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September 17, 2011
I Got Sponsored
I am constantly confronted by sledders about getting sponsored, not by me, but by anyone. “How do I get sponsored?” they ask.
Many of the amateur, as well as professional, racers I came to know during my career as a racer were very consumed with asking for sponsorships, but they did nothing to maintain the relationship with the sponsor. The typical attitude was, “Wow, I got a free belt so now what do I do?”
Attracting sponsors is one thing and taking care of them is totally another. It is a two-way street. Being sponsored is more than just saying thanks and plastering a logo sticker on your sled. And with the downturn in the economy, suppliers have tightened their budgets. Available sponsorships are fewer and harder to come by, which is all the more reason to take better care of your sponsor.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to attend, through a mutual sponsor, a seminar on attracting and maintaining sponsorships. This seminar was conducted by Kenny Bernstein, who is known in NHRA as having the longest-standing sponsorship in drag racing with Budweiser and in all of motorsports second only to Richard Petty with STP. He did not disclose the dollar amount of his sponsorship; however, it was a very large amount and most likely exceeded $15 million a year.
Bernstein went into great detail about maintaining his relationship with Budweiser. His team would fax race results (we weren’t up to speed with e-mail then) each week on Monday morning. This was done whether they finished well or not. It was simply a general report of the race results. Each day they would fax a progress report as they prepared for the next race. They also included information on events and activities that promoted their sponsor.
This is just a short tidbit of what the seminar included, so what did I come away with? It has to be profitable for the sponsor to support my racing habit. I started to understand that if I received a dollar amount in cash or product then I was obligated to increase the sponsors’ product sales by at least that amount for him to break even and if I wanted to maintain that relationship then I should probably increase his sales exponentially.
Currently I have a number of sponsors whose product I promote on a daily basis, from snowmobiles (that would be Arctic Cat … shameless plug) to riding gear, performance products and even non-industry sponsors such as Ford trucks, who sponsor me through a local dealer, Willey Ford in Bountiful UT.
Among other things, I do appearances at open houses and other events as well as promote product at trade shows. I also promote product during seminar presentations, during my riding clinics and also through the video series Schooled. I also use YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites as well as any kind of media that I can take advantage of. I serve as a spokesperson for many of my sponsors. For industry sponsors I also provide feedback on product performance and durability, even design in some cases. My trailers are mobile billboards that are on the road 50,000 miles a year.
Essentially I have become a marketing company and my sponsors get a very good bang for their buck. Now, this just doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve spent a lifetime getting to this point and for a young racer starting out it will be a long and tough road. It’s about dedication and being committed to taking care of the sponsors. When representing a sponsor and whenever in a public setting you need to always conduct yourself in a professional manner, dress appropriately and use good language. If this seems like too much responsibility then maybe you are not cut out to be sponsored. It doesn’t hurt to shake a few babies and kiss some hands … or is it shake hands and kiss babies? I know you need to kiss something.
May as well list some of my sponsors while I am at this: Boondocker turbos and fuel systems; FXR Mountain (best riding gear on the planet); of course Arctic Cat snowmobiles, my ProClimb M800 rips; EZ Ryde suspension; RCS titanium springs for suspension and clutches; HMK boots, the Boa Focus laces have become what every boot wants, but can’t have; EVS protective gear for knee braces and chest protector; Klim helmets, the F4 ventilation is insane; Boss seats, what everyone else wants to be, the standard in the industry; 509 goggles, I can see the world through these; Arctic FX graphics, they keep me looking good; Starting Line Products, their Powder Pro skis turn now; Toy Skinz wrapping my trailer, can't miss that billboard; Ford trucks, lovin’ that new 6.7 liter diesel.
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