There are easy ways to keep your sponsors happy, and keep them coming back
I recently wrote a column about getting sponsorships that generated a lot of feedback (April 2017 issue, p. 54; online here ). I wanted to follow-up with the next logical story on sponsorships – how to keep ‘em once you get ‘em.
This time I decided to speak with the man who literally “wrote the book” on getting sponsors, Mr. Alex Striler – Director of Sales & Marketing of Team Lucas. His book, “Motorsports Marketing and Sponsorships: How to Race Money to Race and Give Sponsors What They Really Want” can be found on Amazon.
“There are a plethora of instruction manuals and videos on how to tune engines and make your car faster, but very few people have taken the time to teach drivers how to sell themselves and raise money,” Alex says. Racers often lose sponsorships due to lack of understand of the partnership between themselves and the company.
“Sponsors are paying you be an extension of their marketing—to reach geographical areas and demographical targets that their current marketing doesn’t reach. So, take 20% or 25% of the sponsorship funds and reinvest it into media that helps your sponsors. Hire a publicist, buy an onboard camera, or work with a magazine to promote your sponsors through the story of your racing,” he says.
A good reminder to racers – racing is a business and it should be treated as such. Yes, it is also a passionate sport with tremendous entertainment value. But at the end of the day, it requires money to race competitively on a weekly basis. “Every race team is a small business and sponsors are customers. Keep your customers happy or they won’t return. When following up in an email or press release after an event, don’t focus on how well you performed; describe how well your sponsors performed. Make the results of your racing about the brands’ success, not about yours,” Alex says.
Here’s something you may not know about keeping your sponsorship – “Get every employee at your sponsor’s company emotionally invested in your team, not just the Marketing Director. You need to know the salesmen, accounting personnel, warehouse workers, as well as the Chief Marketing Officer. It’s harder for a company to say ‘No’ when all its employees are on board. One team I know very well lost a six-figure sponsorship from Tonka when Tonka’s Marketing Director left the company and none of the other executives at Tonka knew anyone on the team. When the sponsorship came up for renewal, nobody at the company had a vested interest in it—so they declined.”
Proof of Performance – maintain your “brag book.” Plan to do it for every race. Take pictures at each race and put them in a dated folder in your computer as soon as you get home. Also, summarize your performance at the race. Don’t make your sponsors have to chase you down for race results. Get back to them immediately, even if you finished out of the Top 5.
Another key takeaway – Remember that sponsorship is more than just your race performance; it is what you do IN BETWEEN races. Are you promoting your sponsors on social media? Are you attending autograph signings? Are you visiting your sponsor’s offices? Are you promoting your sponsor to other racers? Are you interacting with fans in the stands to promote the brand? “In many cases, sponsors aren’t paying you for what you do on the track, they’re paying for what you do off the track. Show the value of retail store appearances, displaying your car at the local fairgrounds or car shows,” he states.
“The more content you can provide, the better,” says Chris Douglas, VP of Marketing for Comp Performance Group. When reporting your race results to your sponsor, you should also provide content. According to Alex’s book, “content” consists of photos, videos, vignettes, stories, schedules, commentary, editorials, features……anything that’s intended to entertain and educate people.
Know the product line. It sounds simple enough, but racers need to do their homework before AND after they get sponsors. Lucas Oil makes more than just oil. This is akin to going on an interview without researching the company first. You need to able to handle questions about the product from other racers and fans. Remember, by having that logo on your car and using their product – you are an extension of that company.
It is recommended that racers have social media outlets to promote themselves and promote their brands. You should have an account set-up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and LinkedIn. “Social media has the greatest value when your followers share your posts,” Alex says, “but you have to find the trigger that makes them share…….the best posts have content that educates, stimulates, or creates a conversation—that triggers sharing. Show your followers something they’ve never seen before or tell them something they’ve never heard before. The newness and uniqueness of your content could go viral if enough like-minded people share it—that’s what sponsors want.”
COMP Performance Group