Sponsorship Activation: Earning Your Money (and a Long-Term Partner)

Since we’re about mid-way through racing season (insert tears here), I thought now would be a good time to talk about something we all should be doing right now: sponsorship activation.

But what does that even mean, you ask. I will tell you, obviously, because we are friends and you asked.

Sponsorship activation is bringing your marketing partnership to life.

Ultimately, the goal of a sponsorship is to achieve specific business goals, whether that’s increasing product sales, getting exposure to another business or businesses, or obtaining community buy-in for a message or project.

Activating’ a sponsorship means using the assets you promised to give your marketing partner to achieve those goals.  It means taking action.

Many companies have been turned off by the notion of racing sponsorship because of the past, when it was business as usual to slap a logo on a car and cash a check. That model rarely, if ever, works anymore – logos don’t move product. And that’s where sponsorship activation comes in.

Ways to activate a racing sponsorship:

Need an example? I’ll give you a simple one I was part of last week with my husband Carl Bowser’s sprint car team and his marketing partner, Turner’s Premium Iced Tea. For last week’s Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway, my husband, sprint car driver Carl Bowser, and I knew that the World of Outlaws would attract fans that don’t attend weekly races. These fans might not know that our marketing partner Turner’s Premium Iced Tea was sold at the track’s concession stands. So, we came up with a quick cross-promotion to activate the sponsorship: Buy a pint of Turner’s and get $2 off our apparel.  The promo was easy to perform and track – fans just had to show us their Turner’s Tea carton and we tracked the number of shirts that we sold as usual. We activated the partnership by increasing sales of our marketing partner’s product while giving fans who were most likely already going to buy apparel a special treat, since the discount more than covered the cost of the drink.

Need an example? 
For last week’s Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway, my husband, sprint car driver Carl Bowser, and I knew that the World of Outlaws would attract fans that don’t attend weekly races. These fans might not know that our marketing partner Turner’s Premium Iced Tea was sold at the track’s concession stands. So, we came up with a quick cross-promotion to activate the sponsorship: Buy a pint of Turner’s and get $2 off our apparel.
The promo was easy to perform and track – fans just had to show us their Turner’s Tea carton and we tracked the number of shirts that we sold as usual. We activated the partnership by increasing sales of our marketing partner’s product while giving fans who were most likely already going to buy apparel a special treat, since the discount more than covered the cost of the drink.
We’re not the only ones activating racing sponsorships. For more ideas, keep your eyes on sprint car driver Brian Brown and late model driver Chris Ferguson – both of these guys are pros at this!

  • Social media
  • Offers or giveaways of partner products
  • Unique or exclusive content for your marketing partner’s audience
  • Support your marketing partner’s activation efforts (ex. Take photos of their advertising campaigns or PR placements for your social media accounts.)
  • Brainstorm ideas for your marketing partner to activate

Truth be told, it’s on both the person being sponsored and the brand sponsoring them to activate a sponsorship. After all, it is a partnership.

That’s why it’s also important to explain to a sponsor up front that there are costs that aren’t included in their agreement with you that they’ll need to consider to activate the partnership in the fullest. I’ve worked with clients that have spent the same amount as or more than the sponsorship fee to activate by using advertising and PR campaigns to tell their fans about their involvement with a team or movement. You don’t have to tell them what to do, just make them aware that they’ll get the most bang for their buck if they allocate budget for activation outside of your agreement.

It’s also important to set aside money from your fee to activate it on your end over and above what you agreed to do for the sponsor. This is especially important if you made apparel or material goods promises.

Even if not, you should have some extra funds to do the extras for your marketing partner as thank you’s or additional activation points throughout the season. You can send them some extra shirts for their company picnic, purchase some of their product as giveaways through your channel, or any other extra they don’t expect.

Those thoughtful activation points are what I’ve seen make the difference between a one-season sponsor and a long-term marketing partner. And aren’t we all looking to build a race team that sticks around?  

xox.

Kristin

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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.