February, that time of year when we see the same thing from young drivers and parents in Asia- same social media posts, same discussions, same requests, same desperation- to find sponsorship for the new season.
It’s almost as if young race drivers and their parents think that there’s a specific time of year that corporations all of a sudden turn into Automatic Teller Machines and all they have to do is send out one hundred requests hoping that one will be answered, for the right price.
The most important thing that drivers need to understand where they’re going wrong is that they’re asking for a sponsorship and not a partnership.
Sponsorship is more of a one-time donation from a company or person, without them having to participate too much, if at all, during the driver’s season. You could even say it’s just a way for a company to finance “some kid’s” hobby of going racing for that one year. And companies don’t want to just give money away for someone to get their adrenaline rush.
If you ask for a partnership, or as I like to say- strategic partnership- then you’re on your way to developing a proper career in motorsport. A strategic partnership involves a mutually beneficial business development strategy that helps the partner achieve their business objectives, and the driver becoming more hands-on in helping to build that brand over a long period of time.
I find it amazing, and quite aggravating each January and February that there are too many talented young drivers in Asia who go through the unnecessary stress this time of year, panicking to find funding for their upcoming season. And too many drivers who unfortunately have to sit out the season because of not finding money in time. All because they are thinking short term, and not long term.
Forming long-term partnerships isn’t easy, and it will usually take you a year or slightly more to develop them. And it will sometimes seem a lot of work for no immediate financial reward, which is what you’re looking for because you’ve left it too late. It can be a big negative drain on your ambition and passion. But it’s all worth it in the long run, especially if you want a solid foundation on which to build your career. If you need to sit out this season, take the positive out of that- you can spend more time and effort into forming a strong partnership during the year, ready to burst onto the scene next year.
Just because you’re not racing this year, doesn’t mean you won’t have anything positive to offer a partner for the next several years. It will do you good to go back to the drawing board and think harder about where you want your career to go and what you will be able to offer a partner.
You would be amazed at how many partnerships we see between companies and drivers that don’t seem like a good fit on the outside for some kind of reason- either because of lack of results, or completely different industries. But looking deeper into how that driver has packaged themselves and how they are helping that company to achieve their business objectives over at least a three-year period, and you fully understand why they are a perfect match.
If you want a career as a racing driver, then you need to operate like a business. You need multi-year partnerships. Not a once-off donation.