The September Sponsorship Hustle

Have you seen Gary Vaynerchuk’s recent video titled August?

From talking with some of you on coaching calls, I know that he’s pretty polarizing. I personally like his no b.s. approach but I don’t subscribe to the business-over-life mentality. I was really happy when one of our great DirtyMouth Sponsorship Success Community members – hey Haley! – shared that video with the group, as I really feel it’s worth watching.

If you have a few moments, I suggest you go do that. If not, here’s the general gist:

August is the time when most people are sleeping and resting. They’re taking vacations or taking time off or focusing on getting the kids back to school, and they’re not focusing on their businesses. If you’re really devoted to being successful in business, you can use your August to hustle and show up in places and ways that other people aren’t.  

Although August is already past us, I wanted to relate that back to a few racing conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks. Because I feel that September is a really big month for racers:

  • In the short term, September is when the pros really shine on the track.
  • In the long term, September is where marketing pros put together their next season.

Let’s talk short term first. As many race tracks close up shop on their weekly shows, racers that normally stick close to home have the opportunity to go out and race in specials. But, that’s only the case if they’re not out of money or equipment or energy.

Those who plan their seasons to have enough equipment/money and energy, both in them and in their crew, in August (a.k.a. ‘The Month of Money’ for sprint car racing in particular) and the remainder of the season will reap the rewards of lower car counts and worn-out competitors.

Those who get themselves motivated can overcome the energy hurdle – and sometimes even the equipment hurdle if it comes down to finding the time and energy to build spares right before the offseason or do top-notch maintenance.

But it’s long term I really want to emphasize here. The fall is when much of the work for sponsorship professionals happens, because it’s when a lot of corporate decisions are being made by potential sponsors and advertisers.

As I laid out in an old post, The September Effect: Marketing Budgets and Sponsorship, fall is the time when many companies either start looking at their marketing budgets for the next year or actually commit funds to their 2017 sponsorships. That’s why it’s a great time – a pivotal time, really – to be starting your 2017 sponsorship outreach now.

(Another pro tip?  Now’s also the time to make sure you’re properly activating your 2016 marketing partnerships. Companies who don’t feel good about their current sponsorship programs now are unlikely to budget that funding in for a renewal the next year.)

So, where to begin? Here are a list of steps with some resources for each one:

Make a prospect list. Start making a list of companies that align with your team and your offerings. You can do this by industry or type of company, by location, by companies that you already support, or based on your existing audience and your offerings.

Knowing who your audience is will help you determine if those people are potential customers for your marketing partners, if that’s your goal. Knowing what you can offer – for example, employee hospitality events – will help you determine if those offerings will align with your marketing partner’s goals. (If you need extra help with this, check out our downloadable one-hour video workshop: Crafting and Valuing the Perfect Offerings.)

Do your research. You’ll want to determine the name of the appropriate contact, find their contact information and do as much research as you can into the company’s current marketing goals. Hints as to what they’re looking for? Check out their About sections and press releases, their social media channels and where you see their advertisements currently. That will give you an idea of who they’re marketing to and what exactly – a specific product line or service, or that they’re hiring – they want to market.

Start your outreach. This does not, and I really can’t emphasize this enough, mean that you send them a proposal. You want to make a warm connection (see: Warm Up Prospective Sponsors for more information) and then see if your marketing goals align and if there is potential for a partnership. Ask questions, be polite and professional, and make the connection about them, not about you.

Follow up in a week if you don’t hear back, and follow up immediately if you do. Send more information or a proposal when requested. (Find out how to build an easy, pro sponsorship proposal in our downloadable video workshop: Creating Effective Sponsorship Proposals.)

Track your progress. An Excel spreadsheet works really well for keeping track of prospect’s information, when you reached out, what results you got and when you need to follow up. If you’re really motivated, think about what it might mean to reach out to 5-10 prospects each day for the month of September. (To take advantage of my engineering degree – at least someone can! – check out: The Cold, Hard Math of Sponsorship Acquisition.)

This is also a great time to be beefing up your brand in anticipation of your potential marketing partners doing their own research on you! Make sure your website and social media channels are active and up to date.

Don’t sleep through September and you’ll be glad next year!!


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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.