The 2012 racing season is slowly wrapping up and as a racer, maybe you’re reflecting on your season and already starting to think about racing opportunities and sponsorship for next year—if you’re not then you should be; 2013 starts right now.
How to secure (and maintain!) sponsors has always been a big question among road racers, it’s an expensive sport and riders often want to get all of the help they can get. I was always very fortunate to have some supportive sponsors throughout my racing career and I often get asked how best to approach sponsors. So, listen up because I am about to give you some helpful tips! This week I’ll talk about some of the myths about sponsorship in the motorcycle road racing industry, and in my next blog I’ll try to address what you can do to help promote your sponsors through online resources like athlete websites, blogs and social media.
Here are some of my favourite myths about motorcycle racing sponsorship:
1. I’m the 2012 champion therefore I should get free stuff.
WRONG. Being fast on a motorcycle and standing on top of the podium each weekend certainly helps, but there’s more too it that just getting around the racetrack faster than the next guy. If your attitude sucks or you’re not approachable, sponsors might not anything to do with you. Your job is to help sell the product; yes admittedly being on the podium helps but if the fans (or sponsors) don’t like your attitude then they’ll happily support someone else. At the end of the day you’re representing a brand and that brand is trying to market itself to a given audience.
2. Motorcycle manufacturers and dealers have all kinds of money; they should give me a free bike…and trailer!
Have you looked around the industry lately? Manufacturers do not have heaps of cash to spend on racing, and in case you might have missed it, many of them are pulling out of racing and grids around the world from CSBK to MotoGP are shrinking. Racing is expensive and many manufacturers have had to commit marketing resources elsewhere. Nobody is going to give you a free bike, and they’re certainly not going to give you a $25,000 trailer to go along with it; not in this country at least.
Instead, approach manufacturers or your local dealer with a detailed race resume outlining your achievements to date, your future goals, and what you believe you can offer them in terms of added marketing. In some cases, dealers or manufacturers can offer to sell you a motorcycle at a small discount and sometimes, though rarely, they can even offer you terms to pay for the motorcycle toward the end of the season. Some professional and top amateur racers have managed to purchase motorcycles on terms, race them motorcycle all season long and then sell the bike before the terms come due. The risk here of course is that if you wad the thing up mid-season and the bike is a total write-off, the manufacturer or dealer is still going to want their money— and they don’t accept broken motorcycle parts.
3. I represent my sponsors at the racetrack all season long…surely that’s enough!
Sponsors don’t stop selling product when the racing season is over, and neither should you. Being sponsored takes a lot of time and energy both during the racing season and also during the off-season at motorcycle shows, dealer events and other industry gatherings. Develop a relationship with your sponsor; consider it a part-time job to help them out all year long in order that they will want to work with you again next year.
4. I should only approach motorcycle companies for racing sponsorship.
Motorcycle companies see race resumes come across their desk every day; they don’t always have the resources to sponsor YOU. It takes some more legwork, but try to think outside the box. Energy drink companies, snack food brands, local businesses…they may all have an interest in providing a level of support to your racing program if you can demonstrate that you will give them exposure to a certain target demographic in return. Race series organizers often have statistics on how many fans attend each event, don’t be afraid to ask for that information and using it in part of your sponsorship proposal. Sometimes all it takes is finding a successful company who’s owner loves motorcycles and just wants to help out. No amount is too little, but be sure to give them something back in return through exposure and marketing.
On the topic of marketing and exposure, the internet has made it relatively easy with websites, blogs and social media for athletes to help promote the brands that support them. I’ll address this topic in greater detail next time. In the meantime, you should be polishing up your race resume, thanking your current sponsors and highlighting your plans for next year, and thinking about your 2013 plans and what new sponsors you may wish to start approaching now.