John Gibson: Is Sponsorship Still Attainable For The Local Racer?

by John Gibson on April 4, 2011

Throughout the last three to four years we have seen an economic downfall that hasn’t been seen since the great depression, some have been without jobs for years. I believe it is safe to say that there is not a family that has not been affected by the economy in some way. Companies have been affected also; you know things are getting tough when Jeff Gordon is having problems finding sponsorship. But what is the status of sponsorship for the local dirt racer? Is it even still attainable?

I might be in the minority, but I truly believe that for the local Saturday night racer, the opportunity for sponsorship has never been greater. Before you comment or send me an email saying otherwise, let me make my point. Ken Schrader one year at PRI said it best, “Racers will find a way to race,” that has never been more true then now. Things are tough right now, but some tracks are still knocking it out of the park when it comes to car counts. The DIRTcar Nationals had 73 modifieds show up for opening night. How can this be happening with the economy the way it is?

I believe it is proof that the economy is improving, but more than that, it shows that teams are still finding the funds to race these events. That’s good news for you local Saturday night racers. But what I’ve found in my experience with trying to find funding for a race team in the past couple of years, you have to lower your expectations on what that company or person can contribute to your cause. What I mean by this is, don’t expect a sponsor to fund your entire season for you. Instead, present options that get you closer to being able to make every event. If you could find four or five local businesses that would contribute $100-$200 a race, you would have close to an extra $500-$1000 coming in every race. The local racer is able to approach companies with a season long sponsorship opportunity at reduced costs when compared to larger series out there.

Every racer out there understands how hard it is to approach companies for sponsorship, and how little time you have to be able to do it. So you have to make wise decisions on who to contact. You could easily spend over 50-60 hours a week with no response from any business. The local Saturday night racer needs not waste their time by calling larger national companies.  Teams need to focus on the local or regional businesses who can see the benefit of sponsoring a local late model or a street stock.

So where do you start?

You might want to consider starting with the businesses who support/advertise with your local short track. You already have someone who sees the benefit that a local track can bring them, and you already have a conversation starter with the business owner. For instance, if it was a restaurant, you could stop by to eat at the local establishment for lunch one day, and after the meal ask to speak to the owner/manager and thank them for supporting the local track. Mention that you race on Saturday nights there and feel out their response to how they feel about racing. You can easily find out if they attend any of the races, and if they truly just enjoy racing.

Don’t bring up sponsorship to them yet, but make it a point to stop by there once every week. And at some point, you could invite them to the pit area one weekend to get a closer look at the car and everything that goes into competing on a Saturday. Since this is a supporter of the track, the track would probably provide pit passes for free.  Then the following week after they made it out to the track and after your team won, stop in for lunch, and at some point in the conversation ask, “Have you ever thought about putting your business on the side of a car? It’s actually more affordable then you might think.”

Now of course that is a perfect scenario, but it’s completely different then someone walking into the same restaurant and asking to speak to the owner with a proposal in hand. You are more likely to be successful, you are using your time more efficiently by eating there on your lunch break, you are supporting the local businesses that support your track, and you are able to hunt down funding for your race team during your down time.

More than one form of sponsorship

The other thing that teams often forget is sponsorship isn’t always just about finding cash to race. There are so many hidden expenses when it comes to racing. Let’s say you change your oil on the engine after every four races and depending on the cost of your oil, each oil change can cost you $70. In a 20 race season that is $350. If you do it every race, that’s even more money spent. You could pocket that money by finding a oil sponsorship.

I’ve found that businesses are often more willing to sponsor you with product then they would be by writing a check. And either way, you are pocketing money that can go back into your racecar. Your possibilities here are endless.  From oil to rivets, washers, part cleaners, and even spark plugs, the bottom line is, if it saves you money, it helps you get to the track.

So to answer the question, sponsorship is absolutely still attainable by the local Saturday night racer. But you have to want it, and you have to work for it. One of the best books out there on this is called “The Great Money Hunt – an insider’s practical guide to raising motor racing sponsorship” by Andrew J. Waite. My family and I use this book a lot to help us build strategies to find sponsors and create a budget that keeps us racing. I absolutely love what he says at the end of his introduction into the book, and it’s a perfect way to end this column also:

“Ideas are free. Implementation is a Bitch! You have to want it badly enough and then go out and do it. On the track and off! Go through the whole grind…” So the question is now do you want it bad enough?

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Tagged with Racing Sponsorship