In Motorsports, Sport Sponsorship

If your brand stands for speed, technology, precision, innovative technical evolution and strong team spirit, then sports marketing and motorsport sponsorship in particular might be the perfect marketing tool for you. 

The MotoGP World Championship is an excellent example of an exciting, worldwide communication platform. The pinnacle of two-wheel racing is loved and followed around the world: more than 200 countries receive live TV signal, 433 million homes are reached via cable satellite networks, and a grand total of almost 30,000 hours of racing are broadcasted every season.

Our experience in Motorsport Sponsorship has exposed us to a wide range of projects. From high-profile reach to targeted, grassroots growth we know well how beneficial sponsorship and well-planned activations can be for large and small organizations and companies. 

Make no mistake though. As with every form of marketing, great sports marketing has a lot of nuances to appreciate, best practices to follow and mistakes to avoid. So, if you’re ever planning a MotoGP sponsorship project or any motorsport marketing program, here are 8 pitfalls to dodge to make your season as successful as ever.

1 – It’s not about making podium at the races

We decided to throw this one first, since that’s as important as you can get in sports marketing and motorsport sponsorship. While of course making podiums (as well as scoring goals or being top of the league) is no doubt a nice-to-have, you’re not in it to win it. Great sponsorship projects and greater sports marketing activations must fall outside of on-track results and instead rely on shared values, mutual objectives and a common vision. 

Especially in this day and age, where results and performance can be hijacked or hindered by a lot of external factors, it’s paramount to focus on a solid sponsorship plan that’s leveraging on more foreseeable assets. 

2 – Underestimating specific expertise and experience

Just like technology or finance, sport is a very specific field of expertise. Unlike technology or finance though, and due to its worldwide popularity and daily accessibility, most of the time sports marketing is considered to be easy-to-handle and within everyone’s reach.

While we agree that motorsport sponsorship is no rocket science, we have seen far too many projects and activities sinking because the task had been underestimated. A specific motorsport sponsorship expertise and experience is key to succeed quickly and with no sudden bumps along the way. Why do we stress “specific”? Because each and every discipline is different and runs on a totally playbook and set of rules. MotoGP for example is a totally different beast from basketball (having worked in both fields I can testify this first-hand).

No need to play the uncalled-for maverick: hire a sports marketing agency to set up your activation plan or to broker your sponsorship deal. Most of the times they do not earn their pay from you, but from the teams. 

3 – Not budgeting activation

We have mentioned sponsorship activation in the above chapter, so it’s a good time to chime in with some more information about budgeting it the right way. First of all, sponsorship activation is the holistic system of actions, tools and tactics you need to put in place in order to transform your marketing benefits in marketing actions. Everyone happy with that? Of course not. Long story short, activating a sponsorship program means extracting value from your sponsorship deal with concrete move, like having your best clients at the track or using the team’s photos in your ADV campaign.

The problem is: your sponsorship isn’t going to activate itself, and you shouldn’t expect much helps from the teams either (not because they are the bad guys, it’s just they have races to take care of). Activating needs money and that money is not in your sponsorship deal. Follow our rule of thumb, for every dollar you spend in your sponsorship deal you need .50 cents to activate that sponsorship. This means that if your sports marketing budget is $750,000, you should buy sponsorship for half a million and use the rest to kickstart it. Thank us later.

4 – Choosing what you like

Gut feeling is great until it’s not. When going for a sports marketing campaign or a sport sponsorship project, your first instinct is always to choose for your brand the sport that you would choose for yourself. Unfortunately, that’s just plain wrong and most times you end up with a sponsorship in golf for a bolt manufacturer. Sometimes what you like and what’s right for you are two completely different ballgames. Remember: sponsorship should be an efficient marketing tool, not a hobby. Choose a discipline or a series that matches your company’s values, features, legacy and vision and engage with the right target. After all there’s a reason if Richard Mille is on a Formula One car and Toolstation is involved in Rugby?

5 – Not planning carefully

There is a lot to do when you are involved in a sponsorship in sports. More important, there is a lot you can do, because a well-crafted sponsorship plan can potentially boost all your marketing and communication tools. Your social media activity? Check. An exciting ADV campaign? Check. An award-winning incentive program? Check. A compelling setting for your next event? Check. 

One of the most common pitfalls not only in MotoGP Sponsorship but in every sports marketing program is the lack of planning at the beginning of the season, before the rubber hits the asphalt and everything starts moving too quick. So, if you want to hit the ground running, as a rule of thumb, use the 60 days after the last event to plan all your actions and involve the team. Ideally, you want to have everything ready one month before the first grand prix of the season.

6 – Not liasing with teams and sport marketing agencies

Unless you are Repsol or Philip Morris or Petronas (huge companies with a 20-year experience in motorsport sponsorship), you can’t do this alone. Saying goes you’ll need a little help from your friends: the team marketing department and your sports marketing agency are there for you. Use them as a guide during your path, ask them questions, call for support, trust their expertise and use their tips. They have been there before and will get to the right end of the stick pretty quick. Also, be wary of the the spick-and-span, newbie wise guys who’ve never been to a racetrack but act like they run the show just because they have been given a paddock pass. Racing environments tend to be clever little pointy things.

7 – Considering sponsorship a sprint race

On the consumer’s behavior front, sponsorship is very much a mind affaire. Since it’s an inclusive -rather than intrusive- tool, it takes time for the brain to absorb all the nice qualities of a sport, link them to a sponsoring brand or product, create a winning association, coat that brand or product with the newfound qualities and values and then changing its habits and behavior and finally buying that product. Yes, that’s exactly what happens. Fact is that it won’t happen overnight: it takes years to create that robust, effective association and truly do the trick. If you need again a rule of thumb: it takes two to three years to perfect that mind game between the brand and the sport property. So again, if I had nine bucks, I’d spend three a year for three year. It’s not a sprint race, it’s a marathon.

What’s the beauty of it, then? That it’s super powerful, and it lasts forever. 

8 – Not going full throttle

Last but not least, commitment. Sponsorship isn’t some sport of corporative accessory that will sit nicely in the corner of your meeting room and won’t bark. Sports marketing programs bring results, enthusiasm, membership, belonging and passion, but need time and commitment. You can’t go half speed, and there’s no way off the merry-go-round. A good sponsorship reverberates through every department and involves everyone from production to management, so if you’re planning to embark on the adventure, remember it’s going to be power rafting rather than a cruise. But it’ll take you where you’ve never been and bring you what you’ve never been given. 

If you need more information on motorsport sponsorship or sports marketing programs, do not hesitate to get in touch with RTR Sports: we’ve been doing this for 25 years.

Emanuele Venturoli
Communication Manager for RTR Sports Marketing. A degree in Communication at the University of Bologna and a passion for sport brought me where I'm today.
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