The #1 Sponsorship Mistake Racers Make

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” – Theodore Roosevelt

(I love the sentiment of this quote, but you could even argue that ‘never doing anything’ is that mistake-less man’s mistake. Anyway, I digress. And in the first paragraph, no less!)

I get emails, Facebook messages, tweets and phone calls every single week from racers asking questions about sponsorship. We all make mistakes when it comes to marketing – or, we learn what not to do, in my opinion – but there’s a general theme that I find when we talk about the mistakes racers make when pursuing sponsorship.

In one word, it’s ‘focus’. 

Too often, racers are focused on the wrong things when approaching their marketing strategy:

  • Focusing on the money they’ll get and what they’ll do with it instead of what their marketing partner will receive.
  • Focusing on what they can do and not what their marketing partners want.
  • Focusing on selling sponsorship first and building the audience that the sponsor wants to purchase access to second.
  • Focusing on why their competition is getting sponsorship that they’re not.
  • Focusing on how much work they’ll have to do for a ‘small’ amount of money.
  • Focusing on the health of the economy or their perception that large companies have large marketing budgets, and vice versa.
  • Focusing on racing results instead of marketing ROI.

This is not meant to be a criticism towards racers. I, too, am often focused on the wrong things at the wrong times. Usually because the ‘wrong’ thing I’m focusing on is easier than the right thing.

In my experience, focusing on right things can be difficult because there are unknowns. It often requires more work. It sometimes requires us to invest time, money and effort into things that are foreign to us or out of our control.

We’re comfortable building race cars. We driven by winning races. We can picture logos on our cars and appearances at local businesses. We don’t have a lot of money to spend or time to kill. We might not know much about marketing beyond what we see other teams do.

It’s easy to focus on the comfortable, easy, fun parts of the sponsorship equation.

But I’d challenge you to start re-evaluating your focus when it comes to marketing your race team, business or track.

Ask yourself, if I want to be successful next year or five years from now, what do I need to be doing today, tomorrow, this week or this month? What needs to happen between now and then, and what’s time sensitive that I should be addressing now?

When you start focusing on marketing, you prioritize building your audience. You value creating loyal, happy fans. You embrace helping marketing partners make money.

You start looking at the world outside of your garage as full of opportunities to build relationships. And businesses. And your dream.


P.S. Are you focused on building your marketing program this off-season? Don’t know where to start? If this bullet point hit home with you – focusing on what they can do and not what their marketing partners want – and you’re interested in taking part in a virtual workshop on this in the next few weeks, please let me know below.


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.