Just recently I had a meeting with a racer who was seeking sponsorship and had questions. He arrived dressed in shorts, his favorite racing T-shirt, and flip-flops. He had not shaved in a few days, and his fingernails had enough dirt under them that he could have grown vegetation. He carried nothing. He had to borrow a pen and paper from me to take some notes.

Quite frankly I just felt it was a wasted effort but I could use the session to improve my own skills. Needless to say I did point out to him that his attire and appearance left a lot to be desired. His response was that he was on vacation. I never did ask if this was the way he would have shown up to meet with a potential sponsor since he was on vacation.

He told me that he did not bring any of his sponsorship materials because he figured that I knew what they looked like and what they contained and quite frankly he was being protective of his sponsorship materials.

When I asked him what he does to activate his sponsorship, he looked at me with a blank stare. I pointed out that lack of activation is the reason so many sponsorship programs fail. Too many deals seem to be based on putting the logo on the race car and, maybe, the hauler and that is it. Activation is what is done by the racer and the sponsor to bring attention to the sponsorship program. That is what is done to create an ROI. And that brought another blank stare. He did not know what ROI meant. Hopefully most of you know that ROI means “Return on Investment” and that is the reason most businesses get into sponsorship. They want to get a return on investment for their sponsorship dollars. These days there is more attention paid by businesses to the ROI from a sponsorship than ever before. It is not just enough for most to gain media coverage.

ROI is the measurement of the economic return from their sponsorship investment. If it is a local business they will want to know how much customer traffic did the sponsorship drive through their doors. And that is where the activation of the sponsorship comes into being. What did you do to bring attention to the sponsorship? Were there personal appearances with the race car? Was the race car and racer part of the business advertising? Were there promotional materials being distributed at the races by your team so that fans were acquainted with the business?

Keep in mind that the benefits of sponsorship cannot always be measured in ROI. Oftentimes, your program may create product loyalty and that is hard to trace. However, there are those who make an effort to trace loyalty through surveys, perhaps with coupon giveaways to fans, and other such efforts. It is not a perfect science but when presented correctly it can be a huge plus in selling a sponsorship. Again, activation of the sponsorship by both the racer and the sponsor can produce great returns on investment.

Suppose you, the racer, wins a big event. How do you place value on that when talking about sponsorship? Now you are getting into a new word to learn, valuation. Such a valuation will give the potential sponsor a very good idea of what the return on investment should be. There are people out there who provide this service but there really is no perfect way to come up with a positive valuation. Being able to offer a success story in your racing and in your sponsorship marketing efforts will up the value that you have to offer.

Many companies can reach a value number by some of the activation programs that they put in place or you put in place as part of your sponsorship package. Did you offer coupons? How was the response?

Here is a suggestion. If you have hero cards that you give out you should include a sponsor’s coupon on one end of the hero card. It should be perforated so that the person receiving the hero card can tear off the coupon and put it to use without damaging the photo. The coupon should be identified as coming from you so that the sponsor can use it to value the results of the sponsorship.

Of course if you offer some sort of hospitality at a race event then you should have a guestbook so that those who attend can sign in and list the name of the company they represent. Again this is a form of valuation of the sponsorship.
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