Plain Thoughts Blog

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Gentlemen… Start your sponsorship proposals!

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By peterurban - August 6th, 2009

Sponsorship strategy? Check.
Customer relationship management? Check.
Social networking initiative? Check.
Fireproof racing suit? Check.

racecarAs the dust settles on another successful Rexall Edmonton Indy, its attendees are left to nurse hangovers and sunburns while its promoters are left to reflect on the successes and fallbacks of the event. While the race draws annual crowds of well over 150,000 people, the Edmonton portion of the Indy circuit continually reports losses. Why is this? The event is nearly sold out every year, corporate support is strong, thousands flock to the city to attend, yet the race is predicted to lose anywhere between 1-3 million dollars. With low sponsorship numbers and even lower television ratings, what can promoters do to ensure the race continues in Alberta’s capital city? I don’t know the answer (if I did I would have a drastically different job title) but I think a place they could start is by learning from their drivers.

Over the Indy weekend I had the pleasure to spend some time with Canadian driver Alex Tagliani behind the scenes while he prepared for the race and I was absolutely blown away by how hard these athletes work off the track to make sure they still have a ride on it. The economic downturn has hit auto racing, a sponsorship dependent activity, perhaps the hardest of any North American sport and with less money to go around, drivers that become complacent have found themselves without a team to race for. Tagliani, who drives for a small race team, has had to rethink the way he goes about securing sponsorship and think of new, more cost effective ways of drumming up publicity and funding. So much so, that in a July 20 Edmonton Journal article Tagliani “estimates he’s spending about 90 per cent of his time raising money, and just 10 per cent driving.”Be it utilizing social media to boost attention, tireless work with clients and sponsors, or spending weeks ahead attending local festivals and contests, Tagliani not only increased his chances of finding a full time racing team next season but also created new racing fans, which benefits the entire sport.

racecar-detailLike any business, the Indy’s success depends on the performance of the entire crew. With shrinking sponsorship streams the entire industry must enter the pits, get retuned, and strategize for the laps ahead. On that note, I’ll wave the checkered flag on this string of puns and leave the forum open for discussion. What else can the Indy, or any business for that matter, learn from the way drivers secure their own sponsorship and deal with partners, clients, and supporters?

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