How I find sponsors

My process and what you can learn from it

If I’m sitting down for a hustle session, I have a pretty specific way of going about things. Everyone is different but I thought a little insight into my process would give you an idea of how it’s done.

Go through old contacts

In my most recent search, I grabbed my big box of business cards and started to go through to see if anyone was relevant to my latest project. A few of them were so I set them aside.

I also went through any emails to see if there were businesses I’d worked with in other capacities that might get some benefit from a partnership.

What you can take away from this: Never stop making contacts, they might come in handy when you need to search for sponsorship.

Make warm contact

I’d already spoken to a lot of the people I was about to contact and going in warm like this, it’s much easier to get a reply. I also had the names, email addresses and phone numbers of decision makers, which would mean there was no big company hierarchy to go through.

Depending on my relationship with the contact, I’d either introduce myself again or I’d launch straight into it with some details of my new project.

What you can take away from this: Collect business cards so you always have a line to the decision maker when you start looking for sponsorship. Bonus points if you can create a rapport before you email them.

Make cold contact

This is much more difficult, which is why it’s so important to create relationships with potential sponsors before you need them. When I do need to expand my pool of contacts, I always call first to get the name and email of a decision maker (sponsorship manager, MD, CEO, marketing manager etc.).

Then I go in talking about them and their business. I talk about what I can do that will benefit them and not the other way round. Getting this right takes a fair bit of research, which is why I tend to focus on building my network so all my leads are warm.

What you can take from this: Call first to get decision maker details then focus on the business rather than simply asking for money.

Check my email every five minutes

I’m just like you, I get excited to see those replies flood in. I refresh my email every few minutes, just in case. Realistically, only one or two people will reply in the first instance. Business owners are busy!

Update my CRM

I use HubSpot’s CRM to keep track of my contacts and how I’ve been in touch with them. When I get some downtime, I make sure to update any listings with recent contact, ideas for sponsorship activity and so on. I send most of my emails through HubSpot so they’re associated with a particular contact, this makes it really easy to see what correspondence we’ve had when I’m getting ready for a meeting.

Nudge

After about a week, I send a nudge email. Since I created the sponsorship templates, I tend to do all my follow ups with those. They’ve made my life so much easier!

Phone call

If still no response, I call.

Event- or update-based trigger email

If I still can’t get anything from a phone call, I send an email based on an event or updating the prospect on my project’s progress. (Again, these are both included in the email templates.)

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Final follow ups

By this point, I’ve got some solid leads and meetings set up but I do still follow up on those I haven’t heard back from. Giving a little finality is important here. However, unless they give a firm ‘no’, I don’t stop chasing.

What you can take away from this: Follow up, follow up, follow up.

Preparing for meetings

The process here varies wildly depending on the businesses I have interested. I might have a few phone calls with business owners before we meet or we might set a time and place after the first email. Regardless of when in this sales process a meeting takes place, I like to prep. I research the ins and outs of the business, asking more questions, if needed. I need to really understand their goals, mission statement and set up before I can go in with a firm pitch.

The meeting

Again, these vary hugely depending on the prospect but I generally take along anyone else involved in the project (racers, investor, team managers etc.) because a sponsor has to buy into them as well as into me. For smaller businesses these are often quite informal presentations with a chance for me to get a deeper understanding of their business while pitching a few ideas for the partnership. Larger businesses with a board of directors may require a few more meetings and specific pitch presentation.

What you can take away from this: Know your audience, ask questions and tailor your pitch.

Formal pitch

Even if a business is keen during the meeting, the deal isn’t don’t until you’ve signed on the dotted line. Following a meeting I always send a formal pitch with costs, options and next steps.

What you can take away from this: No matter how informal the meeting is, make your final plan and pitch as professional as can be.

Follow up

The follow-up process commences once again. You can be a bit more direct this time.

Changes and contract

Once any changes have been agreed I write up a basic contract (or allow big businesses to send over one, if they’d prefer) and submit it to be signed.

What you can take away from this: Get them to sign something. Don’t go into an agreement without anything signed. You will get burned.

The announcement

Once we’re signed, I go ahead and announce to the local, national, motorsport and business press. I also write something up for my own outlets (or those of my driver) and the sponsor’s website. Other content goes out on social media.

What you can take away from this: Boost your own PR profile and that of your sponsor with a simple announcement.

Get to work

Once the necessary funds have been transferred, I’d get to work on implementing the plan put in place to promote the sponsor. This might include organising events, getting hospitality tickets sent over, scheduling social posts, booking a videographer, or hunting down a location for a ridiculous press stunt.

What you can take away from this: Working for a sponsor is hard. You’re not going to get given money for nothing, certainly not career-changing amounts. Get ready to become a marketing professional as well as a racer.

What does your sponsorship search look like?