Motorsport Sponsorship: How to Get Racing Sponsors

If you’ve ever watched a motorsport race on TV before, from the big names like NASCAR to smaller organizations, it’s no secret that this sport relies a lot on sponsorships. Everywhere you look–from the gear to the stands to the cars themselves–sponsorship opportunities abound. Whether you’re an owner of a motorsport company looking to get big name recognition or even an individual driver who needs funds and promotion, how do you get racing sponsors?

Here are the steps to follow to earn a motorsports sponsorship:

  • Choose a target sponsor company that’s affiliated with motorsports or has sponsored motorsports organizations in the past
  • Determine your most worthy assets and put them on a valuation list
  • Work on your sponsorship package and sponsorship proposal
  • Meet with the sponsor to discuss ideas
  • Document the meeting and proceed from there

Ahead, I’ll lay out these 5 steps in more detail as they pertain to motorsports so you can find the racing sponsors you need for your event to be a smashing success. I know that most motorsports events often use a bevy of sponsors, so having a clear-cut, proven strategy to use will save you a lot of wasted time and guesswork.

Also, if you’re a driver looking for sponsorship, you’ll be able to find a sponsor who could stick with you for years. Considering bigger motorsports organizations rarely will take on drivers without at least one sponsor, you need to know how to secure sponsorship as well.

Let’s get started!

Follow These 5 Tips to Find Your Racing Sponsor

Choose Your Target Sponsor Company (Should Have Some Affiliation with Motorsports)

A quick look at this list of NASCAR sponsors over the years includes just about every big-name brand you can think of. For example, there’s Arby’s, Best Buy, AAA, 5-Hour Energy, Lowe’s, AOL, Miller, Nicorette, McDonald’s, Burger King, Pepsi, Cheerio’s, General Mills, and Wonder Bread.

Some of NASCAR’s sponsors make sense, like Interstate Batteries, Hot Wheels, Valvoline, Haas Automation, GM Goodwrench, STP, Fastenal, DeWalt, Dodge, and Citgo. The rest? They run the gamut from cereal to gum for quitting cigarettes.

Further, this CBS Sports article notes that in 2020, the four big NASCAR sponsors were announced as Xfinity, Geico, Coca-Cola, and Busch Beer. Those brands have zero, zilch to do with motorsports.

That said, it’s easy to see why these big-name brands would want to partner with NASCAR. For one, they get lots of exposure as their names and logos are featured on the racetrack and sometimes even the cars. Also benefitting the brand’s exposure is that NASCAR regularly attracts about two million viewers per event if not more, especially big ones like the Sprint Cup, which is like the Super Bowl of motorsports.

Also, these brands might be able to negotiate airtime such as commercials, incentivizing NASCAR viewers to buy a box of Cheerios, a six-pack of Coke, or yes, even a pack of Nicorette gum.

Beyond even that, if a brand can get their name prominently displayed on a NASCAR vehicle, when that vehicle is then reproduced on t-shirts, replica cars, and other merchandise, it’s like free promotion for the brand.

With so many brands of all different types getting involved in racing sponsorship, you might feel a little overwhelmed. How do you choose which target sponsors to focus on?

First, I recommend beginning with an honest assessment of your organization, its size, prominence, and status. Unless you’re NASCAR or another motorsports organization on par with NASCAR, then you probably won’t have your pick of the litter when it comes to sponsorship options. Could Coca-Cola sponsor you? Sure. Would it be better to choose a somewhat smaller brand to start with? Yes, at least if you want to get sponsors in time for your event.

Also, don’t just choose your sponsors purely based on name recognition alone. Yes, in motorsports, it’s important that your sponsors are a who’s who of brands, but that can’t be your only criteria.

You also need to look for audience alignment. If you read this blog often enough, then I may sound like a broken record here, but that’s only because this is so important. Your audience is a huge asset to a sponsor. Like I said before, if a sponsor can get a commercial during your broadcast, that gives them a chance to sell to your audience and gain new customers.

Even if your motorsports event won’t be televised, seeing ads for Arby’s plastered all over the track will definitely get a few attendees’ mouths watering as they begin craving Arby’s.

That said, if your organization is associated with veganism, then partnering with any meat-loving brand is a bad idea. You’ll alienate your audience just for clout, and that’s not worth it.

So yes, choose a handful of sponsor brands, maybe a dozen or two dozen depending on how many sponsors you want for your racing event. You can target maybe one or two long-shot big brands, but I’d recommend creating a list of target sponsors more likely to say yes than no.

Then research their audience to ensure there’s an alignment. And yes, double-check that you and the target sponsor are aligned on goals and values as well.

Once you have that shortlist, it’s time to move on to the second stage of the equation.

Determine Your Assets and Make Your Valuation List

That second stage is your list of assets, aka the reason the target sponsor is going to give you a resounding yes instead of a no (at least, here’s hoping!).

If you’re new to this blog, let me explain assets for a moment. Assets are anything valuable that you have to offer your target sponsor, including tangible and intangible assets alike. For example, a tangible asset would be a branded sticker on your motorsport car for the big race. A non-tangible asset is your audience, which your target sponsor should be interested in.

For now, just think about everything you could offer a sponsor that would make their time, money, and promotion worthwhile. Then write it all down. Yes, I mean everything, no matter how inconsequential an asset may seem to you now. You never know what it’s worth, at least not yet!

In motorsports specifically, your assets may include:

  • Branded logo placement on the racecars
  • Branded logo placement on the racer’s gear
  • Branded logo placement around the track
  • Branded signage and props
  • Sponsor’s name appears in the name and logo of the race (for example: Coca-Cola presents the 50th Minneapolis Motorsports Extravaganza)
  • Commercial advertisements or other airtime

You also want to have activation ideas on your list of assets. What is activation? Typically an interactive experience, sponsorship activation opportunities give your sponsor a chance to advertise and promote themselves.

The great thing about the motorsports industry is that interactive events and activities are a dime a dozen. At NASCAR events especially, in the hours leading up to the race, you’ll see car companies displaying the latest vehicles as well as giveaways aplenty and sponsor company booths giving you free samples. Smaller and mid-sized companies sometimes even get to pair up with racers for Q&A sessions, which is a fantastic opportunity.

Come up with your own activation ideas that your sponsor could partake in. Perhaps they get primary booth space in a highly visible area or a large space for putting on a small show to get people’s attention. You really do have nearly countless options, so don’t be afraid to get extra creative with your ideas.

Once you’re done rallying up all your assets, it’s time to value each one. In other words, you’re determining the value of your asset. How do you do that? By categorizing the asset by its type, your geography, and your audience. Your sponsor’s input can also help in this area.

After completing your valuation, you should have a list of about a dozen strong assets that you can use to convince the sponsor company that your motorsports organization is worth working with.

Come up with an Agreeable Sponsorship Package and Proposal

Next, you have to determine how you’ll present your list of assets. These go into your sponsorship package. I’ve talked about the standard three-tier system of gold, silver, and bronze packages on this blog quite a bit, but that’s only because it’s the wrong approach to take. I don’t want to see you make the same mistake.

It may seem like common sense to put your best and most highly-valued assets as part of a pricy package that costs more than the others, but most sponsors won’t bite. That’s especially true if you’re pitching to seasoned sponsors who have worked with many motorsport organizations or drivers in the past. They’ve likely seen every type of sponsorship package and won’t fall for the gold, silver, and bronze system. It’s super played out at this point.

Why do these three tiers not work for your sponsorship package? Well, because when you put all your great assets in your gold package, you’re forcing the sponsor to pay the most to get the good stuff. Sometimes, if a sponsor really wants only one or two assets, they feel like they have to buy the gold package even if they have no interest in your four other assets. So they’ll do it, but not happily.

In motorsports, long-term sponsorship relationships are crucial. Drivers can hold onto the same sponsor for years, like I said, so taking your sponsor for a ride (not a literal ride) and making them pay more is not the best start to that relationship. The sponsor might decline to work with you again.

What do I recommend instead? Create a customizable menu for your sponsorship package, and don’t only rely on the insights and opinions from within your organization. During those initial conversations with the sponsor (more on this in just a moment), speak to your sponsor and get a feel for what their budget looks like and what their interests are.

Then organize your sponsorship package menu based on this invaluable information. This doesn’t mean that you shortchange yourself and fetch less money for your best assets, but it does mean you price your assets in such a way that’s agreeable to both you and the sponsor. This way, they’re much more likely to agree to a continued partnership with you.

Next, you have to work on your sponsorship proposal, which includes your sponsorship package as well as a writeup about your event and your organization. By reading this document in full, the sponsor should make up their mind about a partnership.

A sponsorship proposal, when done the right way, is more about the target sponsor than you though. Skip the 20-page writeup on what you do or the causes you support. Instead, keep your proposal outline to no more than six pages per my recommended sponsorship proposal template.

Okay, so technically, you’re really only writing like five pages since that first page is your name, logo, and the name of your race. On the second page, discuss your audience, including who they are and what they like.

As you move on to page three, devote one paragraph to your event and the second paragraph to the opportunity for sponsorship within your event. Then, the fourth page spells out your sponsorship package (remember, a menu, not a gold, silver, and bronze tier), and the fifth page is all those great activation ideas you came up with.

The sixth page is how the target sponsor can reach you, so it’s really one of the most important. I’d suggest adding a call to action to really drive your point home so the sponsor company feels inclined to get in touch with you right away.

As a few words of caution, refrain from using verbiage like “sponsorship proposal” or “sponsorship package” in your proposal. These terms come across as amateur and can turn off some sponsor companies.

Meet with Your Sponsor

With your sponsorship package and proposal both assembled, hopefully with the involvement of your target sponsor, you’re just about done. But next comes one of the most nerve-wracking steps, and that’s meeting with your target sponsor face to face.

By this point, you two may have interacted purely via email or maybe even with a few phone calls mixed in. Now comes the time to sit down for an official meeting.

You don’t need your sponsorship proposal quite yet. I know, leaving the proposal behind feels like walking out of the house without pants on, you’re that exposed, but it’s okay. There will come a time for your sponsorship proposal, but it’s not right this second. Instead, you want to bring a pencil or pen, some notebook paper, and your winning personality. That’s it.

This first meeting is not about selling or securing a deal. It’s about feeling out each other if that hasn’t happened prior. More importantly, it’s about discussing the ideas that have just started to blossom between you and the target sponsor when you talked about your assets.

I recommend going into that first meeting thinking more about funny jokes or other good icebreakers rather than selling. You also want to keep your discovery questions at top of mind. As the name tells you, discovery questions are queries you ask the target sponsor about their history, their audience, and their goals.

That link above has more than 30 great discovery questions that you can rely on to get you started. Some of them include “are there any ‘must-have’ benefits that you like to see?” and “what are some of your biggest challenges in connecting with customers?”

You can also ask about how customers travel through the target sponsor’s sales funnel or about their engagement methods, or even about the interests and values of their customers. All those questions and many more are on the list for your perusal.

Feel free to read those questions and, if any of the questions spark related ideas, jot down your own discovery questions. Depending on what you know and don’t know about the target sponsor, some discovery questions will be more relevant to you than others.

That’s good, because you can’t ask 30 questions of the sponsor. Heck, you can’t even ask 10. I would recommend picking five to seven must-ask questions and using those. Memorizing them is best, but if you must write them down, that’s okay too.

Oh, and don’t just ask the questions one after another after another if you can help it. That can make it seem like you’re grilling the sponsor. Remember, this is just a friendly business conversation. Naturally pepper in your questions when the time is right. If the meeting is about to end and you didn’t get to ask a question or two, then you can say something like, “hey, I have a few questions to ask, is it okay if I do that now?” The sponsor should say yes.

The first sponsorship meeting will indicate to your target sponsor whether they’re interested in proceeding. That said, nothing definitive will happen at this stage. If both parties want to go ahead, then you’ll meet again and sometimes even a third or fourth time before you can officially get down to business.

Put It All Together in Writing

Throughout these meetings, the target sponsor may ask you for documentation. This can include records of the ideas thrown about during your initial meetings. They could also want to see your sponsorship package or your official sponsorship proposal.

If you held off on writing the proposal until now, you can use all the information that you know interests your target sponsor and create the best darn proposal ever. Feel free to go back and tweak your sponsorship package if you think it would help, but prior discussions with the target sponsor should have left you feeling pretty good about things.

Then, send all that information forth to the target sponsor. Another in-person meeting, or at least a phone call may follow to discuss the information in your proposal. If nothing happens after about a week, follow up.

The sponsor may request a few more alterations to your sponsorship plan. Otherwise, if they’re happy, then you can proceed knowing your motorsports event is about to be awesome.

I do want to say, that because you may be courting several sponsors at once ahead of your race, you absolutely must be able to keep one sponsor separate from another. You also want to individualize your approach to each sponsorship opportunity. Just because the last three target sponsors you spoke to all wanted prominent branding doesn’t mean every sponsor necessarily will.

My best advice will always be to let the sponsor tell you what they want and then use that as the basis for your assets list pricing and your proposal. Otherwise, you’re only assuming what a sponsor needs, and you know what happens when you assume.

Conclusion

Motorsports organizations rely heavily on sponsors, and often handfuls at a time rather than one or two. Even individual racers need sponsorship to fund them so they can possibly reach the big leagues.

In motorsports, you have lots of great sponsorship opportunities, including branded cars and gear as well as signage on or around the track. You’re also lucky in that you have lots of room for activation ideas, from interactive booths to contests or giveaways.

Now that you know how to secure sponsors in motorsports, you can put on NASCAR-like events and win some major clout!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn