Sponsorship Is Ownership: 3 Fatal Mistakes In Sponsorship Packages

Here is something for you to think about. You’ve been racing for a couple of years, and are getting pretty good at it. Two things become very obvious to you: One, racing is expensive. Anything that has racing on it is expensive. Anything to do with racing is expensive. Two, you know that you could clear that next hurdle and win championships if you had a little help. So, you get a super-duper idea. You’ll have your 18-year-old daughter write a sponsorship package for you, get some sponsors and fancy high-performance parts, then start winning races.

Every racer believes that an extra sponsor or two will push them into the winner’s circle. Many times it does, but you have to set the stage for everyone to win in the sponsorship game. Photo by Jim DenHamer.

Sounds eazy-peazy. After-all, your daughter is in the honor society and knows all about writing cool sounding letters, and she’s applied to all of these big universities for acceptance into their programs. This is certainly a shoe-in. Once she finishes the sponsorship package, you have her email it – because you don’t have an email account – to all the big-time manufacturers. Then you wait. And wait.

After a couple of weeks with no response, you have her email the sponsorship package again, because something must have gone wrong. No one opened and read the package that was sent as an attachment to an email. No one sent a response back to you. Something clearly went wrong, so she sends the email again. And you wait. And wait.

It takes a lot of effort to earn a partnership with companies like Mobil 1 and Toyota, but every potential sponsor (no matter how large or small) should be treated with the same care. Photo by Jim DenHamer.

Sound familiar? We hope not, and we’re here to help you avoid a scenario like that. We reached out to some of the industry’s most popular marketing professionals and asked them about sponsorship package mistakes, and how to avoid them. Just because we have asked for their help, please don’t assume these marketing professionals are the ones that you need to send your sponsorship packages to, and flood their businesses with your sponsorship inquiries, making mistake number one. That is; don’t send a sponsorship package to a business or person that you haven’t built a relationship with. No unsolicited spam mail.

1. Think Of Sponsorship Packages As A Job Application (It’s Not All About You)

When is the last time you emailed a business owner for a job and waited for a response to your email? Right. It doesn’t work that way. Neither does gaining a sponsorship. You have to go through an interview process and build a relationship, just like you would for a job. When the potential sponsor asks for a sponsorship proposal, then you can send an email attachment or hand them a printed outline.

“In my experience, one of the biggest things to avoid is having a sense of entitlement,” said Jeff Teel, P.R. Coordinator at Holley Performance. “We love our customers, and without them, the company would never exist.  We appreciate all they do for us, and we try to give back in many, many, ways,” he added. “As far as sponsorship is concerned, the fact your father or mother bought carburetors in the past, or because you have always heard the name Holley and have not reached out for free stuff until now, coupled with deciding to build a race or show car, doesn’t automatically guarantee we need to support your race team or builders by giving the company away.”

Companies are not in the business to help you build your race team. They are in business to sell products. Sponsorships are a means of having you help them sell products. That is a key, fundamental understanding that someone asking for sponsorship must have. It’s your job to help the sponsor, not the other way around.

Sponsorships are a means of having you help the company sell their products.

Teal stated, “Yes, we help racers all the time as well.  However, a single demanding statement in an email or phone message doesn’t always warrant a response. It is amazing how common it is to see or hear frustrated messages because someone requesting a sponsorship may not be receiving the response they believe they should.”

2. Send The Right Branding Message (It’s A Partnership)

“Sponsorship is ownership,” Teel explained. “It’s a branding of yourself and what you believe in.” Another catastrophic sponsorship proposal mistake is sending your proposal to hundreds of potential sponsors with generic statements. “All too often we see canned messages where people are just looking for any free hand out they can acquire,” said Teel. “More times than not, that canned message is merely a couple sentences demanding parts without intentions or reason for the parts.”

Generic form proposals don’t send the message that you are willing to enter a partnership. Know what your potential sponsor does and do the research to know how you can represent the company. You are asking to be their brand ambassador, so you should have a strong idea how you can help show the products in a real world situation.

Landing a company like K&N can make or break a career. If you treat the sponsorship as a partnership, things should work out great.

Teel exposed the most important key to obtaining sponsorships. “When you are looking for sponsorship, it is always recommended to do your research,” he stated.  “There are countless times when people will come to us asking for a hypothetical toaster, but are demanding a fridge. Worse yet, there are other times people will come to us looking for a kitchen, but are demanding a living room.  The moral being that if you are looking for something from any company, take the time to at least know what that company offers.  Take the time to understand what it is from that company that can help you, why it can help you, and please, take the time to set out and explain to the company you are seeking sponsorship, how this will benefit all involved.”

3. Overcomplicated Sponsorships (Keep It Simple)

When you send a sponsorship proposal to a perspective partner, don’t make them have to filter out the differences in your sponsorship levels. If you’ve done the research and have started to build a relationship with your potential sponsor, you will already have a concept in mind. Marketing directors generally have a million things to think about each day. Don’t make it a million-and-one. Just tell them what you are asking for, and what is in it for them. Make sure their return on the investment is clear.

When it comes to keeping it simple, Edelbrock’s Eric Blakely adds; “I can’t tell you how many times we have received a proposal and we don’t have a product to support the engine or platform. If you’re going to reach out to a manufacturer, make it a point to do some research and determine if they have a product that applies.”

The goal is to make everyone on your team a winner. Photo by Jim DenHamer.

“Simple is good,” he added. “Some of the best proposals we’ve received are no more than 5-pages long, but they get right to the point. They have a clearly defined exposure plan, the events or races the car will attend, and their social media audience.”

“We receive several-hundred proposals a year, and we just don’t have the time to read a lengthy story. I hate to say it, but it’s the truth. It’s also important for the racer to understand that it’s not just a sponsorship, it’s really a partnership, and you’re going to be an ambassador for our brand.”

This brings us back to the sponsorship is ownership statement. “Remember, when you are asking to be an ambassador of a product, you are starting at home with the type of display you are setting forth with that product,” said Teel. “If you believe you are owed something, you are likely going to walk away not gaining anything. It’s much better to realize you will win, when everyone wins.”

What To Do

Create a well-written packet that shows where you will be going, and how the parts, products, or logos will be displayed. Companies are interested in getting their name out in front of the public. “We love to help our people out there.  However, if you are using our injectors to perpetrate arson, it may not be the best way for our name and product get out there,” Teel said semi-jokingly.

Have a decent knowledge of the products you are asking to receive. Research the features and benefits of the product(s), then show an appreciation for the caliber of the parts. Do your best to show that you will be a good representative of the products and the company.

No matter how many sponsors you have, keep your equipment looking nice. You are always auditioning for sponsorships.

One final note about a critical failure that should be avoided at all costs: Do not reach out to the advertising or marketing people on their personal social media accounts, even if you know they are the person that makes the decision. This is the best way to rub someone the wrong way. “Your best bet is to reach out to the company’s social media outlets,” said Blakely. “My personal social media account is not where I want to be approached for work related business.”

Patience goes a long way. Many companies have their motorsports sponsorships handled by their marketing department. Blakely expains, “I don’t know of many companies that just have a person whose sole job is to review sponsorship requests. Most of us have another job, and reviewing race and show sponsorships is just part of our weekly responsibilities.”

Article Sources

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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