Don't be too late racers! It's time to look towards 2019

We have entered the second week of July and what I keep hearing is “what am I going to do next season?” Fact is, if you are a racer that is looking to obtain marketing partners for the 2019 season, you are slowly running out of time.

I know that some of you may think that I have lost my mind by telling you that you need to be trying to speak with and sign with potential marketing partners for the 2019 season already, but the fact is that could not be more true. By July 1st of this year, your 2019 plan and proposal should just be about wrapped up and ready to present.

Why so early you may ask? Well in the business world, this isn’t early. As those of you who own businesses already are aware of, most decision about the following year are made around Q3 timeframe. This means for you racers that don’t own a business, Q3 started July first on standard quarters and runs through September 30th.  This doesn’t mean that every company makes final decisions in this time period, but larger ones that have to budget for the upcoming year are usually doing so within this time period.

Too many racers within the industry don’t understand that the absolute worst time to attempt a sponsor pitch is at PRI. I have made this mistake and I still see racers making it every year. By the time PRI has rolled around, almost every company has long set their budget for the following year. There are going to be exceptions, but they are far and few between. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the end of the year thinking that you will be able to form a partnership at that point.

We have all heard by now that the show (NHRA) and DSR are losing a longtime partner with Army leaving after the season. While Army obviously is in a different league than most of you attempting to gain sponsors and build marketing partnerships will be pursuing, there are some things that hold true whether it is someone like Army or someone like your local speed shop. That being, the gimme mentality will get you absolutely nowhere.

The I need this, or can you give me this mentality should be far out of your head. Your objective when discussing partnerships with companies or individuals is all about making each other grow and be successful. What can you as the driver, owner, or promoter do for the company that you are interested in having as part of your program? How are you going to get an ROI for the company that you are attempting to bring into the fold? Plain and simple…what are they getting out of the deal?

Have you asked yourself how you are going to pitch a company? Do you even know who to contact? Have you sat down and made a professional looking proposal that can be emailed or physically presented? If you can’t do that, have you hired someone to do that for you? Do you know the difference between a companies marketing budget and their branding budget? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself, and you need to do it immediately.

In my opinion and experience, we live in a world where brand awareness is the key to everything. This means that you see something enough to know it by heart. There is no better sport doing this than soccer. Soccer you may ask, absolutely soccer. The reason for that is their jerseys. Soccer is, according to most data, the most watched and followed sport in the world. Now look at a lot of soccer jerseys and you will see a logo. Something like Samsung, LG, etc on professional team’s jerseys. This to me defines brand awareness, along with ROI. If your favorite football player had a large Maytag logo on his jersey, you would constantly remember that. Every time you go anywhere that Maytag is sold you are going to think of that player, and every time you see that player, eventually you are going to associate the two brands. The same can be said in NASCAR and NHRA. The marketing partners that have been around for a long time have built brand awareness via the team they are associated with. Your job is to do the exact same thing.

You don’t need an MBA or a PhD to get marketing partners to come on board, but you certainly do need to be able to present and sell yourself in a manner which they find appealing. Results are one thing, but that doesn’t always lead to easy partnerships. You could win your local track class year after year, but if you don’t know how to market yourself it doesn’t mean shit. There is no one that knows you better than you. It takes time and effort into building your own brand, and in turn making that brand interesting to the corporate side of the equation. If you are someone that thinks social media is the worst thing ever, you are going to have a mighty difficult time attracting marketing partners. Investing in yourself is the only way that anyone is ever going to invest in you.

There is a good chance that I could go on and on about this topic, but there are a lot of people who I hope have stopped reading by now and either picked up the phone to start making contacts, fired up the computer to get that proposal done, or started searching for someone that can do it for them. Educate yourself and learn to sell yourself if you want to form partnership in the industry. Don’t just send an email telling someone that you are looking to get sponsorship for the 2019 season. And don’t be deterred if you get told no. Keep after it and keep reaching out to them and others. Nothing is permanent, so stay diligent and do what you can to make your dreams come true.