Finding sponsors is not that difficult. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a lot of work involved. But it is not about being lucky. Not even about how good you are in the championships. It is about selling advertising. Finding sponsors can be broken down in several steps. After that it is a game of numbers. No matter where you stand with your racing, with the right concept I am sure you can find sponsors.
I worked for KTM Austria in the marketing department for several years. What counts in getting sponsors is how you go about it, not what you have achieved in your racing so far.
So what do you need to know?
So let’s have a closer look at these steps…
If you feel finding sponsors is like being a beggar than you have the wrong idea. There might a handful of people who sponsor a sportsman because they love the sport. The majority though are doing it for a simple reason: Advertising.
Advertising always boils down to one thing: being familiar with something. It must be something deeply ingrained in the human brain pattern that we rather deal with somebody we know. As a caveman, if you trust a stranger you could easily end up with a stone on your head, or poisoned by not sticking to the berries you knew.
It is a fact that if in doubt you will rather buy a product that you know or from a company that you know. And knowing does not mean you have bought something there before. It means you have seen it or heard about it before. Probably several times.
This is where you have the chance to sell your advertising opportunity. It is called exposure. I see a logo or an ad once, twice, three times. I get familiar with it. I start liking it. I start trusting it. It is all very subtle and I don’t want to get more into the details of Marketing - but it works. Millions and millions are spent every season on various ways of advertising. The only reason for that is because it pays off.
My husband sponsors some of the top enduro riders in South Africa. It was kind of a mutual thing. They wanted him to help them with their suspension and he wanted the exposure. It was kind of a no brainer.
Every now and again some rooky trying to find sponsors “dares” to ask us as well. Most of the time it is in the beggar mentality. I’ve had a result here and there, would you please consider giving me something for free. Sponsoring somebody like that is exactly that: giving something away for free. Why would we want to do that? We are not a charity club. We are a business. It is also a no brainer to tell him that we are sorry.
So first you need to know what you want. You need a budget. How many races would you like to do? What is the material going to cost you (like tyres, oils, petrol,...) the travelling, the entries, the gear etc? Break it down into as much detail as possible.
After you have worked out how much racing will set you back you will either be put off for life ;-) or you will know how much sponsoring you need. But be aware that it takes time and work to achieve that. It is easy to say I want a full sponsorship. Maybe the workload for finding sponsors to cover all expenses is too much next to your day job.
Finding sponsors is about what you have to offer? Where can you put ads? Where can you get exposure or sales for your sponsor? The top rider will get exposure without necessarily putting much effort in. If you are first you will get the interview or the article in the newspaper. But if not you have to think about how you could get exposure. A good way is to have a theme to your racing effort.
I know a couple of friends who called themselves the “Sun Set Riders”. It is basically a bunch of old farts who don’t care if they even finish the race. They are just happy to be there. But they had some T-shirts and race shirts printed and they were finding sponsors for that.
This is where you have to let your fantasy go wild. You can raise awareness for a good cause. Companies love to up their image by being associated with good causes. (That makes them more likeable and we love to buy things from the nice guys).
Are you the only girl or the only black guy. The only sikh or the only one legged person racing? Is there anything unique about you? The youngest, the oldest, the one with the least experience in your class? You could get an article in a Yoga Magazine if you share your Yoga warm up routine before the race with the readers.
Contact your local newspaper and see if they are prepared to do an article on you. Contact any media you can think of that could be associated with what you do and who you are.
Jason Cadwell in his ebook also suggests finding out about the traffic stats of the roads you are taking to the events. In this way you can put a number to the exposures you are getting from the ads on your trailer.
Once you have your product worked out it is time to know your customer.
Who could be interested in paying for exposure in a Yoga Magazine or in your local newspaper? Who would like to be associated with a team raising awareness for a good cause? Once you have identified several companies find out who is in charge there. Get the details: Contact person, Tel, Address.
Rule of thumb is the smaller the budget and the bigger the sponsorship the longer it needs to be planned ahead. Big deals are normally done by the end of the last season, so that everything is in place by the time the season starts. But companies that are not directly related to your race season might make their budgets according to the financial year. So if the financial year ends in December then September would be a good month for finding sponsors.
In big companies there is always a little play in the budget. If you are looking for smaller amounts timing might not be as crucial as for bigger sums. Smaller companies sometimes don’t have a budget and are also open year around for small sponsorship commitments.
If you are serious about finding sponsors you should be like a little puppy wagging your tail from excitement. It is actually possible. Let’s go out and do it. It has nothing to do with luck or begging! Anybody can do it and if you put the work in you will find the sponsors.
Ok, so now you have done your homework. You have got your product, you know what you need. You know what it is worth. You know where you could sell it. Now you have to go out there and sell it. That can be quite daunting. But once you have your first commitment you will start enjoying the process.
For finding sponsors you need a nice sponsorship proposal. Several pages of who you are, what you are doing and what you have to offer. Then you contact the people that you identified as contact persons in the various companies and ask them if you can send your proposal. Without that it is very likely that your proposal ends in the dust bin before it has been opened. After that you send your proposal out. Then you follow up. And you follow up again till you have a yes or a no for a meeting. You will get more NOs then YES, but no hard feelings, that’s just how it is in sales. So be ready for it.
As you can see now you will have to start off with quite a long list of companies because it is a game of numbers. A certain percentage will end up as your customers. So the more you have to start with the more will be your sponsors in the end.
Finding sponsors - no magic!
That’s how simple it is. No hocuspocus. Straight forward work.
I have been telling you now for pages that finding sponsors has nothing
to do with luck - but a little bit of luck can’t hurt, can it?
If you are still looking for more info on the subject I can recommend this link:
The Dirt Bike Garage Manual
HOW TO GUIDE for "do it yourself" riders
How To Find Sponsors