9 Questions Drivers Need to Ask a Potential Sponsorship Partner

Searching for partners for your race team should include more than a quick call or email to a company you would like to work with.

You are asking a company to invest a lot of time and money into your program and walking into a conversation about a partnership without getting to know the company is a good way to get a ‘no’ before you even start.

Contrary to many other people’s beliefs, I  do not believe the first meeting with a sponsor is the time to present your proposal.  I created a list of marketing definitions for the racing sponsorship seeker.  The definition of a PROPOSAL is – written proposals outline credentials and plans for executing projects and are distributed once plans are complete.  If you have not met with the sponsor to discuss the plans and the execution of the sponsorship there is no proposal to offer.  

The hardest thing for a racer to remember is that the proposal is not about you.  It is more about them and what you have to offer to help build their business.  You cannot know what they want to accomplish with the partnership unless you ask some questions.  

Chances are that you will be working with companies that are small to mid-size. Large corporations have their brand ambassadors and sponsorships in place and will likely not be working with you unless you land a spot with a top-tier team.  That doesn’t mean the opportunities are not there, but it may mean that they need to get to know the process as much as you do and if you have questions on hand already it is a good way to set the stage of professionalism and break the ice.  This gives the company a chance to know you as well as you get to know them too.

Use this time to learn as much about the company, people, and product that you hope to be working with.  If you do not feel like you can represent the product or company well or if your values and the company culture do not match with you, it can be an uncomfortable and bad experience for both parties.

With the research you have done you should have a good idea of some of the answers to some of the questions below, but still, ask.  There is a chance the company wants to reach a new demographic, launch a new product with a different audience, or move in a different direction altogether.

Take good notes so that you can document everything in your proposal.

  1.  What product or service would you like to promote with this partnership and what problem does this product solve for your customer?  You need to be on the same page as the company you are talking to. Questions to ask yourself:  Do you like this product?  Is this something you can see yourself promoting?  Can you effectively communicate the company’s message to your audience?  Is this product something my audience would like or use?
  1. Who are you targeting with this product?  Does the company’s target audience for this product match with your audience?  If not, do they have a different product that would be a better match for your audience?  Question to ask yourself:  Do I know my audience inside and out and how can I get more clear on who my audience is?
  1. What is your current marketing strategy for this product and how do you see a partnership fitting in with that strategy?  This will be key information to gather to be able to add to your proposal. The information you are looking for includes:
    1.  Where do they promote their product?  Television, radio, industry publications, social media, other influencers, blogs, newsletters, or websites?  How can you add to this or do you have the means to include other sources of promotion that can reach the target market?
    2. Understand their pricing structure and profit margins if you can find out that information.  It may be beneficial to you to be able to earn a portion of their profits from every sale you bring them in addition to other compensation you agree upon.
    3. What promotional methods are they using?  Does the company use discount coupons, multiple visit discounts, regular sales, or strictly full-price sales? Do they rely on paid advertising or do they try to find opportunities for PR?
    4. How does the company funnel its customers through a sales process and what is the customer sales experience? Where do you fit it?  Will you be utilized for the top of the funnel to help gain wider exposure or will you be used to showcase the company’s dedication and interest in the advancement of athletes and your sport?
    5. What message is the company trying to convey with their product and how can you enhance that message?
  1. What channels are working best and what are the conversion rates and lifetime value (LTV) of a customer?  If you find out this information it will help you find a far price to put on your proposal.  Good information to have would be:  The company posts a non-promoted Facebook post and when they reach 100 people they can expect 10 sales, and each sale has a profit of $10.  You have a reach of 5000 people on Facebook so you can bring the company 500 potential customers and a profit of $5,000.  Better information to know is that the LTV of the customer is $100 instead of the one-time profit of $10.  That makes your 5000 Facebook fans worth $50,000.  An additional benefit of knowing their conversion rates is knowing if expectations are realistic.  If the company’s conversion rate is 10 customers gained per 100 contacts, it is unreasonable that they would hold you accountable for 20 customers gained per 100 contacts.  Here it can be mentioned, that you are likely considered a marketing asset, not a sales asset.  That means you are not responsible for closing the sale on the leads you provide.

5. What are your objectives for this campaign, this year, the next several years?  If you know what the goals are you can help create a campaign that is aligned with the goals and have something to measure your successes against.

  1. How do you plan to activate the sponsorship and what resources do you have and need?  One thing to remember is that the sponsor should be spending approximately 2X the amount they spend on the sponsorship on the activation or leveraging the sponsorship.  The activation is anything from handing out discount coupons to the big car maker events at NASCAR races where they bring in cars, speakers, games, methods to sign up to receive information.  It could be sampling products or holding an event where you will make an appearance.  The ideas are limitless, but all require additional help and resources such as social media posts, promotional images produced, products, supplied, etc.  If the company is lacing in one of these areas but you have some expertise, that is another way to build your proposal up.
  1. What has been your past experience with sponsorships?  Good, bad, or none at all.  All of those answers are okay.  If the company was happy with their past experience, what was it that they liked about it?  If they had a bad experience what was the reason for that and what would they have liked to have seen instead?  If they have no experience with sponsorship what would they like to see and what are their expectations.
  1. Do you have any reservations about working together?  This can be a tough question to ask and even a tougher one to hear the answer to.  But, with this knowledge, you can address their concerns directly and can potentially overcome a ‘no’.  Do not be afraid to ask if they think you are a good fit for their company or if there are any issues going on internally that could prevent them from being able to say yes.  Even if you get an answer you don’t want to hear it can save you and the company a lot of time or even set yourself up for a different opportunity in the future.
  2. What information can I include in the proposal that will give it a better chance for success?  Or, what information do you require to move forward?  Your initial conversations will likely not be with the decision-maker in the company.  The person you are speaking to will need to present your case to someone who has the ability to make the decisions and if they do not have all the information necessary they may not take the time to track it down from you. Pay attention to what you are told and he sure you do include it in your proposal.

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