Will You Sponsor Me? /Sponsorships

The follow is from a conversation I had with a customer of mine who was looking to get started with some sponsorships.
Care must be taken when approaching a company, that you understand the value of what you're asking for, the value of what you can give in return, and IF it's even needed by the business:

For myself and ******, we currently don't have any significant needs or gaps to fill. We both have social media presences, I have a website and ***** is currently working on his, but has done just fine without one so far. With that said, you can start to see that our current needs are fairly limited.

Social media reach is helpful for DRTuned Racing, but unless it is a business or a vehicle that is well established and well known within the community I am try to reach, there is little value in what they are posting online. For social media posts and reach to be valuable, it needs to be going out to a relevant audience that I am already trying to advertise to. I can pay Facebook to advertise for me, and I can choose exactly what kinds of people to target and reach thousands of people for the price of a single tune. $15 can reach over 1,000 people if it is targeted correctly.

If the sponsored vehicle is well known online, then that starts to add value because it gives credibility to the brand. Reach is now less of a concern because the vehicle itself adds value. As a result, social media reach and being a 'brand ambassador' doesn't carry a lot of value until you hit really big numbers of followers, or have a car that is instantly recognizable and shared all over.

Does this mean you're out of the game if you don't have thousands of followers?? No not at all. DRTuned Racing's Instagram page doesn't even have 1,000 followers, and yet we have most of our Saab Time Attack car sponsored with close to a dozen individual companies. It's about finding something of value, that the company needs or wants. [See below for some examples of that].

Moving into more generic points:

Grammar, spelling, punctuation etc are critical in all forms of contact. I'm pretty forgiving, but it's best practice to ALWAYS use proper English when interacting with a prospective sponsor, posting about their products, or otherwise representing their company. It doesn't matter if it is private chats, messaging, emails, or public posts. You want to present yourself as professionally as possible.

By asking for a sponsorship, you are effectively wanting to become an extension of that company in terms of representation. Prospective sponsors will be looking at how you will represent them, and deciding if that's what they want their brand to look like. Give them every reason to say yes absolutely.

For creating sponsorship proposals, put together a formal document that outlines key points about yourself and what you are doing. Include well placed pictures of the car(s), goals for the season, past accomplishments, and just a bit of background for yourself and your racing. You can briefly outline your skills, what you do outside of racing and how that can be integrated as value for a sponsor.

Then before contacting a company, take a good hard look at what they're doing, know exactly what you want from them (free parts, discounts, cash?), and what you can provide them in return other than a sticker on the car. It will be up to you to determine values of your time, and ranges of values for sponsorships.

For my own racing, I don't even consider anything less than ~$xxxx anymore. I don't do discount sponsorships unless it's more than 50% off or otherwise cuts into their actual cost, and the product or service is provided by the company upfront and I work that value off for the remainder of the season. If a company expects you to have a monetary cost to the partnership, in addition to other requirements, they'd best have a monetary cost as well. This opinion is not shared by all, but I find that companies with little to no risk in the partnership tend to be very disengaged with what you're doing, and don't cross share the content you're creating FOR THEM! This results in many of their fans never seeing the teams and cars they're supporting, and the entire partnership is lost as a marketing benefit.

Starting out your partnership values will be much lower. Discount sponsorships are still a bonus regardless of amount, and contingency programs are a good way to get more companies involved and more stickers on the car. Whiteline Suspension offers such a contingency. Use their products, register and slap their sticker on the car, if you win you get money back.

It's not something I would consider a partnership and does not develop a healthy relationship at all, but it potentially gets you money and gets a sticker on the car. Other companies will see that sticker and be at ease that they're not the first or the only supporter. You also don't have to provide them anything else in return which is great to start out. Until you start to have some big players and build relationships with companies and their reps, more stickers usually can't hurt. No one is going to complain about the contribution of a company and their logo on your car when you're just getting started.

For other companies that don't already have programs in place, you will need to determine what you have to offer and where you can help them grow. At the end of the day if what you can offer doesn't fill a need that they can't fulfill themselves (for the same or lesser cost), make them more money than they've spent on you, or otherwise help them grow, they won't be interested.

To provide some examples, I write blog articles for one of my sponsors. I run the social media accounts of another. I helped launch Facebook pages and Instagram accounts for a couple, and am assisting with setting up online sales for another. I have a sponsor in the Eastern USA that just wants to use my car as a marketing tool, and I help him out by providing photos of his products on my car, test aspects of his website, help him write installation instructions, etc.

Your contribution does not have to be complicated, and it does not have to be massive, provided it fills their needs and makes them feel like they are obtaining adequate value out of the partnership!

PUT IT INTO WRITING! I can't stress this enough! When a company doesn't already have a fixed program in place, put together a document outlining what you've discussed, what BOTH parties have agreed to, some conditions like timeline and termination date, and any other details that are relevant to the partnership. Have a written agreement to the document, and better yet signed copies for everyone involved. This keeps everyone accountable and acts as a reference throughout the season for what you have accomplished on their list. It also makes the partnership feel more official for both the racer AND the company!

Remember: this may be the first time this business has sponsored anyone as well. They are just as new at this as you are.

At the end of the day be flexible, present multiple options and possibilities, have open dialogue with the potential sponsor, and most importantly have fun! If you're not enjoying obtaining sponsors and keeping them happy, you're probably better off working some overtime hours and just paying for it all yourself.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of where to start, and what to consider when contacting companies. As always, if you've got questions just ask.