Motorsport lore often holds that there was a time when companies would fall over themselves to give money to racing teams for no more than putting their logo on the car. If this was indeed ever the case, as you may well have already discovered this most certainly no longer holds true.
Finding sponsors is difficult, time consuming and frustrating. It will, however, be made (relatively) easier if you approach it in a professional manner.
Your potential sponsors, or partners as the modern ethos goes, will almost certainly be in business to make money. For them to give some of it to you so that you can have fun on the weekend you must provide a solid business grounding for the transaction. Simply put your proposal must add value to their own business model. This does not necessarily have to be financial in nature, but it must be tangible.
Essentially any company in existence is a potential sponsor! With this said you will soon find that gaining engagement and progressing to an actual agreement is far from easy. You can save a lot of wasted time and effort by doing some homework first and approaching companies with whom there is a genuine chance of interest. You are going to have to sell your brand, and this can be a very hard task!
To begin with you must be realistic in your expectations, and tailor your strategy to match. If you are a club competitor it is highly unlikely that you are going to strike a multi million pound deal with a multi-national. Equally, if you are mounting an attack on Le Mans it is equally unlikely that Jones the Butcher on the high street will be in a position to capitalize your needs.
You should also be aware that any sponsorship deal may not actually involve the transfer of funds. If you are getting decals made for your car the vendor may be prepared to offer a reduced price or even a free service for incorporating his logo into the design (but DO NOT let them do this for free!) You should remember that everyone is a potential sponsor! Equally you may make a deal with your local auto factor to buy spares at a discounted rate. If it is reducing costs or increasing assets this is the same from a financial point of view to getting cash in the bank. Do not be blind to this fact when you are deciding what a potential sponsor can offer you!
Geography also plays a role. Again, if you are a club or regional competitor it is unlikely that you will find much success with a small business from the other end of the country, and even if you did it may not be cost effective should your deal involve travel there to do promotional work for your sponsor.
As mentioned earlier your strategy statements may help you to further winnow the field. If you are a family run team this may resonate with a family run business. If you are the up and coming young star then perhaps you should approach a company whose main customers are also young and vibrant, possibly selling goods such as computer games or skateboards.
You should spend some time doing research and come up with a list of around a dozen ‘targets’ who you believe offer the best chance of being seriously interested in your proposal. If none of these are successful move on to the next dozen and so on!
How to approach potential sponsors is a difficult question. You should aim to get your business plan and guide to sponsors to someone high enough in the organisation who is at least able to commence discussion and negotiations.
Emails are of course fast and easy, but are equally easy to delete. Hard copies in the post cost more and are equally easy to dispose of. If possible it will be best to visit the prospective partner with your paperwork to hand. If may be preferable to book an appointment, especially for a larger company rather than just turning up unannounced, although you may think this will work best for a very small local business.
A vital element of this first contact is that you will probably never get this opportunity again. The impression that you make, good or bad, will last way beyond the meeting. It is of prime importance that you come across as a credible entity or your submission will not get far. Make sure that you are ready! Dress appropriately. For a small local business, a team polo shirt and jeans may be acceptable. For a larger business you may need to put on more formal attire. It is a small price to pay for success!
Be prepared to discuss what your team is, what it wants to do and how it is going to do it. You have to sell your brand and show that there is a valid business case for supporting you in competition. Your strategy statements and budgets will help here. Have a sensible level of commitment in mind. If you ask for too much then the door will close quickly. Equally if you ask for too little it is difficult to then up the ante without losing credibility. It is a fine line to walk and you must tread carefully. Remember that everything you say reflects directly on your brand and team. To sell the deal you will also need to discuss critically what you can do for the sponsor….