Obtaining Marketing Partnerships (aka: Sponsors, Race Fans & PR contacts) can be difficult. Not Rocket Science engineering or Harvard Master’s Degree difficult. But difficult in that good PR and a hardship economic market together with a large pool of equally talented and deserving drivers are vying for the same thing that you want…. which is in limited quantities.
Their Race Support.
The challenges of racing go beyond on-track driving techniques and race equipment output. A large collection of trophies or anticipated victory laps while holding the checkered flag don’t guarantee the resources needed to fund and support a Race Team year after year.
Media Coverage and a good size Fan Base are two elements that are needed to entice, or peak the interest of potential Sponsors and turn them into long term Marketing Partners. Being successful in these areas are just as important as having good race results at the track to gain effective ventures and attract and keep sponsors.
Media coverage is how you gain a fan base, a fan base is how you gain a sponsor, good driver PR marketing is how you gain media coverage….. it all goes together and is a total skill set that should be learned early and fostered regularly.
This requires a parent’s approach to driver marketing to be very professional with consistent content management by way attractive website, weekly blog posts about the sport, driver, race team or special cause, Social Media posts and management as well as regular Press Releases. All of these are needed to gain the elusive media exposure by getting the attention of reporters, editors, talent booking agents and race show hosts to have articles and blog post written about our drivers and interview guest spots scheduled for racing podcasts, radio shows and TV specials.
[su_quote]Being successful then requires another set of skills to be developed by the driver by way of media coaching, but we’ll save that for another article.[/su_quote]
Right now, the drivers are learning a new sport or acquiring new skills in higher level divisions but still in the throes of their Driver Development Program that is running concurrent with the parent’s, okay Dad’s, new role as Crew Chief and the learning curve that comes with that job at each level. Suffice it to say the PR Representative job duties usually falls on the Race Mom, at least at some point in time in the young racer’s karting career.
Good PR takes the same discipline and dedication as you would give to coaching or racing at the track in an effort to have positive race results. Simply winning races and building up a collection of trophies will not make your driver a success in the long run nor are they a given for ongoing winning results over time.
Drivers and Race Teams (aka: Parents, Pit Crews, family and/or friends associated with the child’s racing) must present a professional and business approach while being engaged and disciplined as they create a complete and competitively attractive driver marketing package for potential sponsors and fans to get them to join your team and fund your racing venture.
[su_pullquote]NOTE: Parents must be beyond reproach and are fully responsible for a driver’s reputation, not to mention the overall team’s image. This means following the rules of the game, no negative banter or online ranting or competitor trash talking in the pits or on Social Media. This again goes to the entire pit crew, family and friends who are part of the “Team” and represents the child in their racing efforts.[/su_pullquote]
Although there is no foolproof method to securing a sponsor or gaining fans, however having a good online reputation in addition to a positive sportsmanship behavior and character traits at the track are essential elements for obtaining these vital marketing partnerships. Fans and sponsors are a vital part of every driver’s Motorsports career and the longevity of the race team depends on them. They are an asset to future sports teams and ventures as well.
Proper communication is also critical with use of proper grammar, correct spelling and punctuation with regard to blog and social media posts, press releases and emails sent out when making driver or team announcements, giving race reports or event recaps, shoutouts to sponsors or company and product endorsements, or recapping a race season. (For example, don’t use slang on Facebook and limit abbreviations on Twitter and don’t overuse exclamation marks.)
Most racers (and parents) have and will ignore this time tested and proven advice and either being negative and careless with remarks or flat out use online bully tactics to get the better hand (or even “get even” with) of a fellow competitor, venue owner, event promoter or track official. This is almost never going to end up having a positive outcome for the driver in the end. While some “Bat shit crazy” moments or outbursts at the track can every now and then be overcome with sincere and remorseful behavior modification, the internet has a history of recycling the negative eruptions and online drama because once it’s out there it never goes away…
…and that’s when a potential or future sponsor will come across it and turn away a deal that they otherwise would have made with your driver/race team – or the potential fan that saw you at the track or at a driver’s appearance and goes online to learn more about you only to find they don’t like what they see…
These Race Teams (pit crews, families and/or parents) who don’t learn early that poor behavior and bad sportsmanship qualities, in person or online, can and will devastate a driver’s race career in the long run. Most of these “Racers” will likely struggle to move past the first round in the sponsorship phase and most will never make it beyond karting in their motorsports quest.
However, if they do happen to secure a sponsor or small fan base in the beginning or early stages, the negative traits and poor sportsmanship qualities will inevitably rub off on the young drivers and create permanent and long-term bad habits that almost always guarantee failure. The negative, “I’m-better-than-you-and-I’ll-show-you”, attitude will eventually create an entitled kid who thinks the world owes them something; or that they deserve to have it all because that’s the behavior they’ve been taught regardless of having to ‘earn it’; or they’ve been lead to believe they are the next Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Jimmy Johnson or Danica Patrick – so they are justified in the otherwise poor behavior.
Warning: this entitled outcome doesn’t always come from negative behavior or actions. The best-intentions of a parent to “brag” on their child can have a damaging effect when the race results that are being applauded were in fact not honorably earned. Such as when a driver is the only one in the class, or the class size is on average very small with good odds of a win by just showing up; or when the driver is dominating the field because they have long mastered the skill sets of the class and need to move up to the next higher level but are kept back just to rack up easy wins against less experienced drivers.
The last example happens quite frequently and can make for a deceptive race resume or website presentation and result in acquiring unsuspecting sponsors. But the blinders will eventually come off when they catch on to what is happening based on other race reports for the same event or series. They have a vested interested in keeping up and staying informed so they will eventually come across a track or promoters official weekly race results report online or a series’ blog article that lists the drivers’ standings or rankings. The sponsors and fans will put two and two together and realize that the PR posts were highly exaggerated and nothing more than a boastful and gloating parent attempting to make their child look far better than they are, or deserve to be.
If you are reading this post to learn how to gain sponsors and build a fan base, I encourage you to NOT be that parent. Take your PR responsibilities seriously. Look at it from a Coach’s or business perspective and be honest and modest, and always report facts and events with the Motorsport’s sportsmanship that is becoming a Race Car Driver. In the end your reputation and overall success will benefit far more than the limited ego boost you may gain by otherwise placing blame or dogging a competitor or official.
I assure you that it can be just as easy for a “Hard Charging” Rookie driver [with used race equipment and a hand-me-down race suite that shows up in a small flatbed trailer, but has all the passion and dedication to the craft that a National Champion has] to get a sponsor and develop fans because that driver shows grit and determination to perform and to improve with each race. He wants to demonstrate his skills for the crowd and put on a good race show along with, not in despite of, his fellow competitors. The thrill of a position swapping, back-and-forth duel with a drag race to the checkered flag on the last lap is what real drivers want and can’t wait to talk about in their PR recaps – those are type of races that the fans enjoy the most and walk away from feeling completely entertained.
Even the underdog story with heart-break losses, or a string of bad luck races for most, or all of the season can be endearing if the driver comes away with a positive attitude and looks at the bright side to the race – and who can give an entertaining race report with a thrilling recap of events that catches the reader’s attention. That is the driver who will be seen as a better representative for a sponsor’s company or the product brand ambassador. That is the driver who will win hearts and have more fan page followers, blog subscribers and post shares – and full circle, those are the things that potential sponsors will be looking for.
It all boils down to how your driver and the rest of the race team communicates and presents themselves at and on the track, as well as in the online racing community.
You can hire the best racing PR Firm to beef up your releases or develop a top-notch driver website with all the fancy bells and whistles, but if your “Spirit and Intent” or Sportsmanship are lacking then you will be at a huge disadvantage because the shiny newness gets old when repeated mindlessly with no real compelling story to back it up. Checkered flag finishes and Championship Titles may look good on the race resume, but it’s how you got them that tells, and sells, your story – and a captivating story is what sells a driver and makes for the best PR.
So, your objective and goals should be to promote the unique skills and traits that fans want to get behind in their drivers (like a worthy cause you are racing for, or a new professional skill set that you recently acquired and are now “Known for”) – And for sponsors it’s what they can leverage to improve their businesses, sell their products, and/or build community good will – whatever their ROI goal is, because remember, not all sponsors want or need the same thing.
It’s not about you want, but what they want from you. It’s time to get creative and think outside the box – be different and exceptional. Racers who are likable get the followers on Social Media and readers on their Website Blogs.
- Offer to do driver appearances;
- Host their top employees at the races;
- Give thank you cards mid-season with a race season review style newsletter (and post it online).
- Offer Sponsor shout-outs every chance you get – ask the track to have the PA System for a minute at intermission and talk about your sponsor – and LIVE Facebook it!
- Have a banner made with their logo and display it at the track.
- Show up at their business to give them your last Checker Flag and dedicate the win to them.
- Host Fan Experiences – at the track, a local restaurant or on Social Media – have a contests or trivia game and give-away t-shirts or autographed Hero Cards.
- Include a special dedicated Fan Page on your website and give shout-outs to loyal fans.
- Be inviting at the track and talk to everyone who comes by your pit.
Fans and sponsors want to align and partner with Drivers and Race Teams that make them feel and look good. It’s all a part of PR promotion cycle – aka: The Driver Marketing Program.
In racing you are only as successful as your Marketing Partner’s success. Understand that providing sponsors with what they need (ie: new customers, profits, exposure, good will) and fans with what they want (ie: a good race show and a feel-good driver story) will in turn get you what you need: support for your racing!
Remember: It is NOT all about You!
So, use those race reports, blog posts, photo shoots, kart exhibitions, sponsor shoutouts, fan experiences to show that you are not an ungrateful driver. Your exposure will be very telling based on your efforts and your Sportsmanship will always show your true character. You must put forth the effort, be humble, show discipline and keep the Spirit and Intent of racing with the respect for Motorsports at the for front always. Unfavorable race results are expected and inevitable – it‘s how you handle yourself in actions and communications that will determine how successful you will be in the long run.
Consider this PR lesson as part of your overall Driver Development Program. You owe it to yourself, your fans and your sponsors to get it right. You have a dream – and they are putting their faith (and money) into that dream with you and your racing venture. That dream of going “Pro” someday will require extreme professionalism and discipline as well as big budget funding from sponsors who will demand large fan bases, and a lot more than just a sticker on the bumper of the race car.
Start now to develop the right skills and good habits. One more time: “It’s not about You”…..
When you understand how PR and Driver Marketing works and you chart your course early – know here you fit in in the “sales funnel” of Motorsports – then you will learn how to work those leads into sales and gain your fan base in the process. That will be how you measure yourself as a true Race Professional and be an asset to your Race Team – now, and long into the future.
Be grateful that you get to participate in and enjoy this wonderful sport of racing. The future of Motorsports depends on your success.
Now it’s your turn.
Let me know what you think about this article. Do you have any questions? Need some advice on what to do next? Leave me a comment and let’s talk about it.