Season-long Sponsorship Advice | Performance Racing Industry
Season-long Sponsorship Advice
By Annamarie Malfitana-Strawhand on March 18, 2015

It’s springtime, and most racers are thinking about how they can come out of the box strong this season and hopefully make their racing budgets last all season long. Many of them may have focused on their marketing efforts and attracting new sponsors during the offseason, and now just want to focus on the racing itself as the season starts to heat up.
But savvy racers understand the importance of converting some of the smaller sponsors they were able to bring on early in the season into full season sponsors—or better yet, up-leveling these relationships from associate or product sponsors to full level partnerships.
So let’s think even longer term: focusing on how to get these sponsors to return year after year. Yes, racers have to start thinking far down the road even this early in the season.
In this entry, I’d like to address some of the key questions racers and their teams should ask themselves before beginning to create solutions. We’ll also look at a couple of big obstacles racers face (and that oftentimes are self-imposed). My next entry will provide solutions to creating long-term partnerships for race teams.
Let’s begin with those key questions:
1. Do I have a clear, long-term plan for my racing career or team? “Seat of the pants” racing plans do not sit well with sponsors. Racers must be able to create a very clear plan for their year and season—and beyond—and get it on paper. If racers aren’t clear on their own goals for their team or their racing career, how can a company be clear on how to create a marketing plan around them that will benefit both parties?
To racers I say this: Know exactly what you want to do and exactly what the plan is. Make a clear, repeated marketing message in your overall branding and everything you publicize. Example: “I am focused on running for rookie of the year at ________ Speedway, and using my rookie year to raise money for ________ charity.” 
Make clear statements about your season plan for both on and off the track. Companies want to see clear, confident plans with public “social proof” that you are putting that plan into action. Then, they can visualize themselves and their company/products around what you are already doing. This is how “sponsor attraction” gets activated.
2. Why is this season different, special or unique? What is the big WHY behind the racing? Get that story out there. Companies need to see the fit and the theme behind it. What makes this season—or a racer—stand out and become more marketable? Is it a season of growth, of transition, of a racer making a comeback?
My advice to racers: What is your theme and how will it fit with a particular companies’ theme? How does your compelling team/driver story combine with your marketing? Once the clarity on theme/story and plan comes together, then put a strategy into place to get it out there in a big way to attract the right companies that want to be part of your BIG WHY and your story—they will be more apt to see it all the way through and stay for the journey, because your WHY and your STORY truly resonates with their brand. 
3. Are racers really approaching this as a “relationship,” or are they making it just about what they can get right now? Are they approaching sponsorship as if they were looking for a marriage partner? Are they focusing on the true long-term relationship and value they can really give to each other?
For racers: After that first date with someone you have nothing in common with, and no chemistry with—or if you only wanted to talk about yourself through the date—you can expect not to get asked out for a second date! Build common ground together. It could be something inspirational, charity work, common beliefs, common things you do away from the race track with your program, or their employees, customers or marketing goals. Show that you care and are focused on their needs. Take time to build the relationship with company leaders, even before you ask them for anything! Look at sponsorships like a marriage—this is a partnership, so think of it like that and it will last longer and grow more valuable as the years progress.
Now, let’s examine those big problems that racers may be causing themselves (often without realizing it):
1. Making ‘exposure’ the main value. The old “I can give you season-long exposure” reasoning doesn’t work anymore. Stop using that verbiage. If you continue to push the “exposure” thing, you are not addressing the needs of the sponsor. It speaks volumes that you are not concerned about their true specific marketing/sales goals, or have not taken the time to really ask and understand what they want, so you can truly put a custom marketing plan in place for them. In today’s market, sponsors want a lot more than “exposure.” Think creatively and get educated on today’s market and the needs of that company.
2. Choosing/targeting the wrong companies, or thinking small. Not researching a company ahead of time to determine if this company truly has the potential, the fit, and the means to forge season-long partnerships sets both you and them up for failure. Are you only reaching out to “easy” companies, who you know will at least give you something small, because you are too afraid to be turned down by the bigger companies? It’s time to do some soul searching here.
Stay tuned for my follow-up entry, which will provide solid takeaways for racers seeking long-term sponsor and partnership success.
Annamarie Malfitana-Strawhand is a motorsports marketing coach and mentor, motivational teacher, author and speaker. Through her company, Marketing At Full Speed, she draws on 30-plus years of experience as a motorsports professional, combined with her corporate sponsor experience, to guide racers who wish to ascend the sport’s ladder or up-level their teams. Her helpful video tips, advice blog and client success stories can be found on her website,

About the Author
Annamarie Malfitana-Strawhand's picture
Annamarie Malfitana-Strawhand is a renowned motorsports marketing mentor and sponsorship attraction coach. Her company is Marketing At Full Speed.
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