Getting sponsorship in motorsport requires dedication but a lot of drivers are still doing the same things that once worked and now don’t. Motorsport sponsorship has changed over the years and this guide will show you exactly what you need to do in 2020 to find success.
There’s hard work involved but the secret is consistency, especially once you’re all set up and in the swing of things.
In this article you’ll learn how to establish yourself in a way that makes you stand out over other racing drivers, the basics of sponsorship in motorsport, what works and what doesn’t, the kind of research you need to do before you pitch for racing sponsorship, how to build relationships with potential sponsors, how to send a pitch email, and how to get your sponsors to renew.
- How to stand out over other racing drivers
- Develop your personal brand
- How to become known as a racing driver
- Define your offering
- Find the right businesses to target
- Build relationships for increased success
- How to write a winning pitch email
- How to get your sponsors to renew
- Conquering your mindset
All the links in the ‘further resources’ sections are for free content from the podcast, blog and YouTube channel. We’ve also included page references for the Get Paid to Race book.
Step One: Work out how you stand out over other racing drivers
Your personal brand is the thing that your fans will get behind but it’s also the thing that will show how you stand out over other drivers too.
It’s important at this step in the sponsorship process to think about your niche just as you would if you were a business. You are so much more than a racing driver so think about your interests and skills outside of motorsport. Whether it’s fitness, cooking, football, modern art, or something else, it’ll open up so many opportunities for you.
Step Two: Develop your personal brand
This is how you present yourself as a racing driver and show your value to potential sponsors.
Your personal brand should show who you are as a person and go beyond your racing. It’ll be the basis for everything you post on social media, how you write race reports and more.
This might shift and change over the years, and that’s fine, but at its core, it’s about how you present yourself to your audience and sponsors.
For example, if you’re outgoing, love fitness and do a lot of drifting, your brand and presence on social media is going to be very different to someone who is a property developer moving through single-seater racing.
- Make it very clear why you stand out over other drivers — a niche that goes beyond motorsport can really help you here.
- Don’t be afraid to show your personality
- Use all forms of media to showcase who you are: text, photo, audio, and video.
- Be consistent — post regularly and stay on brand.
- Podcast 001 – Branding
- How to showcase your brand as a racing driver
- Video – How to find a hook to attract sponsors
- You don’t stand out and it’s hurting your career
- Get Paid to Race pages: 55- 60
Step Three: Become known as a racing driver
You don’t necessarily have to build a huge audience for sponsors to want to work with you but you’ll need some kind of presence that showcases who you are.
Of course, there are bonus points if you can build a loyal, engaged audience but they are other ways to secure sponsors too.
Create a two-way relationship with your audience.
Don’t just assume that because you’re posting nice pictures and updates, your audience will be interested. Ask them questions, create content that speak directly to them, and get involved in discussions with them.
Consider what will be most impressive to the types of sponsors you want to target.
For example, if you’re targeting fitness brands, the decision maker will want to see that you’re a source of inspiration and advice for your audience. To do this create content that gets people asking questions, create challenges that get people working towards a goal, or host events that gather your community in one place.
Tell your story in the press
Whatever your niche is, there’s probably a story behind it and this is something you need to start pushing in the press. By getting your name into the press, your message is spread further than your existing audience.
- Always be thinking of ways to reach new people.
- Make sure you engage with your audience.
- Get involved in relevant discussions around motorsport and your niche.
- Don’t just approach motorsport press for coverage. Consider trade magazines, local newspapers and blogs too.
- Podcast 005 – Building your audience
- Free guide to local PR
- Video – How to get press coverage using Twitter
- Get Paid to Race pages: 83-86
Step Four: Think about what you offer
Offering hospitality and a TV audience isn’t enough. You really need to know how you can sell a partnership to a business, and that means understanding the basics of business and sales.
Consider yourself as a marketing agency pitching to a business. How are you going to justify the cost of what you’re offering? Are you going to help that business make more sales? Think about the problem you will help solve and the goals you’ll help reach.
Once you’ve got an idea of this, think about the features you’ll offer to help a business reach its goals. This can include hospitality, stickers on a car, events etc.
But these features don’t work alone. Once you have a list of what you’ll offer, think about the benefit of each – the direct impact that thing will have on the business and its goals.
- Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – you don’t have to do what every other driver has been doing for all of time.
- Create a clear list of features and benefits that you can pick and choose from.
- Some features will have numerous benefits.
- Not all benefits will be relevant to every business.
- Podcast 002 – Thinking Outside of the Box
- Podcast 004 – Features vs Benefits
- Get Paid to Race pages: 61-69
Step Five: Find the right prospects
Blanket emailing everyone in your local area won’t work, so you need to put a little time into researching relevant businesses. This is where your niche makes things easier.
- Start by making a list of the businesses you’d love to work with.
- Assess whether what you can offer will help them reach their goals in a broad sense.
- If they’re not quite right, ask yourself why.
- Start to search for similar businesses that might be a better fit (based on size/locality/product etc.)
- Go more into depth with your research to get a sense of their specific goals.
- Make sure you get the details for the decision-maker.
- Match those goals with what you can offer.
- Podcast 003 – How to Research Sponsors
- Get Paid to Race pages: 97-114
Step Six: Build relationships
Building relationships is an often-overlooked part of the sponsorship process because so many drivers are eager to move things along too quickly.
Don’t skip this step because it could be the difference between no reply and a career-changing sponsorship deal.
Building relationships can take a number of different forms:
- You might be going to networking events to build relationships with local business owners.
- You might be messaging lifestyle brands on Instagram.
- You might be getting involved in discussions on LinkedIn.
- You might be sending gentle emails before pitching more formally.
However you decide to build relationships with decision makers, the goal is to warm them up to your pitch because a warm lead is so much easier to land!
- Go in with no agenda otherwise it’ll come across as disingenuous.
- Ask questions to prompt a reply.
- If you can’t think of anything to say or ask, consider whether the prospect is right for you.
- Keep the conversation going.
- People love to talk about themselves so ask questions and chat about them.
- Once you’ve established a bit of a rapport (2-4 messages), don’t be afraid to link what you do to what’s being discussed.
- LinkedIn template
- Get Paid to Race pages: 107-114 and 129-132
Step Seven: The pitch
If you’ve followed the steps above, you should know:
- Plenty about the business to personalise your pitch.
- What the business’s goals are
- How you can help reach those goals
- What makes you stand out over other racing drivers
- Who you’re pitching to
- Some information on the decision maker
- Insider info on the business
With all this information, it should be easy to write a pitch that really speaks to the business and its goals.
- Focus on the business’s goals rather than your life story.
- Present the benefits you offer clearly and simply.
- Ask questions.
- Include references to your relationship-building conversations
- Don’t feel like you need to include a shiny proposal document in the first instance.
- Be sure to include a call-to-action so the decision-maker knows what you want them to do next.
- Why you need to stop talking about yourself
- Why your pitches aren’t getting replies
- Video: Quick email pitch tips
- Get Paid to Race pages: 115-156
Step Eight: Get your sponsors to renew
Getting a renewal for a second year comes down to one small thing: Did you help your sponsor reach its goals?
If you did, then it should be pretty easy to get them to renew but if you don’t think you’re doing what you promised, this needs to be addressed early on. In fact, all the hard work of renewing a sponsorship deal is done during the race season when you’re carrying out your work.
When you first sign a sponsor, make sure to set some goals for the year in terms of how you’re promoting them. This will be key in making sure they’re happy throughout the year.
Then, when it comes time to talk about renewal, you’ll have clear evidence of how you’ve helped them hit goals and milestones.
- Collect evidence throughout the race season – testimonials, statistics etc.
- Make sure to stay in touch with your sponsor throughout the season, even when you’re not actively working on something for them.
- Update your sponsor with reports on the work you’ve been doing for them.
- Collect this information together when it comes to talking about renewal.
- Things you need to do to successfully renew a sponsorship pitch
- How to approach existing sponsors about money
- Get Paid to Race pages: 189-201
Bonus: Conquering your mindset
One of the biggest mistakes drivers make is getting too lost in their own heads. There are often so many reasons you shouldn’t push forward with your sponsorship goals and it’s so much harder to keep going than it is to quit.
But there are two big things that help you find success.
Hard work and consistency.
The hard work comes into sitting down and going through these steps. You’ll get rejections, you’ll hit bumps in the road but if you put in the time, the successes will come.
The consistency is all about keeping going. No matter what you do, try and bring consistency into all elements of this process. Post on social media consistently, send out pitches on a regular basis, do your follow ups once a week.
In the same way you’d be working hard on the track and looking for consistency from lap-to-lap, this applies to the sponsorship approach too.
- Don’t let imposter syndrome get the best of you. Try reframing any negative thoughts into something more positive.
- Try and see the positive in every situation.
- Find a champion to cheer you on, even when things are tough
- Get some accountability
- Take some time to write down your goals and plans on a weekly basis, it’ll help keep you on track
- How to deal with rejection on a sponsorship pitch
- How to find more time for sponsorship tasks
- If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something different
- Motivation and advice on the Racing Mentor Instagram
- Get advice and accountability in the Racing Mentor Sponsorship group on Facebook
Where to find more information on sponsorship in motorsport
- Follow Racing Mentor on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube
- Join the group on Facebook
- Read previous blog posts
- Subscribe to the newsletter for updates, opportunities and advice
- Subscribe to the YouTube channel
- Find the Sponsorship Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
- Find all the show notes for the podcast here
- Relationship-building templates
- Sponsorship pitch templates
- Get Paid to Race: Six Weeks to Success sponsorship course (live version)
- Get Paid to Race: Six Weeks to Success (online version)
- The Ultimate Guide to Motorsport PR (course)
- Get Paid to Race ebook
- Sponsorship proposal template