How to Get Sponsored for Your Next Car Build
One of the best feelings when building your next project vehicle is getting a ‘Yes’ on a sponsorship request. It could be for something big, something small, or somewhere in between, but getting an answer is just another step in the whole sponsorship process. If you’re unsure of how to start asking for sponsorships, I’ll outline my process below. It may help you start on your journey, and help to know what I do. I won’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I have had some success over the last 20 years of racing and building cars. My process may not perfectly work for you, but I’m willing to share my insights as best as possible.
Who Are You?
If you’re seeking a sponsorship from a company or individual, they may or may not know who you are and what you have done in the past. Most aftermarket companies are bombarded by sponsorship requests. Some from the big names in the segment, but usually by smaller builders. I always assume that I’m a nobody, and they don’t know anything about my history.
I usually have a one-page letter that gives a brief history of myself and my projects. That includes pertinent information on projects that have some relation to what I’m currently working on, plus anything I’m going to do in the future. You need to think of the sponsorship as a contract for employment as you’re essentially applying to be an ambassador for their brand. You want to represent their products and their company in exchange for what you need for your project.
I don’t have a large social media following on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube when you look at the big picture of who is out there competing for sponsorships. I always list my social media outlets as a glimpse of what I post, but my biggest draw is usually YouTube. I’ve been making videos for YouTube for 11 years, and in that time I’ve touched a lot of products from a lot of different brands. I continually update a resume that lists every brand that I’ve either worked with directly or with their products. I also list how many videos their brand / products have been featured in and when they were posted. This shows some return on investment that a company can use to decide if my content work / project will be a good fit for their products and time.
Beyond the YouTube videos on the one-page resume, I also list the competitions my vehicles (or myself) have competed in, when they were showcased, and the results. At the bottom of the resume I also list any writing engagements that I have completed that could be used to sweeten the deal. Many brands have a blog, and getting yourself a writing position with them may just be the extra incentive for them to work directly with you.
What Do You Want?
Once you’ve established who you are, the next piece I go for is the ask. What do I want / need for my project? Typically I have a list of parts / products that I specifically want or need for my project vehicle, which makes it easy to generate a simple list. The company can also use that list to determine how much their cost is on those parts. That will help to determine the return on investment for them too.
Some companies prefer to just offer a discount amount off any product, which may be a good option for you. A lot of times my initial list isn’t the end of what is needed as I might find a need for something else along the way. A simple discount may be the better option, but the hard part is how much should it be? I usually don’t specify the amount of a discount because I don’t know the company’s profit margin on any given product. I’d suggest leaving it open-ended as just a discount unless you know what their cost is.
What Do You Intend to Do?
One thing I’d always suggest you do is define the project you’re working on. Are you building something completely new? Are you just putting on parts for your latest acquisition? What is it exactly that you are doing? If you can define your intent with the project, whether that’s just a fun cruiser, a project built to race in a specific class, or something destined for SEMA, it will help your sponsor decide if your project is a good return on their investment of time, money, and products.
What is Your Schedule?
Your project should include a rough schedule from beginning to end. I always tell people that project cars are never done, they are either wrecked or sold. Your project may be the same way, a never-ending story, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to give some sort of timeline. Businesses run on fiscal years that may or may not coincide with the calendar. They have to show accountability to where their money and products are going, so even if you don’t have a completion date, you should be able to define what will be done during each year of the project. If you are building the vehicle for a specific race season or a big event, that will probably help you lay out what needs to be done by when. That level of organization will also help your know what products you need and when you need them. They may be able to help with more products at a bigger discount over several months instead of one large lump sum shipment.
How do You Plan for Exposure?
This is the old question of what do they get for their investment. Social media should be part of your exposure proposal, but there isn’t a simple formula of what works best for everyone and every brand out there. You may be huge on Instagram, and your sponsor may not be on Instagram. You can offer to be where they aren’t, but it may not hold the same value as another brand that is already there. You may or may not have a website as a landing page for information. You may have a blog that you post to. There isn’t a guide on what will work for everyone, so the best you can do is lay out what you plan to do. Leave the door open to start on a new social media platform if your brand is there and you’re not. Be flexible, but also keep in mind that you can’t be everywhere. Stay focused on what works for you. That may also include local, regional, and national shows or conventions. You can’t physically be everywhere. I always request at minimum a shirt to wear in the garage when I’m working, which helps identify who I’m showcasing. I’ve also added banners in the background, worn hats, and try my best to include as much as possible to return business to my sponsor.
Avoid Using CPR (Copy, Paste, Repeat)
I’ll admit it’s very tempting to use the same sponsorship request package over and over. If you have a little success with one version, you may find it easy to reuse it over and over and just change the contact info. My best advice would be to don’t CPR it. If you’ve written a resume and cover letter while seeking employment, you know that each should be edited for the job you’re applying for. The same should be done for each sponsorship proposal. Your social media exposure, historical info, and your skills will be somewhat the same. The project will most likely change from one to the next unless you’re just building the same thing over and over again. I always update my social media info (subscribers and views), and add anything that has changed since the last time the info was updated. Your information should be updated every time, whether it’s up or down. You also should be updating the information to be specific to the sponsor you’re trying to gain. Update the request for what you need, the timeline you need it in, the competitions you’ve done, etc. You can use successful info from the past as a starting point, but do not just copy and paste. People in advertising and marketing at brands can spot form letters and copied materials. It’s part of their job description, and once you’ve been seen as a copier you won’t usually get a second chance to make that good first impression.
Finding the Right Contact
Once you have your best proposal completed, you have to know who to pitch it to. Some brands have a general email address to send it into. Some just have a basic contact us address that you can ask what is the best way to send them info. I always try to find a specific individual with a contact name to send my information to, but sometimes that isn’t easy to find. You may have to research and message the brand via social media or their website to find the correct person to talk to. Be patient with it. Brands that are flooded with proposals may just use a general inbox to house their submissions. Some brands don’t have one person to talk to. I’ve dealt with both, and even found one brand that didn’t even consider sponsorships because they had no way to track ROI on their end.
Hopefully this article helps you get started on your sponsorship journey, or perhaps helps you hone your proposals to gain more success. Proposal writing is a talent, and it requires practice to become good at it. I’ve had success in the past, but I still find that my proposals can be better. If you have suggestions to try or want to share what has worked for you, I’d love to hear about it. We’re all vying for sponsorships since building cars can be expensive, but the better we are as a whole, makes it better for everyone. See you next time!