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B2B sponsorship in motorsport, the dark art

Posted by: Thomas Harrison-Lord on 9 November 2017

In 2017, sponsorship can seem a little old-fashioned and dare I say it, redundant. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a motorsport team in the world seemingly without a big “blue chip” backer.

All the big names were at it. I have fond memories of the Renault BTCC team being sponsored by Nescafe, the Lancia WRC team backed by Martini or the Canon livery on the Williams F1 team.

But over time, the number of B2C companies in motorsport sponsorship has diminished. In terms of the biggest car racing series in the UK, the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, a few remain – such as Team Shredded Wheat – but a lot has changed. A trend I have noticed recently is the advancement of B2B brands using motorsport sponsorship.

WRC Sponsorship Elfyn Evans DMACK WRC

If you think about it, in the automotive aftermarket, motorsport sponsorship makes perfect sense. The business produces car parts. If you win races, you can prove that your products are of a high standard, as motorsport tests parts to the maximum of performance and durability. Our client TOTAL Lubricants has a strong motorsport partnership presence in the likes of the FIA World Rally Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship, for example.

But it’s not just the aftermarket companies getting involved. On the liveries of several BTCC cars, you can see businesses such as the Road Haulage Association, DUO PLC (quarrying and aggregating equipment), Maximum Group (business telephone systems), Northgate (van hire), Norlin Ventures (property investment), Pirtek (hydraulic hoses and fittings) and many others. The list goes on and on.

Which is great for the sport. Remember, motorsport costs an arm, a leg and maybe even some toes too. These partners are intrinsic to the sports longevity. But what do these B2B sponsors get back from the sport?

Brand exposure in front of the hundreds of thousands of BTCC viewers live on ITV. There is also exposure in front of the average 35,000 attendance to each race meeting too. Probably a nice framed picture of the race car in the head office reception. The option of being able to invite fellow business associates to the races with free passes and a warm lunch in a race team building. All fine and dandy.

Activating B2B Sponsorship Motorsport

Ultimately, sponsorship depends on the core business objectives. It may be just one part of the marketing mix, or a specific campaign. Stop to compare the £100,000 spent to display logos on a race car to £100,000 on trackable digital advertising – which can be attributed directly to leads, conversions and sales – and the case for sponsorship becomes a little less rosy.

To make the most of a sponsorship campaign, you must activate it. I’ll repeat that for you. You need to activate your sponsorship. Easy to say, but there’s some real creative thinking required to pull this off.

I recently visited Wales Rally GB, the penultimate round of the WRC. Being an FIA approved world championship, it has a massive audience all across the globe. Car manufacturers such as Citroen, Hyundai and Toyota are spending millions of pounds each season to compete for victories in the WRC. The aim is to win on Sunday, sell on Monday. Consequently, the marketing approach is more B2C focused.

Aside from the rally team itself, each manufacturer had teams of people to help activate the sponsorship. Toyota had people walking around asking the crowds if they would like to win team merchandise and a high-speed passenger ride. Simply fill in your details to enter. Citroen was handing out branded flags, Toyota had branded hand wipes (spectating in Wales can be muddy) and Network Q jumpers. There was team clothing for sale, driving simulators to try and much more.

WRC Sponsorship B2B Hyundai Sordo

When it comes to B2B brands using motorsport to sponsor a team, it must go above and beyond the initial sticker investment. Competitions could be run via email and social media, offering free event tickets to your existing customers. Your most loyal accounts could be treated to a day out. Asking race fans to submit their best photos of the car you sponsor. Handing out flyers at the race event. Collating email address information in return for some free merchandise. Setting up a race simulator so fans can compete for the best times. Perhaps not just sponsoring a team or driver, but a corner of a track too or the podium display.

All these keep your customer base happy and involved. It can also draw new fans and help to quantify your activities, plus showing that you genuinely care about the sport they follow. Making sure that there is a press release and a news article on the company’s website after each race to gain even more exposure and potential SEO-helping backlinks sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many businesses dive into motorsport sponsorship, pay for a livery and then expect instant sales increases.

Above all else, it should be to increase brand heritage, reputation and bolster remarketing or direct mail marketing lists. Activating your sponsorship is key, and it may seem like another additional expense, but it also means you can add value to the proposition. Backing a race team can be very lucrative, just don’t just fritter away precious funds without taking the time to think through a strong marketing strategy.

See what Fox Agency can do for you, with our specialised automotive marketing.

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