Saturday, January 19, 2008

Writing a Sponsor Proposal: Creating an outline

Over the years, I've had to do a lot of writing. I've written white papers, proposals, brochures, business plans, you name it. Even though today I sometimes start to write without an outline, I find that the best documents that I've created and the ones that have gotten the most executive approval, have been the ones that began as an outline. I provide for you an outline of a sponsorship proposal below. You need to fill in the blanks and maybe even add sections based on the sponsors specific needs.

Sponsorship Proposal Outline
  • Executive Summary - a summary of the documents main points written for an executive on the go. Write it last.
  • Introduction to NASCAR and What's New for the coming year - use this section to teach the sponsor about NASCAR and any exciting new opportunities that they should jump on in the coming year. In this section, dispel the myths of NASCAR (e.g. It's only for smoker southerners) to help the customer understand the huge opportunity this is.
  • The Previous Year in Review - If creating a proposal for a new sponsor, tell them how you did in the previous year. If proposing to an existing sponsor tell them what you achieved. If this is your first year racing, omit this section. What did you and the sponsor agree were the objectives of your program for the year (e.g. generate "X" number of leads or "Y" number of TV impressions) and what did you actually achieve. Point out any places where you went above and beyond to give them more value for their dollar.
  • The Opportunity for "Company Name" - Tell them what you know about the company, its customers, its market, its products. Tell them how you can help them reach the target audiences they seek. Provide market data to back up your case. Admit that you've made some assumptions based on research you've done about the organization but that you'd like to learn more given the opportunity.
  • What it is to be a Sports Sponsor? - Help them understand what exactly they would be committing to if they move forward and invited you in for a meeting to discuss the opportunity. Spell out how they are committing to provide funding, but more importantly, having a point of contact on their end that is responsible for utilizing their sponsorship to the companies maximum benefit is in their own best interest. Tell them about the additional marketing opportunities and what you are actually selling.
  • Summary and Next Steps - Summarize the key points in the proposal highlighting the highest value points for them. Specifically spell out the next steps if they decide to proceed. USE DATES. For example, all sponsorship agreements must be signed by X/X/XXXX for sponsorship in the 2008 year. Working back from this date, we've created the following meeting schedule as a guidance for the next steps that we'll need to take together. Proceed to plan dates for the first Web-based conference-call/presentation, the first on site meeting, the second on site meeting, the final planning meeting and then monthly or bi-weekly meetings afterwards to keep the customer updated. This is as needed by the customer. 

THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Most people take this opportunity to write an introduction to the proposal . This section should be no longer than one page and include a summary of the entire document. It's sole purpose is to give an executive... like say, a CEO... a very quick and easy document that can be read in a short time. It gets to the point and the person can easily decide, yes, no or "I should make more time to find out more about this great opportunity". It doesn't matter if you're not meeting with the CEO or sending the proposal to an executive. This summary makes your proposal very portable. You can use components of the executive summary in e-mails to people in the company. People that you send the proposal to can use the executive summary when they present your program to decision-makers within the organization. The benefits go on and on. Write it, write it last, and make it excellent.

NO PRICING! Resist the temptation to provide pricing for new sponsors. You want to give them pricing after you've spoken to them to make sure you understand their business and can therefore represent the full value you are bringing to the table. For example, if I told you I could sell you a computer for $2000 you'd think I was crazy when you could get one down the street for $500 bucks. But, if I understood that you were a graphics person that played video games on the Internet, I could meet with you and show you the computer had a 20" monitor with super fast graphics and a fast processor for playing games. That means more to you and you'd understand why the computer cost what it did and you'd probably think it was worth it to you then. The same thing goes for racing. If people see a price and don't fully understand how it relates to them then they think the price is just for putting their name on the car when in fact it is more than that.

PREVIOUS YEAR IN REVIEW: It's important to keep reviewing program progress on a regular basis with the sponsor. You should never use your yearly or sponsorship renewal proposal to report on progress. This will probably kill your chances of re-signing. Make sure that regular progress reports are seen by the people who approve the budget for the sponsorship (like executives), not just by the people who you work with on a regular basis.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Writing a Sponsor Proposal: STOP Nickel and Diming Customers, Start Using Marketing Units

I've seen a lot of proposals come my way and they tend to nickel and dime customers. So, for example, they state that sponsoring the team and branding the equipment and such will cost $20M... as an example. Then, in the same proposal, these people have the nerve to say if the customer wants more they have to pay x for this and y for that. Don't Nickel and Dime. Do something like this instead
  • Base Sponsorship - $22M
    • Includes
      • Car branding
      • Trailer branding
      • Driver branding
      • Merchandise branding
      • etc. etc. etc.
      • 300 Marketing units (This is the great part)
    • Packages available with additional units
      • Same package with 500 units - $24 M
      • Same package with 750 unites - $26 M
Marketing units take the place of dollars. Instead of charging them a separate amount for each thing they want to do, commit to doing some things right up front. Give them a list of things that you can do and how much they will cost in marketing units. Whatever their sponsorship level, they can use their units however they want to develop programs that meet their needs. For example,
  • Car on site - 20 units
  • Driver autograph session - 4 units
  • 12 standard racing tickets - 4-6 units depending on track
  • 6 VIP tickets - 10 units
  • etc. etc.
You get the idea. This accomplishes a couple of things. Marketing units gives the customers flexibility. They also mean no nickel and  diming. They also are a way for teams to make even more money because the dollar value of each item isn't based on the cost to the team but rather the value to the customer. So, as an example, it might cost $5,000 for the driver to go out to an autograph session. But, to the customer, that is worth $50,000 because of the value they get from it ( e.g. they land 1 deal at that autograph signing worth $1M... then that session was valued at $1M... funny huh). Anyway, it makes negotiation easier. Customers don't like having to go back to the well every time they want to do something. They'd rather pay up front and have a balance to work with. It gives you and them incentive to use those marketing units so that they see the value of the sponsorship and so that you can get them to sponsor at a higher value the next year.

Vinny Sosa

Writing a Sponsor Proposal: What do you have to offer?

When you pitch a sponsor you need to help them understand what they are paying for. You're selling a marketing program (see previous post) but the customer wants to know what they can do with that program. For example, if you were a car salesman, you wouldn't just approach customers and say look at this vehicle, it gets your from point A to point B. Sign here please. No. You would tell them about all of the neat features like a great stereo, GPS navigation, DVD player, heated seats, etc. That's what you have to do with sponsorship proposals. 
You're lucky if you are pitching a sponsor who actually knows racing. Most of these customers will go out and seek a team vs. you having to go out and find them. So, chances are, you'll be pitching someone who doesn't know a whole lot about the sport. And you can bet your bottom dollar they don't want to know how fast the car goes. What they want to know is how does racing make an impression? How many "IMPRESSIONS" do they get by sponsoring you? An impression is the number of times people see their brand. You need to give them an idea for how many impressions they can make. Here are some of the things I can think of off of the top of my head that the sponsor would love to know. You can probably think of more if you put your mind to it.
  • How many races are there?
  • How many people watch these races in the stands and on TV? How many listen on the radio?
  • How many units of merchandise do fans purchase on average from a team? Basically how many people are out there wearing a brand that sponsors a car?
  • What is the profile of these people? Are they African American, Caucasian, Spanish, Asian? Are they 20-30, 30-40? are they women, men, gay? Hopefully you go in there know what the prospective sponsors target customer is and you pitch them based on that demographic.
  • What kinds of series do they have to choose from?
  • Where are the races?
  • Is there a trailer that you use to transport the car? Great, what route does your trailer take when the truck is being transported? On average, how many people drive those roads per day? This will give the customer and idea of how many people will see their rolling billboard?
  • How many people visit the NASCAR web site? How many people visit your web site? each month? each year?
  • Are there trading cards? How many units are sold each year?
  • What kinds of print material will have a picture of the car or the driver with the sponsors brand included?
  • What Television networks play the races? On average, how many times is your car shown? How many times is the driver shown? 
  • How many interviews did the driver do in the past year? How much PR did the team get with the sponsor name mentioned or with the car visible?
There are many more. If you think like your sponsor (your customer) the sky is the limit. It's not about your sponsorship, it's about their program.
Sometimes, it isn't so much about "Impressions" as it is about "Leads". Sponsors want to generate leads because leads generate sales and sales generate dollars. Whether it's impressions or leads, sponsors will want to know how they can leverage your team to augment their marketing programs. Here are some examples of things they would be looking to hear about.
  • Driver, Car, trailer, executive plane, everything can be branded?
  • Merchandise can and will be branded and sold
  • Driver, Car and trailer can be made available for X number of programs/events
  • Driver, car, trailer image can be used in marketing campaigns
  • Driver and car can be used in commercial advertising in small and large print as well as for radio and TV
  • Driver can be at autograph signings to draw crowds to events
  • Many programs are available at the track from setting up hospitality and VIP tents to reach customers or running demand gen programs right at the track
  • What about VIP tickets for customers and tours of the PIT area, car, and garage before the race
  • Each race provides additional on-track sponsorship opportunities
  • Does your team participate in philanthropic events where you can showcase the sponsors brand or message? If so, this is great.
  • What other things does the team do that the customer can participate in?
  • Do you have a headquarters? Can the sponsor place branding there at all?
  • Do you have golf carts for getting around the track? Can the sponsor brand those?
  • Do you have an online fan club or user group that could give the sponsor direct access to new customers?
  • Do you have a blog that people frequent?
  • Do you have a website that they customer can advertise on?
  • Can the customer advertise on
  • etc. etc. etc.
It's up to you to get customers in the right frame of mind and to teach them how to use racing to achieve their goals. Even if you get them as a sponsor, if they fail to use racing to achieve their goals, they won't sponsor you again. In sales, they have a slogan... ABC - Always Be Closing. My slogan is similar - ABM - Always Be Marketing.

Vinny Sosa

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Writing a Sponsor Proposal: What are you selling?

First thing that's key to understand is that you are not selling the sport. You are selling access to the sports fans. You are not selling the driver, you are selling spokesperson. You're not selling a car, you're selling a 200MPH billboard. You're not selling a racing program, you are selling a marketing program.

Lots of aspiring drivers are thinking "WOW! It's gonna be awesome when I get a ride. I can race and hang out with the girls, I'll be making tons of money... yeah!". If you're a girl, adjust the previous sentence. It doesn't really matter because, while you'll have time to do some of that stuff, your job is a bit different as a sponsored driver. You need to learn how to speak (publicly), you need to speak to the press... you'll need to be cognisant of the brand you represent at all times. I'll get to that in future blogs. The most important takeaway is that you are a part of what is called an integrated marketing program.

An integrated marketing program is a multi-pronged program designed to reach a specific set of customers. It includes awareness and demand-generation components. Awareness is about making sure that people know who a company is or what a product is and that it exists. Demand Generation is about creating interest in the company or product to get people to take action - buy, sell, invest, tell others about it, etc.

There can be multiple components to an integrated marketing program but they all have a mission. As an example, a company may be launching a new product aimed at all Caucasian and African-American males age 20-35 in the United States. They are targeting blue collar workers. They are looking to reach these people in many different ways. Within this group of "guys" some of them watch NASCAR racing. They'll be sending e-mails to them, mailings to their homes, posting banner ads on sites that they think these people visit and since some of them watch NASCAR, the company may be open to adding motorsports-centric marketing activities into their overall integrated program. In this scenario, they would sponsor your car, probably have sponsor activities at various races, maybe hold a sweepstakes for tickets to the race, maybe VIP passes to the garage, your name it.

Another example could be a company who wants to build a strong brand. They want to make their name a household name. They want to be everywhere. An example is Apple. I challenge you to watch a popular show and not see an Apple MacBook. They're everywhere... even in movies. What does that say to me about Apple? It says that MacBooks are used by anyone who is anyone. If you want the most popular computer you'd better have a Mac. And if you have a Mac, it makes you feel awesome! You are one of those people who have the most popular computer. Who cares how many Macs are being sold? Who cares if only 5 people own a Mac... it's sheik... it's hot... and I've got one (BTW... I do). Now, Apple has done this without sponsoring NASCAR. Honestly, the stereotypical racing fan probably isn't the right target for them. But that's changing. I'm not from the South, I'm not a cowboy or smoker. I'm a New Yorker, a Puerto Rican and a tech geek and I'm American. I don't even like Juan Pablo Montoya. I am not the stereotypical racing fan but I am the stereotypical Mac target. And guess what, more and more people like me are starting to like racing. If I can sell that audience to Apple... what a great sponsorship opportunity that would be. Sadly, they'd probably be more likely to target Indy or something but it's worth a shot.

Let's go back to my first cheesy example. That one was a short-term gig. Being part of a product launch is a short term thing. I would guess something like that to be a 1-2 year contract, if that. Unless you get lucky.

My second example is the holy grail (if you find the right sponsor). Branding is more likely to be a long-term gig. Tide is a long-term gig. M&Ms... long term. Home Depot, Lowe's... all long term. Nextel... long-term.

So... you are selling a marketing program with a variety of components at your disposal. The idea is to research the target company and understand what it is that they want to accomplish and build a proposal that meets their needs and extends their existing program to target NASCARs greatest asset... it's fan base. Understand the kinds of programs they are running and whether they have a brand launch or program coming up. Do they have a big product they need to launch or re-launch? Are they looking for new markets? Can you help them?

Next we'll talk about taking inventory of what you have to offer.

Writing a Sponsor Proposal: Introduction to a Multi-part Series

My next few posts will focus on what I think folks need to know to put together a basic proposal for sports sponsorship. I'll be discussing my thoughts on knowing your product, features and benefits, market research, segmentation analysis, press, writing, and even layout and graphics work. I'm excited about this series because I sit up at night, many nights, especially in November and December, thinking about different ways to hit up sponsors. Gathering mental notes while watching TV, thinking about cool campaigns, ... 

I am constantly trying to convey this to my cousin (-in-law), Brit Andersen, who is looking for a ride himself. It's hard for him to understand sometimes and I get so excited when I talk about these things that I don't make it any easier for him. As an example, I tell Brit that blogging is important and that he should blog weekly and this is what I get. His website though is at least a start considering his resources and all. He is sponsored by Citrix Systems which is also the company I work for, although I was never involved in helping him obtain them as a sponsor. That credit goes to my mother-in-law who is the receptionist at Citrix headquarters and a personal friend of the companies president. I have helped him develop his yearly proposal and status reports for the past 4 years which has been fun. Anyway, I'm very excited about this series and I hope my readers will be too.

I'm not gonna sit here all tell anyone that "I've written thousands of proposals so you'd better listen up". As I've previously stated though, I have been in marketing for over 5 years. I've worked at Citrix Systems my entire career working as a Field Marketing Manager, a Product Marketing Manager and now a Technical Marketing Manager. I've had the privilege of being involved in a number of challenging and unique projects from new product launch to product relaunches to segmentation, re-branding, and even repackaging of products. I've owned an entire product business (RE: Citrix Access Suite) which generated over $100M in 3 years (I had a lot of help, especially from Michael Richtberg). I've managed web sites, written business plans, white papers, brochures, presentations and go to market plans. I've managed campaigns, developed sales and technical tools, developed messaging and positioning... yada yada yada. Basically, my collective experience makes me an expert in this area. That said, I respectfully expect and request additional guidance and input on my advice from anyone reading this blog. Especially if you have experience in the areas of Motor Sports or Bull Riding which are both super sponsor-centric sports.

Anyway, on to our first lesson. See you at my next post.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Closed NASCAR Rule book

The other night I was trying to figure out where to get the rules for NASCAR. Searching on Google revealed nothing. Searching on NASCAR revealed nothing. Then I decided to search for other sports. Their rulebooks are easily found at the links below. In fact a simple search on "[Enter Sport Here] Rule Book" yielded these results in the first position of all search engines.
  • National Football League -
  • Major League Baseball -
  • National Hockey League -
  • National Basketball Association -
  • United Stated Golf Association -
Digging a little deeper and trying to find the rules for other racing series, I found none... but I did find this interesting blog that shares my perspective on the mysterious whereabouts of this essential tool (Full Throttle). In his post, the writer mentions that NASCAR provides the rulebook as a benefit of membership. The darn thing is worth $20 at the most. How valuable could it be as a component of membership. Now, I understand the importance of fee-based membership programs and making sure that you provide enough incentive to keep members renewing year after year, but a rule book? Please. It's one of the things that gets people to become members in the first place. And NASCAR could always say that you are just paying to play... period end of story. Nothing holds greater value than that.
In addition to helping members understand the "rules of the club" before they join, having a rule book available on-line does two things. First, it makes the sport more dimensional. Notice how racing has multiple dimensions - some people watch for the car, some for the driver, others really enjoy and respect the role of the pit crew. What about the officials? In baseball, there are people that watch the officials and keep official score just for fun. Just to see how close they are to what umpires have declared. The same happens in Football but it goes a step further in that you barely understand what the refs are saying over the reverb on the loud speakers unless you are watching at home. Understanding the hand signals is important there as well. So, by making the rule book harder to access NASCAR could actually be missing out on a fan base expansion opportunity. Making it easier to access online means more educated fans and more fans in general.
Second, by having a rule book available on-line at no charge, you open up the sport. Rookie drivers and teams that are only contemplating joining the sport will have a critical path drawn for them. The rule book is an important commitment point. As teams try to figure out if they have the resources to play, the rule book spells it out for them prior to making any financial commitment what so ever. They understand whether they even have the resources to play to the rules, much less get on the track and win.
BTW... while NASCAR says that you can get the rule book by being a member of the NASCAR club, I see no mention of it as a benefit of club membership on the press release when the club launched. Furthermore, a quick search on yielded a shadow post pointing to the press release which shows how unhappy people are with their membership. Now, if what NASCAR meant was that you needed to be a NASCAR member and not a NASCAR "club" member then that still doesn't make sense as on their very web site only drivers can be members. What if you are an aspiring crew chief or pit crew member? What if you are a marketing person like I am and want to peek at the rules to make sure you aren't breaking any? What if you are an adult trying to guide a young person through racing and want to make sure they adopt NASCAR-safe behavior to make their transition to the top easier? On NASCAR's very own site, they only list drivers as being able to become members but what about their supporters? That rule book is critical.
NASCAR has a lot of work to do to become an open sport. That rule book represents a missed opportunity and its lack of openness is a serious deterrent to newcomers. Still want a NASCAR rule book, write to NASCAR and get an application for membership (as a driver) and as part of your membership, they will send one to you. I am going to contact NASCAR to see what I can do about getting a copy. I will post it here even if I have to scan in every page or retype it myself. And I'll let you know how much of a pain in the rear it was to get one.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's PWAR about anyway?

OK folks, before we even begin here, I need you to understand that I am no racing expert. I am a racing fan. I don't have a world of experience in the sport but I do have a lot of experience in marketing. I started this blog because my wife's cousin wants to get into racing but I think he's been going at it in the wrong way for a very very long time. It's been a noble little effort on the part of his family though. However, I'll be the first to tell you that he and his father/car owner/coach/././. are missing out on many opportunities to get their names out there because they are

a) very old school
b) into cars and driving, not motor sports as in the community of auto racing
c) they are allergic to technology
d) they think money comes for free

and finally...

e) good people that can help are hard to come by.

That last one is the other reason I started this blog. It's tough for rookie drivers to get sponsors and get a ride. It's tough for racers and their teams to get connected to the people with the money. Why? Racing is a G.O.B. (Good Ole Boy) Sport. Either you're in or you're not. A lucky few get their chance at the big show but many many more struggle their whole lives to penetrate the inner circle. The questions that I would like this blog to answer are:

  • Why can't people get into the inner circle of racing faster?
  • What does it take to get sponsorship (and keep it)?
  • What things can be done to increase visibility of drivers seeking rides?
  • What do racing teams need to think about as they move up through the ranks in racing?
  • How can rookie's get connected to reputable agents?
  • How can sponsors get connected to serious drivers that are capable of representing their brand?

Basically, all of the questions that scare the be-jesus out of parents as they see the costs of helping their kids realize their dream of racing go up and up. The same questions that drivers and teams have. The things that many people think need to be done but which no-one really gives you a straight answer. Hopefully, over time, this blog will become a community of folks thinking and working together on ideas that can work for everyone trying to make it big.

Thanks for listening and if you think this blog is a good thing let me know. If you want to start a dialogue on ideas for moving through the levels, lets put our heads together. I'd love to teach someone who is willing how they can use technology to do a lot of the things that agents are paid to do but sometimes don't (at least not until you're in the big time).

See you in the blogosphere.