How To Find An Automotive Industry Sponsor And Achieve Your Project And Driving Dreams
Building a project car and campaigning in a motorsports series each have one thing in common: they're a lot easier to do with the support of a sponsor. And yet, the path to being sponsored in the auto industry isn't always clear to those who are at the beginning of the process, which can lead to false starts and weeks, if not months, of wasted effort trying to figure out what needs to be done to start building these crucial relationships.
Are you at the point where sponsorship seems within your reach? Are you curious about the dynamic between sponsors, influencers, project builders, drivers, and personalities works? We've put together this primer to introduce the ideas and concepts behind automotive sponsorship, and help you decide how to best manage your own efforts.
What Does Sponsorship Really Mean?
At its core, a sponsorship is a relationship that provides clear benefits for both parties involved. Companies get to connect with highly visible members of the automotive community and put their products and services in their hands, which in turn helps raise their profile among the customers they're targeting with this type of outreach. At the same time those who are being sponsored gain access to parts, expertise, and support that can help them move their own projects and goals forward.
In an ideal world sponsorship is a win-win proposition. Re-read the above, however, and you'll also realize that it sounds lot like a business relationship - and that's because it is. A sponsor invests in a builder or a driver in order to help grow the sales and prestige of their company, and even sponsorships that sprout from personal friendships are underscored by the economic realities that govern the industry.
What does that mean for those seeking sponsorship? Above all, it requires you to approach each opportunity within a framework of professionalism. That same attitude will not only help attract new sponsors and opportunities, but it will assist you in keeping them alive over the long term as your career and project continue to grow.
Be Professional At All Times
In the digital age, it's reasonable to expect everything you post online to be at the very least seen, if not dissected, by the people in your life. If you're seeking sponsorship, you'll need to start acting like a professional on social media in addition to during your real world interactions. This doesn't mean you have to act like a robot, but it does require you to consider how your actions would reflect on a business partner, which is essentially what a sponsor is.
Once you've cleaned up your online act, you'll want to apply the same mentality towards reaching out to potential sponsors. In a lot of ways the process of finding a sponsor is like a job application. You should research the company you're contacting to find out what initiatives they're currently running, what customers they are most interested in, and their history of sponsoring people similar to yourself. You'll need to show how you can help promote a brand within your particular community (online, in-person, at the track, at a car show), describe yourself and your relevant accomplishments, and explain why you're the best candidate for sponsorship. The Nitto Pit Crew program, for example, evaluates each candidate based on the tone of their image and communication skills, their standing in the industry, the reach of their network and followers, and how engaged that audience is.
You'll want to present yourself in as brief and succinct a way as possible, because individuals in charge of sponsorship programs receive dozens of applications a week and won't have time to dig through a long-winded explanation to get to the meat of what you're bringing to the table. Keep in mind that using professional, business-like language while still allowing your personality to shine through is the most effective way to convince a sponsor that you're serious, interesting, and capable of executing what you're proposing.
Making The Right Connections
Knowing who to contact is an important part of attracting sponsorship, and the most effective tool for expanding the number of people you know in your industry is to network.
This word simply means being active in the community you represent: attending meets, races, shows, and other events, participating online with more than just your established list of followers, and reaching out to help - yes, help - other builders and drivers.
Creating these links will deepen the pool of potential contacts as more individuals in the industry become familiar with who you are.
Contacting potential sponsors can take a number of different forms. Many companies have an online process where you can fill out a form with all of the information described above.
Some might require an email sent to a specific department or individual, while other opportunities will arise when you run into representatives at events. For the latter, being prepared with a short pitch about yourself as well as a card with your contact info can help you lay the groundwork for a more in-depth conversation in the future.
Patience Is A Virtue
It can take a fair amount of time from the moment you initiate contact with a sponsor to the point when you've reached an agreement and are moving forward together as partners. Above all, be patient.
Companies often have to move through multiple levels of approval before making a final decision, and sending repeated email inquiries, text messages, or voice mails to check up on the process isn't going to speed things up, and might even annoy your contact to the point where they move on. It's fine to follow up once after you've made your pitch or submitted your application, but don't be a pest.
Once you've been accepted by a sponsor, it's also crucial to remain engaged and deliver on what you promised in your conversations with the company. Maintaining the level of professionalism that got you to the table in the first place is key to keeping your place there. Being able to serve as a respected, interesting, and active ambassador for a brand's products will not only keep you in their good graces, but it will prove to other companies that you're deserving of additional opportunities.
Make It Happen
Sponsorship is way more than just installing 'free' parts and slapping some stickers on your ride. Done right, it's a long-term business partnership that can help open doors for you that will make it easier for you to achieve your automotive dreams. Done wrong, and you could unintentionally sabotage your own best efforts and make it harder to get where you want to go with your car or your career.
The choice is an easy one, and with a little effort, finding the right sponsor to match where you are now and where you want to be headed is well within your reach.