How To Get Sponsors To Pay For Your Broke Ass To Go Racing :: Rule #1

I’ve been racing cars professionally for almost 15 years now, and as soon as people find out what I do, the questions start coming in hard and fast. Questions like “What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone?” and “Have you ever had a bad crash?” and so on. But the two I get asked the most often are these: “So you race NASCAR?” and “How do you get sponsors to pay you?”

I don’t really mind answering those same questions over and over (except for the NASCAR one; that’s ****ing annoying.) But the sponsorship question is the hardest one by far, mainly because there are so many parts to it that any response turns into an hour-long dissertation on the commercial state of motorsports—and also results into said person never asking me another question ever again. At least it has that going for it.

To understand motorsports sponsorships you first have to understand the business of professional motorsports. A race team is a business like any other business. It has expenses—cars, drivers, crew, equipment, logistical, office, accounting, so much coffee, etc.—and needs to bring in revenue to cover those expenses. Where we go off the rails is in how we bring in that revenue.

Race teams don’t have paying customers like a normal business (I’ll leave the pay driver conversation for another day) so the only real source of income for teams is sponsors.

As you can see by just looking at various cars, in the various series around the world, there is no one type of company that has an interest in sponsoring motorsports. Red Bull, Rolex, Visit Florida, UPS, and Viagra have all graced the body panels of race cars all over the world. None of them have anything in common other than the value they, individually, see in racing.

Now some of you might read this and think, “Why would Holland want to tell me how to get sponsors to go racing? Isn’t this like taking money out of his own pocket?” Actually, no! It isn’t.

But there are so many people out there getting it totally wrong that they actually turn potential sponsors off and screw it up for the rest of us. More importantly, if more potential racers start doing a better job pitching and working with sponsors, it helps bring more sponsors into racing, making the sport healthier and hence more attractive to other sponsors. So there is a method to my madness.

Now let’s find out how to get you jokers paid.


Rule #1: It’s not me, it’s you

When speaking with a sponsor, the amount of money you need to go racing is totally irrelevant. The only thing that matters to the sponsor is how much return they get on their investment.

This is by far the most important concept to get your head around when approaching a sponsor, and by far the one that almost every single one gets wrong.

It’s so important I’ll say it again. The only thing that matters is the sponsor’s ROI.Imagine you run the Super Go-Fast Racing™ team. And imagine you’re meeting with the CEO of a widget company to ask for sponsorship. Your team needs $100,000.

The WidgetCo. CEO has that much in her marketing budget but also options on how to spend it—she can take out ads online, do radio or TV spots, or even make some good old fashioned email blasts.

All of those methods are tried and true, but, more importantly, their response rate can be directly measured and tracked—proving or disproving their effectiveness.

So let’s say the WidgetCo CEO decides to spend $100,000 of the marketing budget on online ads on a fictional automotive website that we’ll call God, that name is incessantly stupid; who would ever name a website that? Let’s call it instead.

The CEO is all set to purchase ad space knowing that if she spends $100,000 on ads on, she will get an increase in business worth $500,000 from those ads (a 5:1 ratio is considered good; 10:1 is exceptional.)

Now you, the would-be racing mogul, are here to ask for the same $100,000. How do you show her you can give the same 5:1 return as online ads can?

Businesses exist to make money. If they give you some of their money, they are going to expect to make even more money in return. If they can’t show someone how they are going to make money by giving a racing team some, then end of story.

It’s that simple—but there is an exception. Keep reading my posts to find out…