How can motorsports marketing work?

I got some pretty good feedback from my last post about motorsports marketing, so I thought I would expand on it a little more. Maybe I’ll turn this into a little series, or I’ll just keep talking until I burn the subject out. I think I wanted to first clarify what I said about most sponsors nowadays being like charitable contributions. I don’t disagree with it. If the people giving the contribution are good with it, and the racers feel good about it, then it must be good. I think what I was trying to convey was in order to elevate the sport to the next level, the sponsorship needs to be treated more like an actual business deal between the two parties, with a way to measure results. Although, if you ask many well respected marketers now, even television advertising is not very measurable. But, I think, we are treading in uncharted territory for some businesses, so race car sponsor deals will be held to a higher standard.

Social media marketing

I think, before we get too far into it, we need to understand what some marketers believe is the most important type of marketing a business can engage in, it’s called social media marketing. The way I see social media marketing is the a new Internet phenomenon version of word of mouth marketing. Marketers now believe that marketing through social engagement is much more effective than the old style of  “interruption” marketing. I mean, if someone that you have respect for tells you that ‘this book is great’ or ‘go eat at this restaurant’ you are much more likely to go get it or do it than if you just saw a billboard on the side of a freeway. So, as a result, many billion dollar a year companies along with small local businesses are engaged in building a social media campaign. How does fit into auto racing sponsorship?

Well I believe it is all about building a following or a ‘tribe’, as some people call it. Race car drivers are natural ‘tribe’ builders. Fans want to know them, cheer for them, be their friends, and buy their souvenirs. Which is exactly what businesses need; so why not combine the two? If drivers, and/or car owners can use their power to build a following around a business that is willing to sponsor them, it has to be worth something.

Branding

This brings us to the subject of branding. Branding, it seems, is defined differently for a business than it is for branding for people. Branding a business is what the business wants the customer experience to be as soon as they take that first step through the door. The brand of a business is not only so much about the product as it is about the entire customer experience. The look, feel, smell and, in some cases, the taste as the customer moves through the entire sales process. Businesses must think about this and work hard to tailor this branding to the demographic they are targeting.

The branding of a person is slightly different. A persons brand is the image or the outward perception of their personality. It is the way they are perceived by the general public. If the driver or teams brand fits with the brand the company they are pursuing for sponsorship has, it is a match made for a perfect marketing machine. There is this preconceived notion that the only way to get a sponsorship is to have this cookie cutter ‘professional’ image. I don’t believe this at all. If you are seeking sponsorship for one of the new, high profile, energy drink companies, whose target demographic is teenagers or young adults 16 to 25 years old, I don’t think, a driver or team which is perfectly polished and polite, is going to be the type of brand that will help build a following around that product. It is really all about branding for a specific demographic that is most likely the consumer of your product.

Survey

This also holds true to the type of show a track offers. If the main money spending demographic of the customers that go to the races are a family of four, with children that range in age from five to eleven, don’t have your show drag out past nine or nine thirty at night. It is giving your customers what they want, in order to do that you need to ask them what they want. Which then leads us back to taking surveys at the track or on a website?

Next time I’ll get into some actual ways to start building a following and building a brand for a driver and his team.

Till next time, happy marketing.

Kevin