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7 Motorsport Sponsorship Mistakes to Avoid 

by | July 25, 2023

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  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
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Before you dive in, if you are interested in motorsport sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for motorsport” series:

Sports sponsorships remain the most lucrative and popular types of partnerships to pursue. However, the road to motorsport sponsorship is paved with good intentions. What are some gaffes to know so you can avoid them?

Here are my top 7 motorsport sponsorship blunders to skip:

  • Only offering logos
  • Going after one sponsor
  • No niche audience data
  • Picking sponsors your audience doesn’t care for
  • Not knowing your value
  • Writing proposal incorrectly
  • Waiting too long to renegotiate 

This guide is for motorsports organizations and individual drivers striving to improve their sponsorship processes for more prospects for this race season or the next. Don’t miss it!

Are You Making These 7 Motorsport Sponsorship Mistakes?

1. Only Offering Logos

You see logos everywhere in motorsports. They’re plastered all over the stands, on displays around the track, on the racers’ uniforms, and–most importantly–on the race cars themselves.

This has led to the erroneous belief that logos are all that motorsport organizations or drivers can offer to sponsors. However, that couldn’t be more false. 

Logos usually get pushed to the bottom of the heap in other industries. I’ll admit that logos have more importance in motorsport sponsorship than they do for event, festival, or nonprofit sponsorships, but they’re still the easy way out.

Certainly, you should offer your prospects logos, but what else can you provide?

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For example, naming rights are a high-value commodity in the motorsport world. You might not have the power to name a building after a sponsor, but you can name your race after one. 

Look no further than NASCAR to see event naming rights in action. Viewers can tune into the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart, the Xfinity Series, the Craftsman Truck Series, the FireKeepers Casino 400, the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard…the list goes on and on.

These races give brands a chance to associate their names and logos with a major motorsport like NASCAR. The races may only last one afternoon or evening, but the promotions before and after the event go on for far longer.

Besides, the races get cemented into the annals of motorsport history, and the brand attached to the race does too. 

Another great activation idea is a concert at the track before the proceedings. Heineken hosted a concert before the F1 Grand Prix in Holland featuring DJ Tiesto. The beer brand also appeared in Milan in 2020 for a live concert ahead of the Italian GP. 

A concert certainly gets everyone in a fun, festive mood for the main event, the big race!

2. Putting All Your Sponsorship Eggs in One Basket

Motorsport sponsorship is all about diversification. Actually, let me expand on that by saying all sponsorship benefits from diversification. 

Many sponsorship seekers assume that if they could only find that one big company with the deepest pockets that all their sponsorship woes would be solved. However, asking one company to bear the full burden of funding your event means they need a substantial budget.

That’s right, how much capital a company has versus the budget allocated for sponsorships are two very different things.  

Individual drivers might only need a sponsor or two, but motorsport organizations should work with many sponsors per event. Each will contribute a small portion of what comprises the overall race. 

Why does this benefit you? You have a more varied sponsor roster that’s sure to appeal to more of your audience segments. You’re also not putting all your eggs in one basket. 

If a smaller sponsor pulls out next season for any reason, you can replace them with a similar sponsor. That’s a lot harder to do for the huge sponsors that make up 90 percent of your sponsorship funding.

3. Failing to Provide Niche Audience Data 

Motorsports are exciting, but that’s not enough to generate a sponsor’s interest in working together. Sponsors want marketing outcomes that grow their customer base. 

They’re eager to see your audience groups to determine if those groups enmesh with their target audience and marketing goals. 

Who is your audience? That’s up to you to know. You likely have track and race attendance data that you can use as a starting point, but that’s not enough. Sponsors don’t settle for broad audience strokes like, “35 percent of our audience is 20-to-30-year-olds, and another 40 percent is 30-to-40-year-olds.”

That tells a sponsor almost nothing. 

Let’s use one audience group identified above, 20-to-30-year-old race fans. How many of them are 20 versus 25 versus 30? Where do they live? What gender are they? What do they do for work? Are they married? Do they have children? How much money do they make?

Once you have those basic demographics and geographics out of the way, you can get to the real fun stuff, the psychographics. 

What other sports do your fans like? What was the last event they attended (doesn’t have to be yours), and what events do they plan on attending in the next six months? What was their favorite part about your latest race? How about their least favorite?

Ask your audience to name 10 brands they use the most frequently. If you have an industry or genre you’re considering for your sponsorship partners, you can make that question more specific, like the top 10 tech brands, beer brands, or food brands.

Pay attention to the brands the bulk of your audience talks about, as those are the most golden sponsorship opportunities. You can count on your audience to interact with those brands at your race, which produces the outcomes your sponsor wants.

I recommend extracting 25 datapoints from each audience group you have. This will ensure you get the kind of niche audience data that drives sponsorship deals.

This kind of data will also help you better serve your audience. You’ll know more about them than ever so you can create personalized content and offer race deals they’ll want to buy.   

4. Pairing with Sponsors Your Audience Doesn’t Care About

I hope the paragraphs above proved the value of audience data in selecting suitable motorsport sponsors. However, that doesn’t mean prospecting is a perfect process.

So often, sponsorship seekers get lured in by all those dollar signs. They’re only thinking about the funding they need for their event, not necessarily what their audience wants or needs. This is a huge mistake.

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Remember, your goal as a sponsorship partner is to generate marketing outcomes for your sponsor. Those outcomes are completely dependent on your attendees.

It doesn’t matter how much money a sponsor pays you. If your attendees don’t care about a sponsor, they’re not going to engage. 

They’re free to choose what interests them. They don’t know that one sponsor paid you $20,000 and another $2,500. 

This creates an imbalance. The sponsor gave you $20,000 assuming you would deliver the promised outcomes, but you didn’t. A sponsor can forgive a few objectives you don’t deliver on, but if you miss the bulk of them, that’s far more problematic.

You could be in breach of contract, since everything in your sponsorship deal goes into a contract. You will also lose that sponsor. 

Prospect for sponsors according to the brands your audience uses and engages with, not how much money a sponsor offers you. The most lucrative sponsorship deals are usually from brands that want your audience anyway!

5. Not Knowing Your Value

Speaking of money, failing to know your value is the next motorsport sponsorship mistake I want to discuss.

If you’ve worked with sponsors before, how much money do you usually ask for from them? Is it a random amount, or based on what you know your opportunity is worth?

It’s usually a random amount for many sponsorship seekers. They guess at their value, either based on criteria like attendance data, or sometimes nothing at all.

However, the problem with not knowing your sponsorship value is that you probably don’t earn what you’re worth. Your opportunity could have a couple more zeros at the end, but if you undersell yourself out of sheer ignorance, that’s a lot of money to miss out on.

Overselling a sponsorship opportunity is just as bad, as your motorsport organization will struggle to find partners willing to pay your prices.

The only way to determine what your sponsorship opportunity is worth is valuing assets and activations one by one. Review the market data for the services you offer to determine the cost, then adjust your prices based on the quality of what you offer.

Tally up your costs and that’s how much your motorsport sponsorship opportunity is worth.

Valuing your assets and activations also helps you know which are the most profitable so you can position those most prominently.

6. Writing Your Proposal Without the Right Focus

As you progress further with a sponsor, and after a couple of meetings, they may ask you to write a proposal outlining your sponsorship opportunity.

The sponsorship proposal is one of the most substantial stumbling blocks sponsorship seekers have. However, writing a proposal doesn’t have to be half as hard as you think it is.

I have a handy motorsport sponsorship proposal template you can use as a racer or motorsport organization leader. The proposal template details what to include and more importantly, what not to include.

You’ll see that audience is the most important factor as you go through the template. You should also include case studies and testimonials to showcase why you’re such a good partner.

A proposal shouldn’t be cause-based, nor should you focus too much on your motorsport organization. I know that’s hard to do considering how thrilling motorsports are but trust me when I say that sponsors find your audience much more thrilling. 

Give them what they want in the proposal, and you just might get another meeting to continue negotiations.

7. Waiting Too Long to Renegotiate Sponsors 

You found a great sponsor in time for your next race and signed on the dotted line. You delivered the promised outcomes, and the sponsor was pleased with the experience.

Make sure that you discuss renegotiation before they ride off into the sunset. The frequent need for sponsors in motorsports means you can’t afford to let good sponsors go. If you want to work together again, you have to let them know, and you can’t delay.

Within about 48 hours of your race, you should send the sponsor a fulfillment report. This report includes images of full attendance stands and your activations, audience data, and a checklist of the deliverables you completed.

The fulfillment report necessitates a meeting to review its contents and discuss your sponsor’s feelings on the event. There’s always room for improvement, even if a sponsor otherwise loved working together.

That’s when you should discuss renegotiation, as you have the opportunity in front of you on a silver platter. 

The question becomes, how much do you ask for? That depends on the length of the deal, the quality of your service, and your confidence.

Some sponsorship seekers ask for an extended deal at the same rate for guaranteed money, while others will increase the cost of their service for a shorter-term deal. 

You must value your sponsorship opportunity after the sponsorship deal to guide you in what’s a fair rate to ask for. 

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Asking early is beneficial for you in several ways. You won’t have to worry about your race funding as much, as you’ll know you have a sponsor to take care of some of the costs. 

Additionally, you’ll have more time to plan your next racing event, as you won’t have to spend as much time seeking a sponsor. You can also get in before the sponsor spends their sponsorship budget. 

Sponsorship Starts with You 

Motorsport sponsorships might be a money pit, but tons of cash won’t come your way if you make common sponsorship mistakes. I hope you can recognize your errors in some of these points and begin correcting them to maximize your sponsorship opportunities. 

You can also schedule a call with me or join my program, the Sponsorship Accelerator, to become a sponsorship expert.