Part of Outworld’s mission is providing a knowledge base, and with that comes many, many questions. What tires are you running? What size? How much lift? And for the most part, they’re very easy to answer. But there’s one question we see – often asked but rarely explained in useful detail.
How do I get my vehicle sponsored?
To be honest, it’s not inherently difficult to get sponsored these days. More companies are seeing the benefit of providing their goods in exchange for media and marketing support, and many have budgets specifically for sponsoring/donating products. In the social media and influencer age, audiences tend to be more receptive to an individual showing off products naturally rather than an overt advertisement, and that’s where you (possibly) come in.
I’ve spent the last ten years building the foundation for Outworld, and in the process I’ve had the privilege of partnering with dozens of leading brands in motorsports, action sports and outdoors – from sponsorships and endorsements to brand consulting and media production. These are some of the most important tips I can share – from a long list of successes and failures along the way.
Before making any kind of requests, it’s important to consider the other side of this arrangement. Someone at that company you’re targeting is being evaluated on their budget allocations. To some degree, you have the ability to make someone’s job easier or tougher in this process. Once you receive your free products, the onus is on you to deliver your end of the bargain.
People “hit and run” all the time: getting their chance with free product then disappearing off the face of the earth. It’s easy to be sleazy. What’s difficult is coming back to that person the next year for a renewal or expansion request and hearing, “Hell yeah I remember you. What do you want to do this time?!”
The hard truth is not everyone is cut out for the sponsorship game. Those simply looking for free parts with no concern of return make it difficult on both the companies and other potential sponsorees actually motivated to provide value. Be honest with yourself about your commitment before sending anything off.
Understand your value
This is simple. What do you have to offer? Simply aspirations or dreams won’t cut it; those requests come in droves every day and quickly overlooked. Unless you have something unique to leverage, you’ll probably need to get your vehicle started with your own funds to make an impact and separate it from the masses. Social media following is a major deciding factor for brands, so start as soon as you can.
It doesn’t need to be a vehicle specific page, but you need to dedicate time to growing it. Use tags and hashtags, try other websites and social media outlets. What else are you bringing to the table? Professional photo/video? Do you have your own gear? Written content? Do you have a website? Are you tracking traffic? The more tangible benefits, and less hypotheticals, the better.
Find the right contact
Some companies make it easy and have sponsorship request forms on their website. If not, you’ll need to understand the structure of the company. The larger the company, the farther away from the top you need to start. For small businesses, the owner may be the right contact, but for national or global companies, a marketing coordinator or similar may be better.
A combination of Google-fu and LinkedIn goes a long way. Some brands may part of larger, parent companies, and the contact you need may be within that organization. Find a name, try to find the company’s email format or just call up their headquarters and ask for it. There’s no one right way to get in touch, but email is typically the most effective nowadays.
Under promise, over deliver, and have examples ready
If your head is in this for the long-term, don’t give them a five-year-plan. Outline deliverables you believe are immediately actionable. This can be a written review article if you have a website, a certain number of produced photos and videos, etc. Be careful not to promise the moon just to get their attention – it will catch up to you.
Be prepared to show any previous work. Again, you may need to develop the first step on your own to establish yourself. If written content is a medium you’d like to develop, purchase a product or two and share your opinions. Creating a blog site and article costs nothing but time. If it’s media, throw your best work on Instagram and tag any companies featured in the pictures. Try to get shared or featured to expand your footprint. Every additional share and impression helps.
First impressions are everything
Whether it’s a phone call or email, you have a small opportunity to make an impression with the decision maker. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who gets tons of requests, both legitimate and bogus, and how to win their attention quickly. Have your shit together. Brevity is key, and some marketing buzzwords can’t hurt. Quantify as much you can. Show them why they should invest with you. They’re looking for valuable, and more often than not – independent, return on their investment.
They want YOU to provide initiative, gumption, direction. The more confidence and accountability you show in your initial plan of attack, the better shot you have. If you have the right plan, you’re making their job easier.
These are just a few of my main takeaways from a decade of hard-learned lessons, and hopefully this helps get you started on the right track. Keep in mind different companies have different fiscal years, and budgets can “reset” at different times of the calendar year. And even if you nail all of the above, success isn’t guaranteed. Be relentless but calculated. If they say no with suggestions on improvement, bookmark that sucker and write back when you’ve improved. Good luck!