Most of the athletes we work with have a reasonably good understanding of the basics of sponsorship; they know why they need it, they have an idea about what it looks like and they know the basics of how they might go about trying to reach out and find it.
But how should athletes be thinking about their sponsorship journey?
We know racing is expensive. Championship entry fees, testing, tyres, travel, insurance... every year is a massive cost, which is why understanding the value of sponsorship from a business' perspective is so crucial.
Every day, marketing directors are sent proposals with lists of recent race results and a breakdown of how much a season costs. There's probably a paragraph in there around your hopes and dreams as a driver and what racing means to you.
Great. But.... so what? You need to think like a business. Because, frankly, that's exactly what you are.
Your product is your racing (TV time, social media posts, podcast appearances and hospitality events) and your customers are sponsors. We're all customers in life, and we're more than happy to be customers for products and services that we see value in - a business is no different. If you can clearly demonstrate the value you can give to a business, they will see you as an investment worth making. It's down to you to research a company, understand what 'value' might look like for them and to sell that using your racing.
A brand wants to release a new soft drink in the UK market - what are the visitor attendance statistics of the series you're racing in? How many people could you get their new product in front of for market research and feedback?
A business sells custom embroidery and screen printing on merchandise and team clothing - how many teams and businesses could they meet in hospitality at any one of your race weekends? How many business leads could they generate from that?
Without doubt, you are guaranteed to get better results by selling a solution to a business problem than selling your race results and asking for a handout.
The wider business world is like racing, particularly in its competitive nature. The rules and tactics that help you be competitive in business apply to you with your racing, as well.
So we'll wrap this up with an example from a global superbrand. First, watch the video:
Nike know how to market well and this is just one of their brilliant adverts, but did you notice something? What are they selling?
What matters to THEM, eventually, is clothing and footwear sales. That's their bottom line and what they need to do well to compete in their market place. But the way to do that isn't to pull up facts about the materials used in their fabrics or by boasting about having the best laces in the industry.
The narrative in this video is about a running community, shared goals and saving the world. The objective for Nike was to boost the sales of the VaporMax and the Epic React Flyknit shoes, which do make occasional appearances, but the focus isn't on the shoes themselves.
In this advert and many of their others, Nike sells a lifestyle or a story that resonates with THEIR customers and focus on what matters to THEM, not what matters to the Nike business.
What matter to YOU, eventually, is the money that allows you to race another season. That's your bottom line and what you to get to compete on the grid. The best way to do that isn't to talk about how many podiums you've had or trophies you've got.
Sell a solution that resonates with YOUR customers and focus on what matters to THEM.
So when you're putting together your next sponsorship proposal, remember to think like a business.