Welcome to Part 3 in this 5 part series where I’ll explain everything you need to know to attract sponsors and become the rider that companies WANT to support!
In the last post I explained why a company would want to sponsor an athlete and helped you brainstorm a list of companies that fit those criteria. If you haven’t read Part 1 and 2 yet I recommend checking them out, but you will still get a lot out of this post even if you don’t.
Here’s the breakdown of the series:
Part 1: What Is Sponsorship? – The 3 Main Types of Sponsorship Deals
Part 2: Who Would Sponsor Me? – Switch your Mindset and Think Like a Marketer
Part 3: Stand Out! – Get Noticed and Prove You Mean Business
Part 4: Your Sponsorship Packet – Plan Ahead and Create a Winning Sponsorship Packet
Part 5: Hustle – Seal the deal!
Part 6: The Perfect Promoter – Keep Your Sponsors Coming Back for More
Part 3: Stand Out! – Get Noticed and Prove You Mean Business
Now that you understand the different types of sponsorship deals available (Part 1) and have made a list of at least 10 companies who are likely to say “yes” (Part 2), let’s talk about how to stand out from the crowd and get sponsors to notice you!
But before I get into the details, I want to tell you a funny story from my first year racing.
In my novice race season I raced a bone-stock Suzuki SV650 with maybe 68hp and in WMRRA at the time ALL novices raced together in the same class regardless of your bike. To this day some of the scariest moments in my racing career were entering turn 1 at the start of the Novice “heat” (they weren’t called “races” at the time, but we all knew they were) with 40 other NOVICE RACERS with a vast range of speed and skill differentials… and trying not to die.
I quickly made friends with a couple other SV riders who were just as terrified as I was and we decided to start gridding in the VERY BACK of the pack and having our own little SV Showdown every race, err… I mean “heat”. It was a blast and we didn’t have to worry about getting ass-packed by over-eager novices on liter-bikes trying to get that holeshot.
One of the SV guys, Jerome, was a really nice guy and a bit of a jokester and apparently made some comments at a bike night that he would “totally rock a pink bike”, so some of his friends decided to make his dream a reality. (See the link for pictures of the whole process, they did an amazing job and it is hilarious!)
His friends pulled a prank on him to embarrass him and to see if he really would “rock a pink bike”, and he totally did! He rocked it! He really was a good sport about it and you know what? After that EVERYONE in the pits knew who he was – he was “the guy with the pink bike”!
Word spread like wildfire and pretty soon even at track days when Jerome wasn’t even there I heard people saying things like “I wonder if the guy with the pink bike will show up” or “have you heard about that guy rockin’ the pink SV? I heard it is hilarious!”
Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this story is because even though he didn’t intend to, Jerome found a way to stand out and get noticed. The whole event created a huge buzz and for weeks more people were talking about him than about the guys breaking lap records!
If you can find a way to stand out and create a buzz like Jerome did, I guarantee sponsors will be excited to be associated with you because they know you are getting noticed. So let’s find out how you can stand out too!
Before you ever approach a company and ask them to sponsor you, you need to give them a reason to want to partner with you. Why would they choose to spend their hard earned money to pay for your racing expenses? Why would they choose you over the hundreds, if not thousands of other racers knocking on their door?
You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and make it clear that you mean business; but how? Here are three important ways you should differentiate yourself to get noticed not only by potential sponsors but by anyone you interact with.
1. Be Professional
Sure, winning races is nice, but that is only a small piece of the puzzle. Remember this is a business deal and companies want to be associated with riders/racers who look and act like the pros. If they are going to pay you to represent their company, they want to know that you will represent them in the best possible manner so make sure every part of your racing production is as professional as possible.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Clean, organized, well-stocked pit set-up
- Clean, well-maintained, race bike (custom paint job is a bonus)
- Custom leathers with your race team / name on them
- Website where you can post pictures, race reports, schedules etc.
- Team shirts / jerseys for you, your pit crew, and your fans
Think of your race team as a brand and anything you can do to create a cohesive image will help you stand out. Even something as simple as color coordinating your bike, leathers, canopy, chairs, tool-box etc. will show you are being intentional about your image. Putting a little bit extra time and effort into looking like a real race team will give you an advantage over your competition.
2. Be Likeable
Almost as important as being professional is being likeable. All your effort put into looking professional can be for naught if your fellow riders think you are an arrogant ass. You want to be the guy in the pits that people have nothing but nice things to say about. Once again, if a company is going to PAY you to be their voice in the local racing scene, they want to know that you will be making new friends for them, not creating enemies.
You don’t have to be the most outgoing, life-of-the-party type person in the pits to gain the respect, trust, and friendship of other riders. Being willing to put others first and help someone out every once in a while can go a long way. Here are a few examples:
- If a new rider is wandering the pits looking confused or overwhelmed, ask if they have any questions and offer to help. You were probably a new rider once, wouldn’t you have appreciate it if someone took the time to help you out and make you feel welcome?
- If a fellow rider crashes, offer to help them repair their bike and get them back on the track. No one likes crashing, but if you can lend a hand or some parts or tools to help get them back in action, I guarantee it will not go unnoticed.
- If someone is a 1-man team offer to help them set-up or tear-down their pits or lend a hand removing their tire warmers and rear stand before their race. Racing is definitely a team sport, but not all of us have a team that follows us to the track. I know I am always very thankful when anyone offers to help out in the pits.
If you have been in the racing scene for very long you have probably already had someone do something like this for you, and if not then pay it forward and help someone else out; trust me, it will come back to you tenfold.
From a purely business sense, being well-liked by your racing peers is attractive to a sponsor because if people trust and respect you then they are more likely to value your opinion which means if you promote a product people will listen. Remember, trust is slowly earned and quickly lost, so with this trust comes the responsibility to only promote products that you truly believe in.
3. Be Unique
“Wait, you’re telling me in order to stand out I have to be unique? Wow, that’s profound!” Yeah, yeah I know, this should come as no surprise to most of you, and yet so few people actually do it! Here are a few specific ways you can take a unique approach and set yourself apart from the herd:
- Find the underdog and become their biggest fan – if everyone in the pits is sponsored by Pirelli, I bet Bridgestone would love to have an enthusiastic advocate.
- Do something crazy – if everyone is riding a blue Yamaha, maybe you should ride a pink Ducati (take it from Jerome, this is a great way to get noticed!).
- Get creative – instead of a boring race resume, create a promotional video to get your sponsors excited about your race team.
Can you think of some other ways you could stand out? Stop reading right now and write down 3 specific ideas that you could try out this season. In fact, post some of your ideas in the comments and we can all get some good ideas.
Now that you know what you need to do to stand out from the crowd, stay tuned for Part 4: Your Sponsorship Packet where I lay out everything you need to know to plan your race season and create a winning sponsorship packet!