How To – Sponsorships

Disclaimer – This article covers how to get sponsorships for those without any current knowledge or sponsors. This isn’t about “how to go pro”. But it will help those in pro am classes to succeed.

Sponsorships are the black magic of the car world. Not many people are open to sharing tips and tricks on how to attain them. Many won’t even tell you what each sponsorship is giving them. In most cases they shouldn’t. This article covers the basics of proposal writing and attaining sponsorships.

The Basics
Before approaching any potential sponsor, ask the simple question of “What do I want from them?” Free wheels? Money? A discount? To begin a relationship, simple things like discounted parts are ok. In the long term (IE if you go pro) you’ll want to ask for something ongoing so that the relationship can grow. If the request is for money, be prepared to show the value associated with the investment and potentially where that money will go.

The second question to ask is “What can I give them?” This is arguably the most important question. Drivers these days will put a huge sticker on their car for practically nothing. As a result, it is virtually meaningless. The value given back to the sponsor should be greater than the monetary investment they are making with the sponsorship.

Under-promise, over-deliver: that’s definitely a key motto for being able to get good partnerships.
-Mike Whiddett

Once those parts have been figured out, a formal proposal needs to be written and the sponsor should be contacted to setup a potential face to face chat.

The Faux Sponsorship
There are a few websites where you pay money, fill out some stuff and “sponsors find YOU!” I have never seen this work and, unless you put lots of time into it, you are losing money. If it was that easy, everyone would do it.

On top of that, I will call out programs that aren’t really sponsorships. EG – “Mishimoto Loves Drifters.” It was a program that gave discounts off of MSRP. Virtually everyone got in and you only had to put the stickers on your car.

It’s pretty simple, you get a certain amount off of MSRP. But no one pays MSRP. So lets say a radiator from mishi is $200 MSRP. Mishimoto loves drivers will give it to you for $150! Well regular online stores sell it for around $150 as well. …(the sponsorship) isn’t as awesome as I originally thought.

Arguably, this could be used as an entry point into getting a larger sponsorship from Mishimoto. Due to how many people got this sponsorship, I don’t think the odds are very good.

What can I give them?
Purposefully there is no “What do I want?” section as that’s very much up to you. Giving is much more important. These days physical and online presences are key. Will you be featured in a magazine or a booth at a famous auto show? Do you have a youtube channel that gets lots of views? Do you write a successful car blog or facebook page?

Most companies sell something. If your direct help will give them exposure (beyond driving around town with stickers on your car) they will like you. Increased web traffic, phone calls, and email inquiries all are ways to help a business. But that only works if you are a brand all by yourself. Essentially, a large public presence is the biggest factor in garnering sponsors.

The Proposal
The proposal writing is one of the most frustrating parts of sponsorships. If you aren’t great at writing, it’s best to have someone smarter than you proofread the proposal before sending it out.

Proposals should consist of (likely in this order):

  • About you
  • How cool you are (accomplishments, web stats, instagram followers, etc)
  • What you are planning to do (Competitions, video series, car shows, etc)
  • Exactly what you want

Here is a sample proposal I like.

Always tailor your proposals to each potential sponsor. The level of effort in your proposal is the first thing that will be seen and judged. In some cases, multiple tiers/levels of sponsorships may be useful in a proposal. “Give me 14 wheels at 20% below MSRP or free tire mounting/disposal.”

Meeting Sponsors
If at all possible, meeting with potential sponsors in person is best. Just like it’s bad form to break up with a girlfriend via text, it’s bad to not physically meet someone you do business with. Dress to impress. Skinny jeans and a flannel button down shirt does not work in a business setting. Concentrate on what you can do for your potential sponsor and not what you want. Negotiations are to be expected and can be done more quickly in person. The more serious you are, the more serious they will be about sponsoring you.

Dos and Don’ts
Do look outside the drift world for sponsors. Companies sometimes use racing as a tax write off.
Do treat sponsors like it’s your job. One day, it might be.
Do over deliver. Your proposal might say you’ll write 3 articles on your blog mentioning them. Instead, write 6.

Don’t be vague. “I’d like a discount” might be 5% off MSRP or it could be only cost (IE they get no money but they don’t lose money by giving you the part).
Don’t submit proposals when you have no value to give. This is the reason “I’ll rock your stickers” doesn’t work. There isn’t any value. Would you give someone money to put stickers on their car?
Don’t shotgun proposals. Sending the same proposal to generic contact emails means hardly anyone will see the proposal and it won’t be specific to that company. Find a legitimate email or phone number before sending a proposal.

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