Many see involvement in motorsports automatically carrying a heavy price tag and in some cases, motorsports marketing can indeed be expensive. However, there are strategic ways to benefit from the performance attributes of motorsports involvement at a lower cost.
The metaphors associated with racing are adaptable to most brands. Teamwork, safety, performance, technical development, achievement, focus, etc. Using these metaphors allow you to tell your brand's story in a meaningful way. If you want to take advantage of these metaphors, but don't necessarily have the same massive budgets as your competition, getting started with grassroots brand activation is a great fit.
Grassroots Activation Defined
Grassroots brand activation is where you reach those who are typically do-it-yourselfers, race as a hobby, self-fund most of their efforts and are proud to compete. You can activate your brand through track racing, entry levels of organized auto-crossing, off-road racing, drag racing and even road rallying. Look into sanctioning bodies such as: Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge Series. These organizations have hundreds of thousands of highly engaged performance enthusiasts, eager to hear how your brand can fit into their lives.
Top 3 Ways to Get Started in Grassroots Activation
Build contingency programs.
In motorsports, a contingency program is a reward for the driver based on finishing position for using a brand’s product. The company will provide a monetary or product-based reward for using their product on their vehicle during competition. The reward is contingent on the driver using the product, running some type of branding, usually a decal on the car and sometimes the race suit, potentially proof of purchase and then placing in a certain position during the event. As an example, a typical contingency would pay out for a finish in the top three positions in a specified class, for example:
Racing class A
1st place: $250
2nd place: $150
3rd place: $50
In this example: if you race in class A, finish 2nd, use the Acme product and meet the branding requirements, you would win $150 for your performance. For the sponsor's benefit, Acme may promote your performance or communicate how well the product performed through advertising or their social channels.
Often times, the sanctioning body that you are offering contingency programs through will provide a monitoring service to ensure the company decals are on the car and that the product is being used. As a sponsor, you can develop a contingency program that reaches all forms of motorsport. Contingencies are welcomed by the organizers and sanctioning bodies as it will add value to those participating in the series or events. Financial rewards are most common, although product rewards and certificates can also be used. Communicating your successful contingency programs provides a great platform to show the quality and effectiveness of your product.
Be a part of the marque auto clubs.
Investment: $20k – 100k per year
Porsche Club of America, BMW Car Club of America, Ferrari Club of America and others all have events for members that allow some form of competition, in addition to other activities such as Concours and social events. Each of these car clubs have a driving program and instruction classes to help members obtain a competition license. Sponsorship categories exist at many different levels and costs including: series or class sponsorships, official status, event sponsorships, special activity sponsor, awards, banquets or other social activities. Supporting the club as an organization in order to help make the membership experience better overall is the most effective approach.
Shell leverages their partnership with Ferrari at the Ferrari Club of America Annual Meet.
Partner with an amateur racing series.
Investment: $40k - $250k
The SCCA, NASA and other series have dozens of events and thousands of participants that race on the weekends. These racers are very passionate about what they do and are often very loyal to those who sponsor them for an affordable price. They offer a wide range of sponsorship opportunities, including racer contingencies, class and series sponsorships and programs that support the thousands of volunteers (officials, tech and scrutineering, timing and scoring, etc.) that help during the year.
There is not much spectator viewing at this level, but many teams and drivers are getting well versed at social media and local event marketing to provide value in return for sponsor support. The organizations themselves have become much better at providing value through communications and providing exposure for sponsors through their websites, social channels, member mailing lists, surveys and events. This is a great platform to start with on a more national level.
Get your hands this interactive Sponsorship Mix Calculator to see other platforms you can leverage.
Updated for added value.