Sponsorship is an important part or motorcycle racing and often misunderstood. Here is my take on how to go about getting sponsors.
Published March 1998
We all know roadracing is expensive. Actually, this is an understatement. It's exorbitantly expensive, especially for the rookie club racer. I've read many magazine articles addressing the multiple issues involved with getting into club racing – including what bike to start out on, how to set it up and what to best spend your limited finances on – but what I'm intending to discuss here is the seldom addressed and somewhat mythical issue to beginning racers: getting sponsors. I know you're thinking, "I'm not winning any races yet – who would want to sponsor me?" Well, you'd be surprised how easy it is to get companies to support you.
First – although I am by no means an expert – I'll tell you a little about where my knowledge of sponsorship comes from. I started racing with the AFM in northern California in the middle of the 1997 season. I crashed during my first race, dislocating my shoulder. I made it back out for the last race of the season and achieved a finish good enough for one point. A few friends who were there to support me were convinced by the end of the weekend that they, too, would start racing.
These friends and I decided to start our own racing team for the 1998 season – thus, Terminal Velocity Racing was born. We consist of five riders and five steady pit crewmembers (as steady as friends ever are as pit crew). I was the only one who had actually raced, so the team started with a cumulative point standing of 1.
We quickly realized we would need all the monetary help we could get, so we started asking around about how to attract sponsorship. By the time the 1998 race season started, we had five companies endorsing us and providing us with free products, discounts, and even money. "Not bad for only having one race point." Since then I have improved a great deal and am now acheiving podium finishes. I spent 3 years as rider and team captain of Terminal Velocity Racing, and am now racing under my own team name of K² Racing. (I am also still apart of Terminal Velocity Racing)
The first sponsor I found – my local motorcycle shop – was easily accessible and was rich with information. While a display of our racing licenses gives us the privilege of the shops basic 'racer discount', its sponsorship includes several other benefits including being able to order our parts and not pay for them until they come in (this is great for spending your paycheck before you get it). One store employee with many years of racing experience gave us a rundown on which companies are generally easy to get sponsorship from and which ones offer little to the club racer. There's usually at least one person in every local shop who knows something about racing and sponsorship.
Now that we knew who to hit up for sponsorship, we just needed a good sales pitch. We decided to create a team portfolio with a few basic sections. We included a team roster with race numbers, names and phone numbers of riders and pit crew. A team mission statement tells prospective sponsors what we intend to accomplish, our attitude toward racing and our outlook on the upcoming season. Each rider's personal profile details his background, the bike he'll be racing, and his personal goals for the upcoming season. Finally, we have a section outlining what our team offers sponsors for their endorsement. As beginning racers with not many points to boast about, we try to be creative and offer as many promotional ideas as possible to get the sponsors interested. By looking through magazines and talking to more experienced racers, we get ideas of what others are doing for their sponsors. (We are also guilty of drooling and cursing teams that drive up in semi trucks with several spare bikes; each of which is more expensive than all of ours put together).
This last section was the most difficult to put together because it entailed deciding how much money we're willing to put out in order to get endorsements. There are expenses involved. Costs of personal advertising, for example, need to be considered. Many sponsors will just tell you what they want and what you get, take it or leave it. We found that non motorcycle-oriented sponsors offer to give us money but they require us to have banners and stickers made up. Another challenge in putting together this last section was deciding how much effort we're willing to put out to get endorsements. If it takes every spare minute of my time to re-paint my bike for a sponsor who's only giving $500, then I'm probably better off just working some overtime to earn the money instead.
Now that I have a portfolio (if you'd like to see it on the Internet, go to: www.ksquaredracing.com/currentresume.html ) I send it out to anyone and everyone figuring, "Don't be afraid to ask – all they can say is NO." I've found that even companies who turn us down are polite about it and indicate they appreciate the attention.
We started by sending our portfolio to companies whose products we already use, as well as a few general distributors. Then we began hitting up any local companies we have contact with. Our local parts dealer has been happy to give us addresses and contact names. Also, it turns out that Internet is a good resource since most companies now have web pages that give addresses or at least an email address.
A big part of finding sponsorship as new racers has been getting our foot in the door and getting to know people: forming relationships. Initial offers we've gotten aren't anything spectacular, but we're patient. We know once a relationship is formed with a company they'll be watching us. The more experienced and faster we get, the more they'll reward us with further support.
Now that we have several sponsors under our belt, when we petition new ones we have the increased confidence that comes from knowing we are already deemed important enough to be worthy of sponsoring.
To finish up, I would just like to offer a word of advice: Once you have sponsors, you're a representative for that company. This means before you go and do something stupid that might cause a scene (if you need to ask if something is stupid IT IS!) think about whether your sponsor would want to be associated with such publicity. If the answer is "No," then don't do it. You wouldn't want to jeopardize future sponsorship.
So – now you're ready go out there and get lots of stickers to plaster all over your bike. You, too, will be able to go as fast as those guys you see standing on the podiums with the well-stickered bikes (yeah, right!)
Now, I need to plug my sponsors so they'll give us more money and products next season. Many thanks to: Aftershocks, Dunlop tires, Dynojet, Sprocket Specialist, Galfer Brakes, Lockhart Phillips, and Cycle Gear!
Kenyon Kluge AFM # 96 AMA # SS 84, FX 68 K² Racing www.ksquaredracing.com Terminal Velocity Racing www.ttvracing.com