Why we should be worried

Archivnummer: M17497

Brian has been a solid regular contributor at the Paddock magazine since 2013, and his “Money, Egos & Speed” columns are always very well-received by our readers. This time we’ve decided to put the spotlight on Brian himself, so we asked him to tell us about his new interesting and creative business venture focused on motorsport sponsorship.

Think for a moment of motorsport as a pyramid. The top 30% of it relates to the sport and its participation. Many people would argue that Formula 1 is the very pinnacle of the sport, others may disagree. The next 15% of the pyramid represents the administration of the sport, whilst the remaining 55% comprises the global motorsport industry. This includes businesses across a myriad of categories, ranging from engine designers to motorsport insurance providers, from event management companies to transmission manufacturers and from helmet suppliers to motorsport photographers. It’s a sector employing tens of thousands of people.

OK, so what is the point that I’m making? It’s a very simple one really. It centres on the importance of commercial sponsorship revenue to that industry sector. Sponsorship flows in through the top sector of the pyramid (effectively the teams and competitors), that revenue then trickles downwards through the admin sector, where it gets reduced by a not inconsiderable amount in terms of licence fees, club membership and the like. It then reaches the industry for purchases of products and services. The more sponsorship that comes in through the top of the pyramid, the more there is to work its way through to the businesses.

By contrast, when that sponsorship flow slows down, it has a marked effect on those same businesses. Lack of sponsorship equates to smaller grids, often resulting in series and championships being cancelled. It’s also reflected in more competitors running out of funds midway through the season. This is not good news for the motorsport industry.

It surely has to be in the interest of everyone working within the motorsport industry to improve the way in which the sport promotes itself to the business sector.

The point I’m making is that it surely has to be in the interest of everyone working within the motorsport industry to improve the way in which the sport promotes itself to the business sector. Sadly, motorsport really does lag behind many other sports when it comes to promoting its capabilities as a business-development platform.

I have a lot to thank sponsorship for. A 42-year career in motorsport for a start! The ability to secure significant sponsorship made up for my lack of speed as a racing driver and allowed me to race professionally, up to the level where I was contracted to Mercedes in South Africa. Sponsorship allowed me to launch a highly-successful motor-racing school and then to achieve the one thing that my race-driving skills couldn’t do; to enjoy a successful career within Formula 1. It was also the sponsorship agreements that I negotiated with Accenture and Hewlett Packard that enabled me to set up the Motorsport Industry Association in 1994.

During the past few years, my career has taken another fascinating step forward. An increasing number of people have been asking me to help them, or their team or their youngster, to find commercial sponsorship. I quickly came to the conclusion that the most cost-effective way of doing this would be to offer training in the skills required to approach the business sector. This was a turning point and as I was planning the way forward, I received an invitation from the prestigious World Academy of Sport. It asked me to become a Guest Lecturer, on the topic of sponsorship acquisition. This resulted in my delivering training courses for the International Rugby Board, the Bahrain Olympic Committee and the International Cricket Council as well as several other sports associations. Within motorsport, I was invited to run similar courses by Ford, Porsche and the BRDC.

It was a sponsorship deal that also allowed me to write the first of my books on the topic of sponsorship acquisition. Now, at a point in my life when I should have perhaps retired, I’m launching a brand new initiative. It’s designed primarily to help improve the business sector’s opinion of motorsport as a measurable, sustainable business-development platform, by improving the standard of sponsorship approaches to companies.

My new company, The Sponsorship Business Ltd offers professional services to three specific categories:

  • For competitors, parents, managers, teams, clubs, associations, colleges, universities and schools. It’s a unique online training course “Motorsport Sponsorship: Getting Your Share” comprising 12 video modules, totalling 180 minutes. The course takes viewers through the entire sponsorship sales process and is based on actual case studies.
  • For existing commercial sponsors who are seeking an increased ROI from their financial spend. It’s an independent audit that looks at all aspects of an existing sponsorship and delivers recommendations as to how to increase the ROI being achieved.
  • For companies currently involved as sponsors of other sports, or considering motorsport sponsorship for the first time. This is an independent consultancy service providing these companies with a detailed insight into the measurable, sustainable commercial benefits that can be derived from an involvement in motorsport.

My own involvement with sponsorship began just 6 years after the famous Gold Leaf Team Lotus deal in 1968 that changed the face of sports sponsorship forever. I’m passionate about what sponsorship can do for a company, so it saddens me to see motorsport falling out of favour, due in many ways to avoidable errors in the way approaches are made to the business sector.

From my experience across many high-profile sports, I can see that it’s the motorsport proposals that are all too often of the lowest standard. Even at the so-called pinnacle, Formula 1, there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’ve been shocked at some of the team proposals that I’ve looked at. Many have one basic fault… they assume that companies want to use motorsport sponsorship to promote that overworked trio of brand awareness, hospitality and PR. That’s not where the true value exists.

It’s not just the sponsorship-seekers at fault. The problem is often exacerbated by marketing personnel within businesses. Too many are totally unaware of how to create innovative sponsorship strategies geared to measurable business-development, as opposed to simply brand awareness. What is so worrying is that a high number won’t acknowledge this lack of understanding!

Now you can see why I have launched The Sponsorship Business. I want to pass on the experience that I’ve learned the hard way. Used properly and imaginatively, sponsorship is a powerful business-development tool. Get it wrong and it can prove very costly. Let’s try to put motorsport back where it belongs, at the top of sponsors shopping lists.

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