to that unique­ness fac­tor.

The more women in the game, the bet­ter. It also has to do with how she presents her­self. There are a lot of cri­te­ria in­volved. I get re­quests from fe­males a cou­ple times a year. There are some that just catch my eye. If she presents her­self well, she can rep­re­sent my brand well.

There's a girl that I work with; her name's Danielle Mur­phy. She's a pro­fes­sional drifter over in Ire­land. I spon­sored her years ago with Takata and she's done a fab­u­lous job, even on the global stand­point. She's a good per­son. She's into the game. She's a great drifter. She does a bet­ter job than most of the guys I spon­sor.

MICKY: How about what not to do? BRIAN: Here's some­thing that drives me in­sane. Some­body will send me an email and tell me this five-para­graph story about all this stuff. I'll never read it be­cause you know what? I didn't ask you for an es­say, dude. I asked you for a pro­posal.

I've got­ten five spon­sor­ship re­quests since I started talk­ing to you, and not one told me what they want. Here's one from Chicago: he has a Sky­line and wants some rac­ing seats. Okay then. I make three dif­fer­ent rac­ing seats. Which one do you want? Do you need a rec­om­men­da­tion? It just drives me in­sane, dude. Would you go to a wheel com­pany and say, “Hey, I want some wheels?” That re­ally nar­rows it down…

Be spe­cific! Go to the com­pany's web­site and do your re­search. You need to ed­u­cate your­self on the com­pany be­fore you go to them. Fig­ure out what the prod­uct's re­tail value is.

And don't be afraid to pick up the phone! I don't do busi­ness via email all the time. I get 400 emails a day. It takes too long. Call me. That's your best bet if you want an an­swer and to close the deal.

M: What's your best ad­vice to some­one look­ing to ac­quire spon­sor­ship(s)? B: Don't ever think just be­cause you haven't built any­thing be­fore, that you don't have a fair shot be­cause you re­ally do. You've just got to prove your­self.

Most im­por­tantly: in this in­dus­try, if you burn your name, you're done. You're out be­cause ev­ery­body knows ev­ery­body. You're only one per­son away from know­ing some­one else. All po­ten­tial spon­sors - we all know each other. We're only an email away from con­tact­ing each other. Do we do back­ground re­search on you? Ab­so­lutely! If I don't know you, then I'm go­ing to find some­one who does and what they have to say about your rep­u­ta­tion.

If you start name drop­ping that so-and-so's spon­sor­ing you, it bet­ter be what you said it is. So many peo­ple blow smoke and play it off like they're fully spon­sored, but the guy got a 10% dis­count on some parts. That's not a spon­sor­ship, so don't front like it is. There goes your cred­i­bil­ity. Now, you're done. I'm not work­ing with you.

Once you get spon­sored, up­date your spon­sor with video and pic­tures from each show you at­tended the day af­ter your event. Did you win any awards? Are you talk­ing to a mag­a­zine? You have to up­date peo­ple and let them know what's go­ing on. Send them pic­tures and you're more likely to be on their so­cial me­dia chan­nels, grow­ing your net­work. Think about what you can do to help them, and they'll help you in re­turn.




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