I want to talk about what makes you stand out
Why? Something I noticed in the Racing Mentor Sponsorship Community on Facebook.
By way of introduction, I suggested that members upload pictures of their race cars and tell the group what makes them stand out from the crowd. There were a lot of really good ones in there, especially from people that have been through the Racing Mentor courses.
But when asking the group as a whole to state what makes them stand out, I noticed a lot of very similar traits, stories and characteristics from widely different people.
I gathered the common stories
To give you some context here, there are maybe 700 people in the Sponsorship Community (at the time of writing this), about 250 of those commented on the post (from around the world).
There were racing drivers and riders telling similar stories and giving the same answers to the question of what makes them stand out.
This group is a cross-section of the wider racing world, so it’s likely that racers the whole world over are telling the same stories too. This stops you in your tracks (pun intended) and doesn’t make you stand out at all, unfortunately.
In fact, you’re fading into the background and that’s why your pitches and proposals get overlooked with standard rejections such as ‘we don’t have the budget’. Or, worse, no reply at all.
Those common stories:
- I’m the underdog
- I’m business-minded
- I have serious talent
- I’m determined
Yes, present yourself as business-minded, focused, determined or an underdog. But these traits alone are not going to make you stand out to the businesses you’re pitching to (or the fans, or the press).
That thing you do? That’s your thing
What you think makes you stand out often doesn’t on its own. The good news is that you can turn it around. You need to find your niche and the thing that makes you memorable.
The things that make you stand out usually fall into these four areas:
The cult of personality
Some racing drivers are able to get by on personality alone. But it’s got to be REAL and you have to be very, very good at showing that personality. Video and photo content are great ways to do this. Look at Lando Norris. He’s a driver with a strong personality that people love. Yes, he’s at the top of the sport, but he’s a good person to look to.
If you think you have that strong marketable personality that people really root for, you may be able to get some inspiration from Lando’s content.
Isn’t being determined enough?
No. But you can turn your work ethic into something that makes you memorable.
Obviously, it’s a good thing to be a determined racing driver. It means that you’ve got the drive and passion to succeed. But ask yourself this: Do you know of any racing driver that thinks any differently about themselves?
Let’s agree that it’s essential to have this personality trait. Build on it. There must be a story to your determination. Use this characteristic as a jumping-off point for further exploration. Think about these questions:
- Where does that fire come from?
- What have you been doing to get here?
- How did reach the goals you set?
- When did you need to adapt and change?
- What challenges did you overcome?
Find the story behind your determination. Maybe one of your parents used to race but didn’t reach their goals and now you’re determined to take the baton and continue that dream with them.
A story like that could develop into a memorable family team angle that connects with sponsors and fans and shows the unique real-life narrative to your determined character.
The greatest underdog
Now, we all love a great underdog story, but alone it’s not enough. Think about why you’re the underdog. Typically, the underdog angle is a driver’s way of excusing the fact that perhaps they’re not very good yet, or don’t really have much money to go racing. It’s almost an excuse for your position within motorsport. No, and no again. You are not here to play small.
Think about the really great underdog stories. They normally come from people who don’t have the most money, don’t have the best car, or a big team. Yet they come from nowhere through sheer talent and character.
So you’re the underdog. What talent and character do you have to support that? It’s the little details that make your story stand out.
Start to brainstorm and keep exploring your life story until you yourself hear something unique. Try these questions as a starting point:
- What challenges have you had to overcome to get to that racing seat today?
- How many jobs are you holding down?
- Are you a new mum or dad?
- Are you on a fitness journey?
- What emotions have you been through along the way?
- What shocks and surprises have happened?
This kind of personal detail creates a compelling underdog story that engages with fans and sponsors alike.
Being business-minded is great but…
While it’s great news for a potential sponsor to hear, on its own it won’t make you stand out.
Weave this into your wider brand and show potential sponsors how you’re business-minded. Ask these questions for some inspiration:
- What’s your business experience?
- Have you been an entrepreneur since the age of 12?
- What’s your field of expertise?
- Do you own your own business?
- What deals have you landed in business that show your skills?
Get into the specifics: events that you’ve hosted, speaking gigs you’ve aces, awards you’ve won, and successes you’ve nurtured into fruition. Paint a picture of why you’re valuable to a potential sponsor with the off-track skill set you bring.
Being a great driver isn’t enough
Sadly, being talented isn’t really enough to make you stand out over other racing drivers. There’s talent across all of motorsport and you’re competing with a lot of championship winners, no matter what level you’re at.
There’s also a lot of ways to measure talent. You might have a lot of lap records. It might be that you’ve won championships. It might be that you’ve won races. It might be that you’ve got podiums.
In terms of success measurability, plenty of other drivers have stats to boast about. So if you do want to go off the back of your talent, you need to look at ways that make you stand out from a sponsorship perspective.
Awards and championships are great. A high profile testimonial or two look good as well. But you’ll probably need to rely on something tangible about your talent to get you sponsorship. Yes, businesses enjoy being associated with winners. But more importantly, they want someone that can clearly and measurably do something good for their business.
So your talent from a sponsor’s perspective? You might talk about how on the top step of the podium your sponsors have more exposure than with drivers who finish in the middle of the field. For prospective new sponsors, you’ll probably get a lot further talking about your talent and wins from this wider-reaching perspective we’ve discussed already.
Show the details:
- Championship-winning racing driver who is also a league-winning footballer.
- Award-winning racing driver and entrepreneur.
- Fashion model and lap-record holder.
- Karting and GCSE successes in the same year.
Think outside of the box
It’s really important you think outside of the box on this. You don’t have to rely on just your motorsport stuff to make you stand out. In fact, that’s the stuff that’s less likely to make you stand out to a sponsor — because everyone is saying the same thing.
Think about the challenges that you’ve overcome in your life, either to get to motorsport or at some other point. Spend some time to really look at who you are. Show that you’re this whole, well-rounded person rather than just a racing driver with a bit of talent. You are the answer.
Find your story. Find your success.