Understanding what sponsors want

An interview with automotive marketing expert Vikki Little

I recently wrote an article on what businesses should expect when they work with a racing driver. It looked at how businesses could leverage motorsport marketing as a valuable tool that actually brought measurable return on investment.

This article looks at what businesses expect from racing drivers in order to get those measurable results. I spoke with automotive marketing expert Vikki Little of Feisty Consultancy about what businesses are looking for in an approach from racing drivers. She’s assisted automotive dealers with their sponsorship work including profile raising for driver and business, events, hosting hospitality, designing car liveries and working on media exposure.


What do you think businesses are looking for when sponsoring a racing driver?

In addition to improvements in performance, the willingness and flexibility to offer a track-side experience that ‘money’ can’t buy for the Dealer’s key customers and prospects, particularly those interested in racing. Businesses are looking for a racing driver who understands the commercial benefit they can offer, which in turn helps them attract customers and prospects to offside events and build stronger relationships.

Ideally, the racing driver will be comfortable meeting guests and presenting information, as well as putting their name to marketing materials produced for the business and ensuring that the business is provided with plenty of information, including photos.

How can businesses make the most of a sponsorship deal with a driver?

By understanding what is and can be offered by sponsorship and carefully planning marketing activity and events, so that the opportunities are maximised. Sponsorship should form part of the annual marketing communications plan so that racing and any associated news and comment is communicated properly to the media, stakeholders, customers and prospects.

Race days can be successfully used as a ‘thank you’ event for customers of a business or as part of a ride and drive event, when properly planned and managed, as well as prizes in competitions and a reason to release ‘good news’ in to the media, in terms of the business and financial support offered by the business to the racing driver and the success of the driver.

How might businesses best measure ROI on sponsorship activity?

This is most effectively measured by engagement;

  • The strength of relationships developed with key customers (usually an increase in sales) and recommendations to their friends, family and colleagues
  • Number of prospects converted to a sale
  • Media coverage (although difficult to measure ROI)
  • Gross profit generated through this activity (ultimately the value of sales and service secured partly or fully through the sponsorship activity)

A lot of pitches from racing drivers get ignored by business owners, why do you think this is?

Some business owners don’t understand what may be required of them when entering this type of agreement or the benefits. Racing drivers are also not always in a position to promote these benefits to potential sponsors. Introducing potential sponsors and racing drivers is the first step in what can often be a mutually beneficial business relationship.

I suspect that some of the pitches from racing drivers aren’t focusing on the commercial benefits that sponsorship offers the business or what the racing driver and his/her team will deliver in return for the sponsorship, so they’re either overlooked or not understood properly.

Businesses may also be nervous about the time and money that they think may be required to make the most of the sponsorship and may not have the resources and/or time to meet this. When we’ve worked with businesses that have expressed an interest in sponsoring a racing driver, we’ve been involved from the start; from assisting in negotiating the agreement (particularly the marketing activity and events) to designing vehicle livery and marketing communications assets (invitations etc).

What can racing drivers do to make their approaches to businesses more valuable?

Take a more commercial view and present their sponsorship proposals in a format that is quickly and easily understood by busy business owners, e.g. Sponsorship Package / Cost / Timelines / What’s Offered/Included (this is all about commercial exposure) / Deliverables / Race Diary.

Drivers should also think about the businesses they’re approaching and their existing customers and target audience(s), as well as brand fit.