Interview with Ryan from Car Keys

Car Keys is a car comparison site that allows users to compare in depth stats on the cars they want to buy. It’s a useful service for anyone in the market for a new car. They also know what they’re doing when it comes to content marketing and while they don’t sponsor any motorsport, I thought it would be good to get the point of view of a brand that doesn’t have a hand in the industry. An objective view on motorsport sponsorship.

I spoke to Ryan from the brand, he handles all the content for Car Keys.

Car Keys understands that when sponsoring a driver or team, there needs to be a benefit. No one is just going to give a racing driver money to go racing. It has to be a business investment, just like any advertising or marketing spend.

What’s your business plan?

If you approach a business asking for money, it’s likely you’re going to be met with silence. Think about what you can offer first. Of course, there might be a monetary value attached to that but sell the benefits of a partnership before you even get to the cash.

Ryan says: “At the end of the day, if some random driver comes up and says they want money to help them race, they’ll have to present a clearly articulated business plan and a break-down of exactly how it’ll benefit the business.

“Why should any business give a team or a driver their hard-earned money just so they can go racing? They’d need to be able to prove it’s worth our time. Drivers need to show they can reliably provide the business either with more money, or with more/better clients.”

Consider your prestige

If you’re a club driver, it’s silly to approach huge businesses hoping for a cut of their marketing budget because it’s unlikely the exposure you can give is even going to make a dent in their bottom line. Look for companies that you could truly help, those who might not be able to afford the latest BTCC star.

This is your opportunity to grow with that business as it opens up the higher series to them as you move up the motorsport ladder.

Ryan says: “Obviously a business would be more likely to court a driver or team who have already worked their way up the ranks and race for a well-respect series, stuff like BTCC, F3 or GT-3 racing.

“It makes more business sense that way because there’ll be more exposure for your business, and also the potential to network with a better calibre of fellow business, rather than Fred’s Bakery or Jimmy’s Fireplaces.

“For drivers at the start of their career it makes sense for them to hook up with family/friends or businesses they’re particularly close to before looking for sponsorship from larger companies.”

Show off your results

If you don’t have a level of prestige that will attract companies, you need to show that you can get there. An impressive win record will show potential sponsors that you’re talented enough to move up the career ladder.

Ryan says: “Maybe this sounds a bit harsh, but most businesses would be more willing to sponsor a driver who is consistently finishing on the podium than somebody who wallows around the bottom of the results table.

“At least you can spot that there’s potential there to move up into bigger racing series, so you might be more inclined to sponsor an unknown driver if you know that they get good results.”

Going back to tangible benefit

Once again, focus on the benefits to your potential sponsor. This is key no matter what level you’re at.

It is difficult to pick up sponsors when you’re just starting out, especially if you’re looking for ways to fund your first season on track. Perseverance and a great business mind are key.

Ryan concludes: “It’s disappointing seeing the number of drivers with real potential who are held back by a lack of budget or by their inability to attract sponsors. I reckon there needs to be a shakeup in terms of sponsorship and a bigger push towards entry-level racing series, but that’s besides the point I suppose.

“From a business point of view, you’re unlikely to sponsor anybody who’s unlikely to provide your company with any tangible benefit, because at the end of the day you’re not going to give them money just to put some stickers on their car and go and enjoy themselves.”

This goes back to the fact that, these days, sponsorship is about so much more than stickers on cars. Racing drivers can be an important marketing tool but the reach of those stickers just isn’t enough.