The Right-Sized Sponsorship Prospects

Sometimes, marketing your race team to potential prospects can feel like finding the Goldilocks of companies: not too big and not too small.

A few weeks ago, I got a great question from a prospector who detailed the struggle: many companies are too small and local to be interested in racers who run a regional or even national schedule. They don’t benefit from the traveling, so they don’t want to pay what, say, a regional or national team would charge for that advertising.

On the flip side, most big corporations aren’t interested in smaller, regional programs. And if they are, it’s extremely difficult to cut through the bureaucratic clutter to find the marketing person who is going to pay attention to something that’s a very small percentage of their marketing budget, especially when it’s less quantifiable than, say, a regional magazine or Facebook advertising campaign.

So, how do you find those Goldilocks companies: the ones that aren’t too big to care about your market but too small to get the cost-benefit of your program?

Here is some food-for-thought on a very valid question: 

The little bear's expression = priceless.

The little bear’s expression = priceless.

First, like we’ve talked about on the blog in the past, it’s most important to align your prospecting to the interests and spending habits of your audience than the region and the size of the company. I’m going to assume that if you’re deep enough into the prospecting process that you’re looking at company size, you know that and, like our question-asker, are on top of this principle.

But, as a reminder, that’s principle #1 of sponsorship searching: know your audience and your assets. Know what you have to offer.

(Want more on that? Here’s a bonus post on how to increase the value of your sponsorship offerings, while you’re at it, and our on-demand workshop on how to create and value sponsorship offerings for those who want to take it to the next level.)

Second, let’s break down the challenges of the too-small and too-large companies:

Too-Small Sponsorship Prospects.

Instead of crossing them off your list as having too-little budget for your team or no interest in regions outside of theirs when you’re growing your racing schedule, ask yourself: how can I serve them within their region and their budget?

Could you consider offering these types of smaller/regional businesses a (smaller) package based on their portion of your schedule? 

It’s a win-win – they make a smaller investment and aren’t paying for trips out of the region, and, as long as you’re up front with your intentions, you can actually sell that same opportunity to a local company in another region. You absolutely, positively must lay everything on the table, just to be clear, so nobody thinks they’re paying for a placement at all of your races and only getting the ones in their region. But having a wing or body panel that changes over depending on where you’re racing, and activation on the local level that reflects that local partnership, would be a good way to not stretch a local company’s budget with placements and activations that don’t benefit them.

(Hint: this is what we’re seeing so prevalently in NASCAR right now – paint schemes that change from race to race. Here’s a great article on why local companies are making a big splash with one-race sponsorship in their region for a smaller budget – something they never would have been able to do in years past with NASCAR when only season-long partnerships were offered.)

Too-Large Corporate Sponsorship Prospects.

The challenge with large or national corporations is two-fold: if you’re a local or regional racer, they probably not interested in ‘playing small’ and dedicating the time needed to activate a local or regional partnership when they can do that with larger media buys. It’s also difficult to reach a decision-maker at the national level when you’re playing in local.

One thing to think about here is franchising. While some companies own all of their own locations, many large corporations license franchises that are owner-operated. Meaning that each location is owned and operated individually. That means that although they generally need to have their marketing spend approved by corporation, the decisions are largely their own.

Approaching a franchise owner in your region is a way to get the ball rolling with a partnership that benefits that location and doesn’t require working with the national marketing director or, often the advertising agency that represents their marketing.

Many franchisees also own more than one location in the same region, so the same decision-maker may be able to pool funding from more than one store. That’s a way to turn a small business into a medium business, or a big business into a medium one, depending on how you look at it.

Another thing to think about is that they often receive a portion of an advertising co-op fund. That means that the company sets aside an amount of money for their franchisees to spend on advertising. The franchisees will either get a portion of that money or they will vote as a group on where to spend that pool.

If they are not a franchise model, they most likely have a regional marketing director or a regional manager that oversees stores in certain regions. They’re likely making the marketing decisions for more than one store. Just picking one region to start with may eventually lead you to a major partnership. Another way to turn a big business into a medium or small business that aligns with your audience size and reach.

One last thing to keep in mind with corporations is that one of the reasons that big companies like that are so difficult to reach is that they are utilizing an advertising agency to guide them on their marketing spend. Most advertising agencies don’t ever look at race cars for ad spend for a number of reasons – having worked in them, I could go on all day about why – but that’s one hoop you’ll jump through in trying to reach them. It’s often better to get one or two stores involved at first and have them take it to the person above them who works it up the ladder to the agency than trying to approach the national marketing director, who’s just managing the ad agency.

Just Right-Sized Sponsorship Prospects.

I know, we’re getting there…how do you find Goldilocks? Well, you can tailor your packages to make the too-small ones work, or you can break the too-big ones into bite-sized regions. Or, you can look at both of these companies’ competition.

For every large and small company that fits your brand, there is a competitor. There likely is a medium-sized competitor or regional competitor. 

When you think about Lowes or Home Depot as a good fit, minus the size and national-reach, there is likely a regional lumber supplier – for example, we have 84 Lumber in Western Pennsylvania. Or, there’s a franchisee that owns 2-3 Ace Hardwares in your region.

The same qualities that make your team a good fit with the audience of national brands are the same things that make your team a good fit for their smaller competition. Those who want to reach a medium-sized audience at a medium-sized price in the region they’re looking to serve.

The good news is that Goldilocks is out there. In fact, you can find her in places that you previously might have thought were too large or too small. All you have to do is look.


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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.