Sponsorship advice from TORCO Race Fuels owner Evan Knoll.

Old 03-16-2008, 08:11 AM
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Default Sponsorship advice from TORCO Race Fuels owner Evan Knoll.

This is some advice from Evan Knoll of TORCO Race Fuel and Skull Gear. I asked him if I could hold on to this and repost this where it could help other drivers and teams working on sponsorship.

Originally Posted by Evan Knoll
Well, it's that time of year again and people are looking for sponsorship. There's a lot of racket on the internet about sponsorship dollars being hard to find. If you are looking for millions of dollars it is. In fact, It's a wild goose chase most of the time, with few racers ever coming close to securing those kinds of dollars. We're not NASCAR and the reality is that the cost of running a professional top fuel operation out weighs what the exposure is worth for most corporations unless you are Evan Knoll and drag racing is your heart and soul. I know of several millionaires that have tried to race a fuel car and even they can't afford it, so let's get realistic. This is not the lottery but it may as well be for racers seeking to join the million dollar club, especially those looking for money with no interest in giving the the company much in return.

The good news is sponsoring a car from junior dragsters all the way to top alcohol can be an attractive way for any business to advertise whether they like drag racing or not. As long as you are up to the task of doing it the right way, your chances of getting a marketing partner is good. Here's a Q and A session on successfully finding and KEEPING a regional or local sponsor.

How do I find a company interested in sponsoring me?

First, you have to have the mind set that you are an advertising agency. Any sponsor you find is your client. They are hiring you like they would if they were hiring an ad agency or buying ads on TV or radio. It's the same dollar you're chasing. So how do you find them? I have tried to beat the pavement like any salesman would and for the most part those efforts didn't work. I was lucky enough to get a $2,000 fuel sponsor from beating the street but the timing was on my side as they were looking to do some radio advertising anyway and I was able to provide them a radio advertising package while I was with KYKN. In fact, exchanging sponsorship for airtime with a radio station is a good way to go. You take the air time you receive and package it two-for-one to prospective sponsors. The sponsor gets radio advertising and space on your race car and you get money, product, or services. It works well. The radio station gets their name on your car and the rights to show it at their radio remotes. I've done a lot of them!

But the best way to find a sponsor is to get out there and display your car. First, you will become known in your community. Second, displaying your car will give you the chance to meet someone with the decision making power to help you out. Look in the paper, find events coming up where the car would be appropriate. We have had great success at generating interest by having the car at a popular pumpkin patch around Halloween, the feed back was great. We also show it at an Independence Day celebration. If the event listing has a phone number, call them and tell them that you want to display your race car. Usually, they will be excited about having you there, if not then you probably wouldn't want to be there anyway.

Once you get a "gig" lined up and the day arrives, set up early and stay with the car. Be well groomed and look presentable. Don't smoke and use profanity, it's an instant turn off. One time I brought a helper with me that did just that. Before it got out of hand I told him to walk around to the back of the store if he was going to do that. Some people don't have the proper people skills to represent you let alone a sponsor, even if they mean well. They will unknowingly do more harm then good.

During an event, let the kids sit in the car and make sure you have some kind of hero card or picture of the race car to give them. You won't believe how much good will is generated by doing this. It also gives you the chance to get your five minutes of fame with a decision maker if one happens to come your way. You won't know who it is until you strike up a conversation with them, so be friendly with everyone. I know of a couple of racers that got BIG sponsorship deals doing this.

The bottom line is we are in the business to make people happy. Whether you are searching for a sponsor or have one, displays become a frequent part of life to be successful. You may find a sponsor after the second display or twentieth display but you will make a connection eventually if you continue to display your car and optimistically sell your program every chance you get. When you do have these chance conversations while displaying the car, make it known to them that you are looking for marketing partners both big and small. They may then give you a business card or pass on your information on to someone they know that could be in a position to do something.

Of course most sponsorship leads are "back door" and happen via existing business, family, and personal relationships. In those cases, it's up to you on how to initiate the conversation. Only you know how to come across in those situations. Contrary to what a lot of people think, few if any of my sponsorships have ever been back door.

One other thing you will want to do is join a great organization like Race Against Drugs or some other national organization. Joining a local group such as the Rotary, the JC's, or the Kiwanis is also a great way to meet people with influence and get leads on upcoming events where you can show your car. Our racing team are proud members of Race Against Drugs and we have developed a great relationship with the local Chamber of Commerce.
If you do let kids and fans sit in the car get a poloroid or digital camera a take photos that you can give to the kids or fans that want a photo. With a digital camera then you can email them the photo. Now you have a way to also stay in touch with people interested in your driver/team or even setup a Myspace page so they can see and save the photos of them and their friends. Myspace is not just for kids.....trust me....thats where I met Evan Knoll!!!!! You know the saying a photo is worth a 1000 words. Try to personalize the experience for them...memories last a lifetime when you make an impression.
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