One of the many hats I wore while working for DWT/Motoworks was that of sponsorship director. In that role I reviewed proposals and negotiated contracts for hundreds of racers from top professionals to first timers and everyone in between. Having an insiders perspective on the sponsorship process and responding to literally hundreds of requests gave me a new understanding of the companies position when it comes to deciding who to help and to what extent.
Below is a compilation of Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind as you go about seeking sponsors to support your racing. I may seem a bit brash in my explanations but every point is addressed because it was a specific situation I dealt with at one point or another.
Do try and make their job easier-companies receive hundreds of requests for sponsorship and honestly the whole sponsorship process can cause a lot of headaches for companies. Start out on the right foot by checking their website or calling their office and ask IF they’re accepting sponsorship applications and how they prefer to receive them. In my job at DWT we accepted hard copies, emails and used Hookit. The hard copies were the last to get my attention because they were the biggest pain to sort through. I promise, your cool poster or Photoshoped resume will look just as cool as an email attachment.
Do proofread and use correct punctuation, grammar etc- It amazed me how many emails I received saying “hi. how can I apply for sponsership?” Or better yet. “id like to be sponsored by you guys. i race b class on a yamaha 450. I will run your sticker on my quad and race trailer.”
Do include pictures-Include a few action shots as well as a headshot (without a helmet) and a couple pictures of your quad or your pit area. Having a professional appearance at the track shows them that you represent yourself and your sponsors in a professional manner.
Do take advantage of the internet-research their company, find out what you like about them and explain why you are a good match for them.
Do maximize social media-Chad Wienen is probably the poster boy for using twitter and facebook to promote his sponsors. Mention them in tweets. Post links on facebook to news and updates posted on your sponsors website. The info doesn’t have to be about you, it just shows the company that you are trying to point people back to them.
Do keep your machine and pit area spotless- You wouldn’t go on a date or a job interview with a food stain on your shirt (or maybe you would) Keeping things neat and tidy gives the professional appearance that every sponsor is looking for.
Do keep in touch with your sponsors-You don’t have to send them a detailed race report after every event but drop them a line every once in a while to tell them how your season is going so they know that their investment is paying off. FAR too many people only correspond with a sponsor when they need something.
Do think outside the box to help promote your sponsor-Offer a riding clinic, go visit a school and talk to kids about racing, volunteer for trail clean ups and charity events. Do anything you can to get them visibility that they otherwise would not receive.
Do include an email address-email is the primary means a sponsor will correspond with you. Even if you send a hard copy of your resume, include ALL of your contact information. The cost of postage and the time to physically address envelopes adds up in a hurry when you’re responding to hundreds of applications.
Do say please and thank you-We’re taught to say please and thank you at a young age in hopes that the habit will stick with us for the entirety of our life. It’s a good habit that so many people seem to forget when asking for support.
Do not be dishonest-This should go without saying but it amazes me how many people lie about results and the things they say they will do to represent you. It’s not that hard to look up results these days and EVERY major series posts them online.
Don’t use the same cover letter/resume as your friend-This shows you’re lazy and not putting in much effort to get sponsors which tells the sponsor that you won’t put forth much effort to represent them.
Don’t send out mass requests-personalize every request for sponsorship with a brief cover letter. Many people send out their resume with a generic letter or none at all and just hope to hear back from people. Even something as simple as “Dear______ I am an aspiring racer and would love to partner with you for the upcoming season. Please find attached my 2012 resume for your review. Thank you.”
Do include a report card-Sponsors like seeing kids do well in school. It shows they’re hard workers. I’m a fan of parents that use racing as an incentive for them to work hard in school.
Don’t tell a sponsor you’re worth more than what they offer you-it’s within your right to disagree and you can even politely tell them why you feel like your accomplishments merit greater support but don’t tell them they’ll be sorry or get mad at them. I once heard a young man say that a racer should never accept an offer that is beneath them. Something about companies needing to support the sport and not giving a racer what they deserve is what is killing the sport. I submit to you that 99 percent of the time it is the company’s position to decide what a rider is worth. Most people in this position forget that it is they who approached the sponsor, not the other way around.
Do understand the sponsor has the right to say no-companies cannot help everyone. It is my experience that most try to do a little something for everyone. It’s their way of supporting the sport. If you get declined, try and apply elsewhere but remain polite and don’t criticize them for making a decision.
Don’t bad mouth a sponsor-word travels fast. It’s very likely if you speak poorly of a company that someone share that information with that sponsor. That makes you look very bad if you ever decide to reapply with that company and it shows other people your true colors. Not a lot of people like getting involved with potty mouths.
Don’t discuss your level of sponsorship with others -Your specific deal is an agreement between you and that company. If you find out that someone else is receiving a better deal than you, that is their particular arrangement with that company.
Don’t be foul-I’ve actually declined or seriously decreased the level of support our company offered to racers because of posts they made on facebook and how I witnessed them conduct themselves in person. If you have a facebook account you are establishing yourself as a brand to the world. Be a brand that people want to partner with.
Don’t jump ship-Sometimes sponsors have to cut back. Just because they gave you a 50% discount last year doesn’t mean you are entitled to the same level of support every year. If a sponsor has to decrease their support for a season, I recommend sticking it out. It shows them you are committed to them and when their position improves they’ll be more likely to reinstate your previous discount because you showed good faith and stuck with them.
Do the math-20% off of a $400 exhaust is a better deal than 50% off an $800 exhaust. If your goal is to save money, do the math to figure out what you’re going to be paying with your discount. At Motoworks we dropped our retail price on exhausts and consequently decreased the discount we were providing sponsored riders. It amazed me how many people called complaining that their support level went down when in fact they were paying LESS for the same product. If it’s just an ego thing to be able to tell your friends how big of a discount you get on product than you’ve missed the point of sponsorship entirely.
Don't be a primadonna-You might be a pro at a local series or have won the national C class champion ship but there is a huge difference between the C class and a premier class. Demanding better support because of your accomplishments won’t get you very far.
Do make friends with the media-most of those people at the track carrying around big cameras work for some sort of magazine or website. They take a lot of pictures on a race weekend and most of the ones they put online or in a magazine are of people they know. Make friends, be polite and get media attention for sponsors. Sponsors like that.
Do what you say- Making claims about racing several series or doing big things for a sponsor and then not following through doesn’t make you look good.
Do consider it a relationship-If sponsorship is done correctly it is mutually beneficial for both parties. As the racer, you typically benefit from the arrangement before the sponsor does because you get their product before you deliver them results. Make them proud and deliver results.
Those are just some simple things to keep in mind when applying for sponsorship. Most companies have good will toward racers and genuinely want to help people out. Start early, maintain relationships with good companies and give it your all when it comes to promoting them. I know people that rarely, if ever, win races and still get a great deal of free product just because they give theirs sponsors a great return on their investment.