A few weekends ago, I headed to the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, it was wonderful and exhausting, as car shows often are. I had plenty of meetings with drivers, colleagues and friends; it was a fantastic chance to catch up and start getting excited about the season ahead.

Autosport and other car shows can be very valuable for racing drivers looking to pick up some support for the season ahead. You need to keep in mind that these businesses are probably being approached by drivers all weekend long so you need something that will help you to stand out.

Establish your offering ahead of time

What can you offer, beyond a sticker, to the kind of businesses that exhibit at Autosport? You need to think about your social and PR reach, if you can come armed with numbers then you’ll already stand out above the drivers that do nothing other than hand out a few business cards.

Take your time ahead of the show to plan out your whole offering. Can you offer events, trackdays and hospitality? Do you have impressive social coverage? Could you put businesses in touch with people who would want to buy their products?

Arrange meetings where possible

If you know one of your target businesses will be attending Autosport, give them a call and see if you can arrange a time on the trade day(Thursday in Autosport’s case) to meet. On the trade days, all the important people in a business will be on the stand ready to meet with potential distributors, customers and suppliers, they’ll probably be able to fit you in too.

Take business cards and sponsor packs

No matter what side of motorsport you’re on, you’ll meet huge amounts of people during the show. This is why it’s so important to leave something memorable with the people you speak to, otherwise you could just get lost in the sea of friendly faces that stopped by the stand.

This could be something as simple as a business card or USB stick with your details on. You could also think outside the box, try one of these ideas.

I left the box behind a long time ago but here are some ideas:

  • Car key rings with a USB stick attached
  • Toy cars with your contact details printed on the roof
  • A printed newsletter with the important stories from the season just gone and some information on the benefits of working with you
  • A goodie bag tailored to each specific business you have meetings with that shows you really have considered them and aren’t just approaching everyone and anyone
  • A glossy magazine that sums up your year, includes interviews with sponsors, photography from each round, a lifestyle section (fashion, travel etc.) and a section all about the benefits of working with you

Pick businesses wisely

Don’t go for a blanket approach. Do your research and scope out stands before approaching and introducing yourself. If you can arm yourself with a few ways in which you could help that particular business, you’ll – once again – have the advantage over other drivers on the hustle.

Look for stands with cars on, sometimes these cars are especially striking or relevant. Sometimes they’re not. Note down the stands that could be improved with your car on them.

Which stands could benefit from increased footfall? Perhaps pitch a competition to them for their next show. Nothing brings people to a stand like a competition to win a track day or passenger ride.

Look for stands actively pushing their social media then do a quick check to see if your audience could help to grow theirs (i.e. do you have more followers and would they be interested in whatever the business is promoting).


Pick up business cards and get names

Imagine you’ve had a great conversation with the MD of a company that would make a perfect partner, you’re feeling positive and you agreed he or she will get in touch after the show madness has died down. Then you never hear from them.

I think a lot of people can relate to this but there’s an easy way to fix it. Get a business card or, at the very least, a full name. Feel free to wait for them to get in touch as discussed but if they don’t, follow up with a gentle nudge and little more information.

These people are busy and it’s very likely that they’ll forget, which brings us onto the next point.

Follow up

Your efforts at any show are a waste unless you can follow up on the contacts you made. Send an email a couple of days after the show (once they’ve cleared their inboxes) with a little bit more about information and the benefits of partnering with you.

Subject lines to try:

  • A quick question about [thing you discussed at the show]
  • Great to meet you at [name of show]
  • As promised, a little bit more about [your name/team]
  • How was [name of show]?

From there, give that person a call, especially if you were able to create a real rapport. Phone for a catch up, ask them how the show went and try to ascertain what their business goals were and if they met them. This will give you an idea of their targets and what you can do to help them reach them.

This should be where you introduce your offering in a little more details (or recap on what was discussed at the show) and relate it all back to the specific business goals of the person you’re talking to.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to better qualify the brand. What are their goals? Have they worked with drivers in the past? What would they look to get out of a partnership? What marketing activity have they found generates the most leads?

Knowing the answers to all these questions will help you to put together a package that will truly help them. Arrange to buy them a coffee or visit for a meeting, this is where you’ll come armed with all those ideas.

You’re welcome to qualify on price on the phone too as this will help you weed out time wasters. Mention the kind of money other sponsors pay, ‘as a guide’, and see if they baulk at the cost. If they don’t, it’s now your job to prove the value of what you can do.

Finally, keep track of everyone you contact regardless of what the outcome of the conversation is. Someone who isn’t in a position to sponsor now might be in a few years. Details change but it’s always worth keeping those business cards, I’ve got drawers full and they often come in useful. If you prefer to go digital, there are apps that will scan business cards and save them to your phone.

Bear in mind that some trade shows and events may have restrictions on how you approach exhibitors so bear this in mind. The last thing you want to do is get kicked out.

What car shows are you planning to go to and do you hope to pick up some sponsorship from them?