Breakdown: Navigating the Sea of Sponsorship

Breakdown Navigating the Sea of Sponsorship

September 9, 2014 3:30pm

For a privateer, there are so many challenges to be faced. Going up against the best racers on the planet is tough enough. When adding in the fact that they are also on the best equipment on the planet, the task becomes overwhelming. Racing on this level is a grind on the body, mind, and most of all, the wallet. With the state of the economy, sponsorship dollars are at a premium. I am often asked, “How do I get more support?” While there is no blanket answer, there are better approaches than others.

The absolute most important rule to remember for anyone attempting to secure sponsorship is this: find ways to show the company how you can promote their product. So many riders only look at their side of the equation and focus on the help that they need. However, sponsors are not doing this for charity. As a man smarter than me once said, “Companies are only in the sponsorship business to increase sales. Show a company how you can sell their product and they will bend over backwards to help you in return.” Approaching sponsorship as a business plan is the single most important aspect of dealing with any company in motocross.

The big aspects of promoting products for a sponsor all come down to a few key concepts: race results, presentation at the race events, and spreading the word about the product. I won’t try to mask that winning races is very important. A Pro rider that wins but can barely formulate sentences is still going to get more support than a Beginner rider who struggles with results, even if he could sell a screen door to a submarine skipper.

For privateers like Mitchell Oldenburg (above), race results, presentation at the race events, and spreading the word about the product are all important.
For privateers like Mitchell Oldenburg (above), race results, presentation at the race events, and spreading the word about the product are all important. Photo: Simon Cudby

How you represent both yourself and a company’s product is also important. If your pit area looks like the last day of a weeklong swap meet, that’s not good. Always ask the question, “If my sponsor was here, what would he like to see?” Professionalism both on the bike and in the pit area is not something to be taken lightly. If a company chooses you for sponsorship, they are attaching their name to yours. When someone asks you about that flux capacitor that your sponsor Dr. Emmett Brown gave you, do everything you can to try to promote a sale for the Doc. There is nothing better than a customer purchasing a product based on a sponsored rider’s feedback.

I am also asked how riders reach the highest levels of support. For the elite riders of the motocross world, they are actually paid to endorse products. This is rare and difficult to achieve. This level of support is usually only attained if the company approaches the rider, not vice versa. If a company is willing to financially compensate a team or rider, they usually have a plan in place for that team long before that conversation begins. All of the pleading and begging in the world is futile if the results and exposure don’t warrant that level of commitment. To put it in perspective, I have never signed a paying contract for which I initiated the contact. It was always the team or company that decided that I was a candidate for their cause. You will know you’re at that level when people come calling. It is just how the game is played.

Sponsorship runs the gamut from a 10-percent discount for a rider who is just learning the way, to Ken Roczen’s million-dollar negotiations. In between, there are dozens of levels of support up for grabs. For the privateers of the pro motocross world, learning how to elevate up through those levels is a rewarding process. Becoming not only a racer but also a true professional is a sure-fire way to accelerate that undertaking. Improve your riding skills, ability to market a sponsor, and business savvy. That is the equation to success.