Don’t fall at the first hurdle. Make sure you’re not guilty of these 10 mistakes drivers so often make when contacting sponsors.

We’ve all been there, sending amazing sponsorship pitches but hearing absolutely nothing. It’s disheartening but there is a way to combat this and it’s about more than the volume of emails you send out. You need to send the right pitch to the right people to be in with any chance of a response.

When I first started out in motorsport, I thought a blanket approach was the best approach. A simple, to-the-point email that teased at the bigger picture. Obviously I didn’t get any replies and I soon realised that I needed to tell people exactly what I could offer and, more importantly, I needed to tell the right people.

After spending time carefully curating a list of businesses you’d like to contact, you really only have one chance to make a good first impression. It’s easy to go in all guns blazing and make a series of mistakes that mean your initial emails just get sent straight to trash without even being read.

The best advice I can give is to take your time and do your research. If you set aside time to work on sponsorship you won’t feel like you have to send hundreds of emails in one day. A specific, targeted list is the best way forward.

No doubt you already have some people in mind that you’d like to contact, here are the mistakes you need to avoid.

“Hey dude”

A too-casual initial contact email full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes is going to impress no one. Similarly if you use chat speak (does anyone still do that?) or come across too familiar, you’re going to put a business off from pursuing a professional relationship with you.

“Dear sirs”

Unfortunately, you can go too far the other way. Dry, formal language is never going to make you stand out, even if you’re offering something spectacular. Try and find a balance between professional and friendly. When writing your email imagine you were talking directly to a new contact and keep it conversational.

These people aren’t just names and titles with power, they’re real people so treat them a such. They no doubt get hundreds of emails a day so you need to be polite and friendly but you need to stand out too.

Only selling the features of your partnership

People buy benefits not features. Saying that a sponsor could get a logo on the car, a track day and some Facebook posts is all good and well but that are the benefits of these things? (Answers: brand exposure, a chance to build client relationships, and achieve more reach on social media.)

Take time to look over the list of features you can offer and work out the benefits of each specific to the business you’re contacting.

Sponsors want something in return for their money. While some might be sold on supporting a local/upcoming racing driver, the ultimate goal is to get some return on investment. You need to be able to outline exactly how they can do this. It’s time you started thinking like a business.

No hook in your subject line

The inbox of a busy CEO can easily get clogged with all sorts of crap. You need to stand out by crafting a subject line that is straight to the point but hooks your reader.

  • Hi, [name]. A question about increasing your sales.
  • Idea for increasing sales of [product]
  • A partnership that will increase your presence in the local press

Think about what the goals of your target might be and go from there. Perhaps you’ve seen a business advertising in the local press and know you can increase their exposure even further or maybe you’ve heard from a friend that a business is pushing a new product you could help to sell.

Downplaying your achievements

While you shouldn’t brag, don’t be afraid to shout about what you’ve achieved. If you’re a three-time champion, say it. Sponsors want to back winners because it means more exposure for them.

Using too little media

In the first instance, you shouldn’t clog a potential sponsor’s inbox with large attachments but somewhere down the line you should make use of images, video content and detailed sponsor packs, even if it’s in a face-to-face pitch setting.

Not giving enough details

As well as a brief bio (and I mean brief) and details of what you race, give sponsors insight into who you are and ways in which you could work together. These details should give a potential sponsor an idea of why they should work with you over any other racing driver.

The last thing you want is for a potential sponsor to be sold on the benefits of working with you without knowing who you are, as it could ruin all your hard work.

Not contacting the decision maker

An introductory email starting ‘Dear sirs,’ is probably going to get ignored. Take the time to find out who the decision maker is and contact them directly. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Google; whatever you need to track down the name of the person you need to speak to. If that fails, just make a simple phone call.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to get hold of a CEO of a big company if you’re polite to the gatekeeper (secretary, receptionist, assistant etc.). Be ready with a brief pitch. I.e. “I’d like to talk to you about how working with a racing driver could increase your sales.” Sell those benefits but make sure you get an email address to forward more details to.

No call to action

If the person in question is interested, they’re not likely to take action unless you give them the chance to. At the end of your email give them a few times and dates when you might be free to discuss further, either on the phone or in person.

“I’d love to tell you a bit more about how this partnership could increase your sales. I’m free for a chat on the phone Tuesday from 3pm, Wednesday before 10am and Thursday all day. Let me know what works best for you.”

Not following up

Don’t send an email and just hope it’ll get seen. Busy people miss things so it’s in everyone’s best interests for you to give a little nudge if you haven’t heard back. Wait a week or two then send another email. If you still haven’t heard, send another but be final. Something along the lines of “…if you’re not interested, that’s fine, but please let me know and I will stop bothering you.”

I created some email templates to make your life much easier. With initial pitches and follow-ups, these make pitching easier than ever. Check them out here.

There’s also an amazing tool for Gmail called Boomerang that not only allows you to schedule messages but you can ‘boomerang’ them back to the top of your inbox if no reply is received within a set time. This then allows you to follow up without having to set yourself a series of reminders every time you send an email.

Always be polite and be aware that these people are busy so a direct approach will often work best. A call can be a good way to get hold of someone but not everyone appreciates unsolicited calls so approach with caution. If you get a rejection, simply move on and continue pursuing the rest of your prospects.

Make sure you’re not making these mistakes when contacting sponsors and you’ll greatly increase your chances of a reply. You could even increase the amount per sponsor you’re offered.