Why ‘Only Winners Get Sponsored’ is a Myth

Having worked at a speed shop for a few years, I can’t tell you how many conversations I had about sponsorship.

They generally went one of two ways: either the person was asking for sponsorship or a discount, or the person was lamenting that it was impossible to get sponsorship because they didn’t win.

I hear this myth a lot from racers who have mindset blocks around selling sponsorship: how can I sell sponsorship when I don’t win races? 

Or, we hear this: It’s easy to sell sponsorship when you’re a dominant, winning team. 

Equating wins to sponsorship dollars at most levels of racing is harkening back to the old days of racing, where most of the attention or exposure for the driver (and their sponsors) happened at the track. And the winning driver was the one who got the most attention.

That’s not the case anymore.

We have countless opportunities each day to reach the people who sit in the grandstands and potentially listen to your victory lane speech.

carl bowser turner's premium iced tea victory lane

Taking your marketing partners to victory lane is a great *bonus* for your partnership.

As a property, we can:

  • Put out a tweet or post.
  • Respond to a message.
  • Send an email newsletter.
  • Snap a story.
  • Sign an autograph at an appearance.
  • Say hello at an industry event.
  • Have our apparel worn at a fan’s workplace.
  • Be featured in an article.
  • Be a guest on a podcast or radio show.
  • Be researched on our website.

All of these modes of communication – whether they’re things that we’re in control of or not – allow for marketing partners to have a far greater and deeper reach than a victory lane speech over a loudspeaker at a race track.

They allow marketing partners to:

  • Reach a specific demographic or mindset that is more likely to be their customer, rather than ‘the entire grandstands’.
  • Display photos or videos of their product their target audience, instead of relying on the logo to speak for itself.
  • Put their website link in a place that the fan can actually click it to learn more or buy.
  • Target their messaging to specific fans or customers.
  • Create opportunities to interact with the brand directly.

Yes, marketing partners enjoy seeing their logo in victory lane. Yes, they want their messaging mentioned in the post-race interview.

But if you ask most marketing partners what the value of their sponsorship is, how many wins a team has or is expected to have is almost never at the top of that list.

It’s almost always the team’s ability to help them reach their specific objectives.

That’s a big mindset shift from the old logo-for-dollars and only-winners-get-sponsored philosophy. And the earlier you can grasp that, they sooner you can focus on determining what to offer to marketing partners to help them achieve their goals and what the value of that solution is.

Ready to make that shift? Check out the top 10 reasons companies buy sponsorship for more info.

Oh, and back to that speed shop conversation. Performance is, naturally, important to companies looking to sell their products to you and your competitors. They need to show that their products help you perform well on the track, so it is a benefit to have winners on your roster.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Watching a racer throw a fit because surely if you realized how many times he put your logo in victory lane last year you would give him a bigger discount only confirmed our decision to partner with his competitor – someone who also won races, worked on his own car, had to be discerning with his budget and was either friendly with or respected by most of his competition.

His choice to use our products held much more weight with his competitors – our prime customers – and he was able to provide feedback about our products and their benefits that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. It was a valuable partnership that went beyond victory lane appearances.

And that’s what a sponsorship program has to be about, whether you’re winning or not. 


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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.