December 15, 2021

Strategy as a Service in Motorsports

Samuel Pawlak

Just about all of us in motorsport considers race strategy to be an absolutely vital component to winning on track. But are we applying that same strategic rigor and fine detail to our businesses or racing team? And if not, how can we?

Now, I could write a novel on the concept of strategy and its value, but for the sake of delivering content that won’t take more than 5 minutes of your time to read, we’re keeping this as high level as possible while still diving into important aspects when necessary.

The Value in Having a Strategy Session

What’s strategy used for in the marketing and design realm anyway? It’s something I’m guessing you’ve seen being offered as a service by marketing agencies or consultants in the space before. In short, strategy as a service is ultimately a long form discussion between an agency and their client wherein the agency has prepared a healthy amount questions that will allow them to go extremely in depth with the conversation in order to understand and determine how best to reach the client’s goals.

Couldn’t I do this myself you may ask? Yes, but not to the same level. The clear and unobstructed outside perspective brought to the table by an external entity is a large factor in what makes strategy sessions so valuable. So much so that even Ikoniqa itself needs to consult with outside agencies too. We all become so ingrained in our businesses that we tend to lose sight of what actually needs attention vs what we think needs attention or development.  

Learning & Deploying Strategy with your Sponsors & Partners

What’s great about strategy is that unlike most marketing and design services, it doesn’t require any hardware, software, or a degree, etc. It can most certainly be learned in a relatively short period. However, just like racing, you can study onboard footage all you’d like before hitting the track, but until you turn those first laps behind the wheel, you will not have truly learned anything (i.e. the difference between understanding something and knowing something for certain). The same goes for consulting, it takes a lot of practice in the field before it’s something you become highly competent at.

Once you are competent at deploying and holding strategy sessions, it’s a service I highly recommend you offer to your sponsors and partners. Here’s why…

Having conversed with dozens of teams and drivers, an extremely common theme among them as it pertains to sponsoring and partnering with businesses to further their racing endeavors is the idea that it’s best to offer a small selection of pre-made sponsorship packages for the prospective sponsor to choose from. I like to call this the “Corporate Luncheon” approach – everything is premade, and you’ve only got maybe 3-4 options, so choose wisely.  While this simplified approach still attracts and sells some businesses, it’s also flawed in multiple ways.

By offering premade packages, you’re trusting not only that the prospective sponsor will choose the best option for them, but also that you’re pre-packaged offering will actually achieve their intended goals (if they’ve stated one, which hopefully they have). This is why I’m personally not a fan of this method, and instead would suggest you deploy something more akin to what I would call the “Personal Chef” approach.

If you have a business that’s potentially interested in sponsoring you or your team, offer first and foremost to have a strategy call with them (you can even refer to this as just an introductory call if you’d like). There’s no commitment, it’s not a sales call where you’re looking to “close a deal”, and there’s no hidden intentions here. The goal is to simply understand their business, their needs, why motorsports, why you, what their goals are, etc. If after this discussion it appears they might be a great fit, you can move on to discuss how best to execute on their goals. Your job is to bring clarity, as an expert within motorsports, to a business that may not know how best to navigate the space.

By offering strategy first before sponsorship itself is actually discussed, you achieve following:

First, it establishes that you actually have their best interests in mind, and not your own racing or race team interests.

Secondly, you become their “motorsports in” to the industry, and a person they can trust moving forward, regardless of whether or not they decided to partner with you or your team. And building those types of relationships with marketing teams outside of motorsports is one of the most beneficial things a team or driver can do, as those relationships can turn into sponsorship longer term.

And lastly, you’re actually helping them determine if motorsports sponsorship is right for them, and if it is, how best to deploy their capital into the sport such that they can truly meet their intended goals.

Now, everything we just mentioned above is what we already do. However, it’s my belief that every team, driver, rider, or business in motorsports acquire these skills at some level. Not only will it benefit your own endeavors, but it will also help you find and work with sponsors on a much longer-term basis and on a much deeper level.

There is one last aspect that must be mentioned, and it’s probably the hardest thing for any team or racer to do. You need to be okay saying “No” to a potential sponsor if you’ve determined that you’re either not the best fit for their needs, or if their goals simply don’t align with what you’re capable of offering as a vehicle to reach those goals. I know for some that sounds impossible, but you wonder why the turnover rate in motorsports sponsorship is so high, well there’s your answer. But for every “no”, you make room for a much more suitable “yes”.

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