You Can’t Do Both (Mar 2017)

@BobPockrass wrote a good article last week re: the unsold inventory among some of the top NASCAR teams. Some teams were very open on the challenges they face in finding sponsors. Selling team sponsorships is particularly tough. Without sponsors, teams cannot compete. I have the utmost respect for those who are willing to accept the responsibility of securing funding for their teams. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I fully understand the challenge. However, I was struck by a quote that Pockrass made in the article and thought it shed light on a bigger part of the sponsorship problem than most want to admit or understand. In the article, he made an interesting statement summarizing the challenge teams face in putting together good sponsorship programs.

“Those trying to sell sponsorship say they must act like an agency and sell a turnkey operation if the sponsor wants it.”

Here is my issue. You can’t do both. Or at least, you can’t do both well. The competitive skill set and focus it takes to be a good race team differs from the skill set and focus it takes to be a good agency. One focuses on winning races and being a good marketing partner. One focuses on driving sales for your client. To deliver maximum value and long term partnerships, nothing beats a good team/agency relationship where both entities fulfill their roles and work together for the benefit of the sponsor.

I understand that this scenario is not always available. When the proposed sponsorship dollars are light, it can be tempting to try and add value to the sponsorship package by agreeing to take on “agency” services. There is no doubt that many teams in the garage are committed to being good partners and go above and beyond to over deliver on their sponsor commitments. I know it well, and it came through clearly in the article.

Be careful. If you convince a sponsor that you can provide agency services, you open yourself up to have your services compared to their agencies. If you are striving to win a racing championship, you will struggle to be able to compete with the agency’s ability to provide objective strategy, focus and attention at the level a sponsor is used to receiving. In that scenario, what you hoped would turn into a long-term marketing investment could instead become a short-term marketing expense for the sponsor. When renewal time comes and the ROI is not clear, expenses get cut.

We have a lot of friends in the garage. Many who have been impacted by loss of sponsorship. We believe in NASCAR and the power of strong sponsor/team relationships. In fact, I posted earlier this year an article touting NASCAR as “The Best Kept Secret in Sports Marketing”.

If we are going to fix the unsold inventory problem, it is going to come through agencies and teams working together to maximize value for sponsors. It will not come through turnkey solutions where race teams attempt to assume the agency role. Even if the sponsor requests it.

See Bob’s article here.