Should you ask for product sponsorship instead of cash?Things to consider, the benefits and my experiences
I hear a lot of drivers talk about how easy it is to get product sponsorships over cold, hard cash. That’s because, typically, it’s cheaper and easier for a business to give away a product than it is to allocate some marketing budget.
The problem with product sponsorships is the fact that they won’t pay for race entry fees, repairs on the car, transport to a track and so on. However, there are plenty of benefits to getting product sponsorships, especially if it’s early on in your career. Before I touch on how to approach a company for this kind of partnership, here’s some reasoning behind the benefits with some experiences of my own.
Product sponsorship can help you to save money
If you would normally be spending out on hotels, sports cameras, protein bars, wheels and parts, you can save some money by getting those things for free. If you team up with a hotel chain you could save money on accommodation costs, but only if you’d normally choose a hotel over camping.
I recently road tripped around Croatia and no one was ever going to pay for me to go on such an epic trip, even with loads of social, online and news coverage. So when I approached Sixt to talk about ways we could work together, the pitch was simple. A premium car for the road trip in exchange for an agreed amount of coverage.
This saved me approximately £300 and meant I had a very nice Audi to swish around in for a week.
It might be your only option when just starting out
When you’re just starting out as a racing driver you might not have many results to your name and your follower numbers might still be quite low. This can make it difficult to persuade a business to give you a chunk of money but they might be willing to test the water with a free product.
You can still build relationships
If you can get some freebies from a brand in exchange for promotion, it gives you a chance to show that company what you can do. As you progress as a driver and work on your relationship with these partners, those product sponsorships could grow. A company that gave you a discount on wheels early on in your career could become a big investor in the future.
Mutual promotion isn’t worth nothing
You’ll have a duty to promote the brand you’re working with to your audience but if you can provide the right content and news, the company could help to elevate your profile too. I work with a few drivers who promote Racing Mentor and in return, they get freebie products, access to courses and coaching sessions but I also make a point to share what they’re doing, shout about their achievements and promote them where I can.
It’s good practice
The more you work with partners, the more you’ll learn about what you can offer, how to juggle sponsor obligations alongside everything else, and how to make the most impact to a business.
It’s a great way to get recommendations
If you can make a real difference for a partner, a testimonial is a fantastic thing to include in future pitches. Businesses want to know their money won’t be wasted so if they can hear from fellow business owners about how you helped to grow social followings or increase sales, you have even more chance to land a big cash sponsor.
You can ask for introductions
A small business who has given you some lubricants/wheels/engine parts might not be able to offer money, especially if they have similar deals in place across a lot of race series. However, they might be able to introduce you to business owners who do have the sort of marketing budget you can work with. Build and nurture these relationships and show off what you can do. An introduction from a mutual contact is by far the best way to land a new sponsor.
How to get product sponsorship
Some tips for picking up valuable product sponsorship from the types of companies to approach through to what you can offer in exchange.
Consider what you spend money on
The only way product sponsorships will help you to move forward in your career is if they help you to save on race costs. It might be nice to get free clothing but there’s no real cost benefit unless they’re willing to sell your merch to help bring in some money. Otherwise you’re just promoting a brand because you wanted new jeans, it’s often not worth it.
Typically, good product sponsorships come in the form of parts, tyres, food and drink you’d normally pay for at the track, wraps, car cleaning products and sticker printing. Make a big list of your race weekend costs and go from there.
Think about what that sponsorship might be worth
For the most part, one-off product sponsorships tend to be relatively low value. Let’s say you got an in-car camera worth £200. That’s less than a brand would pay for a month of social media promotion and much, much less than it would for PR services.
However, the difference a £200 camera might make to you is vast. Firstly, you can now share high-quality in-car footage, you have a new brand to add to your car and list of sponsors, and perhaps you can even get your in-car feed on the TV coverage for your series. Not to mention the fact you’ve saved £200 on buying a camera.
What you offer the brand is up to you. You might go all out, considering how valuable this product is to you, or you might simply try and meet what it’s cost the brand. Either way, it should be obvious to the brand that sponsoring you is a good deal for them.
Go above and beyond for regular sponsorship
If you can get regular hotel rooms, a constant supply of food and drink, or new tyres for each race, you need to go above and beyond for these sponsors. These kinds of product sponsorships typically hold a much higher value than one-offs.
Again, consider the cost to the business and go from there but you should treat these sponsors as you would someone putting in a considerable chunk of money into your racing.
Promoting a sponsor so heavily can be very time consuming so make sure you’re getting products where there’s a real cost saving to your race season, or where the benefits outweigh the time it takes on promotion. For example, you might not normally pay out for all your race guests to get free drinks and snacks but if a company offers this, allowing you to offer drinks and snacks to other sponsors to entice them in or get them to meet with you, that can make it all worthwhile.
Weigh up time, costs and cost savings
When looking at product sponsorship, think about how much time you’ll need to spend working with that sponsor and promoting what they do. You should also think about the other benefits you might get from working with them and if they’d be able to promote you too.
If a deal seems like it’s going to be way too much effort, or a business asks for too much, it’s probably going to be more hassle than it’s worth. It’s exciting to land a sponsor but think about whether or not it’s going to work out before you say yes to their offer.