Sponsoring Drivers With Sponsor Drivers ~ Motorsports Marketing
As the hopes of summer begin to step aside for the realities of fall, racing fans begin to see a sad sight at their local tracks. A lot of those race cars that were new and bright at the start of the season, are now battered and feature something that wasn't even a consideration back in April, a for sale sign hanging on the side. Sure, some might be selling because they plan to move to a different class but more often than not, those cars are for sale because the car owners have lost the race against time in finding money and for a racer, that's the worst loss to suffer. An old idiom asks, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." A race fan might ask, "How do you find sponsorship for all those race teams?" Melissa Collins and Melinda Sewell hope to provide that answer; one team at a time.
Melissa is from eastern Kentucky. She and her husband began visiting their local short tracks in 1983. Ten years later, an emergency trip to the emergency room revealed she had three tumors which needed to be removed. She was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. She dealt with the symptoms associated with Crohn's, a disease which has no cure, until 2003. That's when her symptoms became so overwhelming, she was forced to quit her job of eleven years as a school secretary. Instead of bemoaning her health, she credits her love of racing for helping her overcoming her depression about her physical condition. Then in 2003, she discovered the social media outlet Twitter and slowly began to turn her own negative situation into something positive for others, specifically for race car drivers.
"After a year or so (on Twitter) I became friends with a struggling NASCAR driver's wife. I became concerned about their struggles to race each week. The team needed to gain followers to attract a certain sponsor, so the driver offered hot passes to a race if he got to that number of followers. I made a deal with him. If I got him to 10,000 followers before a week was over, he'd give me a hot pass to Bristol. He agreed and I got him those followers. Not only did I have the best time at Bristol ever, I felt useful again. I had helped that driver get the followers and the sponsor he needed to race so I thought, why not help another?"
After that initial success, Melissa created the Twitter account, @Sponsor_Drivers. She began to sent tweets to companies with the hope of convincing at least some of them to consider marketing in motorsports. Her efforts aren't focused on just the national touring series. She is willing to help any driver in any division from anywhere in the country find sponsorship. As Melissa recalls, "At that time, I didn't have any drivers I was helping but just wanted them (the companies) to know that marketing in motorsports was affordable. Days passed and drivers started asking me to help them personally. I started a spreadsheet of drivers to help me keep track of them all. I would get replies from companies and send them my list of drivers to review. If they were interested in sponsoring one, they would contact me for details."
Early in 2014, she teamed with Melinda Sewell after Melinda worked with her to secure sponsorship for Darrell Harr before the Xfinity Series race in Las Vegas. The relationship has grown to a partnership focused on helping drivers and sponsors connect. "Melinda licensed us as a nonprofit, Sponsor Drivers Motorsports Marketing. We now have over 140 drivers that we help" Melissa says. They now provide decals to all the drivers they help which help give their organization even more exposure at race tracks. Last year, the ladies were able to attract funding for 5 race teams at various levels. Melissa states that so far this year, they've been able to find sponsors for 8. Among those successes this year are the season long partnership of Carl Long Motorsports in the Xfinity Series and Work Wear USA. More recently the brought Newton KOA Campground and Camping World Truck Series driver Ryan Ellis together for the Kansas race. They also have an upcoming announcement to make with Ellis, as they've succeeded in their efforts to find him a sponsor for the upcoming race at Bristol.
There is a lot of parts involved in the process of what these ladies do and race fans can certainly play a large part in it. When asked how many drivers have been helped, Melissa says, "Helped is a hard thing to count. We help them all get followers, get their names out there by tweeting and retweeting posts for them. We retweet any Go Fund Me campaigns they start. We do this for free to both the driver and the companies, so if a driver gets free publicity and eventually, a sponsor and it costs them nothing, then it was worth our time."
Race fans and certainly businesses, can follow the twitter account and visit their website at sponsordriversmm.com. Fans can also donate to drivers either directly or if the driver has one, through a Go Fund Me account. Believe it or not, there are drivers seeking as little as $5 from fans. The rewards are many. Besides knowing you're helping out drivers and cars stay on the track, sponsordriversmm.com will gladly list you on their website along with others who help teams. Not only will the M&M girls thank you through Twitter but those drivers show their appreciation through social media as well. It brings a sense of satisfaction when drivers you have personally helped, send you updates on a Friday or Saturday night about how their races went that evening. It's often said that the racing world is one big community. The relationship between @Sponsor_Drivers, the racers, fans and supporters have become a living example of how true that is. You can just about wager that these ladies have a driver on their list who is racing at a track near you. What could be better as a race fan than helping a driver in your own part of the country?
Melissa is quick to caution drivers, they should be realistic when contacting Sponsor Drivers. She states, "Countless drivers come to us expecting miracles. We add them to our list and some stay loyal to our efforts. Some stop following and helping us retweet our posts, only because they have to put forth a small effort to make things happen. We are not miracle workers. We don't get them a sponsor as soon as they would like. The drivers on our list are dedicated to making their dreams come true."
When asked about some of the most satisfying results she's experienced through her efforts, Melissa responds, "Every sponsor we get is a proud moment, not just for us but for the race fan followers that helped us get the word out. They should feel extremely proud that they made that happen. I think I will never be satisfied until my drivers list is completely filled with sponsorships." As to what fans can do to help, she says, "I would love to see more race fans help us out and get more followers that want to help contact companies for the drivers, even if it's not one of our drivers. They could locate a local driver in their area and help them find the marketing partners they need to race each week. It only takes one person to make a difference."
Not only can that happen, it needs to happen. Whether you are an individual race fan or a small business owner, Melissa and Mel have or can find a driver in your area that you can help. Follow them on Twitter, visit their website. The NASCAR world likes to talk about how loyal fans are to businesses who advertise in our sport. I firmly believe that same loyalty exists at the local level. If you own a business, contact these ladies to find out how you can succeed by helping someone else succeed. That's exactly what Melissa did when she began this effort and she's proof that it works. Think of how much better a car on that track would look with your name on it. If nothing else, if enough fans step out and become involved in the Sponsor Drivers effort, hopefully we won't see too many more for sale signs on the sides of cars.