As our Pro Touring (and Pro Street for you straightliners) hobby has grown and prospered, so have the costs of what it takes to get your build up to speed and around that corner. Fun and fast costs money...lots of it if you want to be in the top percentile of any competition group. And with that, one of the many questions I get asked about is sponsorship...and how to get some!
Yes. That's right...free parts! For many, this seems like an aftermarket goodie smorgasbord where we can pick and choose what we want, which companies we convince to give us stuff, and then how well we can promote their products and "sell" them to others that are coming up behind us with their own builds. The majority of these companies recognize talent. They recognize it in spades, too, as a key for any successful company is aligning themselves with people who are a visible medium that get their stuff out there, who compete and promote their cars often, are personable and approachable, give quality feedback to the company whose products they use, and are willing to share their knowledge with any and all who ask. Notice in all of this I never mentioned the word "win." True, an aftermarket company isn't going to back a real "no-hoper" but winning is not a key criteria when a company takes their magic wand and graces someone's Camaro with it.
So now you know what a company is looking for, right? That said, here are some examples of how to really screw the pooch and do it wrong.
1) Get on the Internet and be an ass. Post negative stuff about events, parts, people, and cars, and do it often. And when you do this, work off of tenth-hand information so what you're saying is completely accurate. Oh, and when criticized, make sure to come back with really stupid comments that are witty only to yourself. We all know what's said on the Internet is true, right? Even if it's from trolls that talk big yet walk small and are a permanent fixture on most everyone's "ignore" list.
2) When you lose (and you will), blame your sponsor's product and do this very loud so everyone in a 40-mile radius can hear you. Whether it's tires, suspension, an engine, or even an entire car, get that blame off your chest as that slow time is never your fault.
3) Take the parts you're given, yank 'em off the car, and sell them immediately after the story, event, or whatever is done and put to bed. Can't say much more about this other than you'll be a "one-shot wonder" and never, ever be considered for anything resembling a sponsorship again.
4) Ask for parts and accept them...and then not use them on the car they were designated for or for that magazine install article they were planned for. Do this enough and it will surely guarantee you'll be invisible to any company looking for representation.
5) Present your sponsor with your itemized event expenses. This has the best effect when done in conjunction with complaints about their product or excuses why you didn't win.
6) Asking for sponsorship when all your car's ever won is the Jackstand class, and when you're shown the door, get really, really mad. An FYI here...companies want to take a look at you and your car first. Spend your hard-earned dollars buying parts and installing all that goodness, and then compete before asking a company to spend their dollars on you!
7) "My sponsor's products are the bomb and yours suck!" Again, Internet reach is the absolute best for throwing it down so whenever anyone asks about stuff that you're not using, make sure to fry it good.
8) Make sure you're a real pest. Plant your butt in your sponsor's booth and slam other competitors' cars and products. Loudly mention how much you spent to get to the event. Eat their food and drink. Leave your stuff in their trailer, trash on countertops, spit on their carpet, and mash your used chewing gum under and in their displays. They love this. Especially when they find the gum!
9) And never be available for interviews, to give ridealongs, media, or any of other responsibilities and duties that come with "free parts." Seriously, you're a celebrity and they should be honored to have you run their junk.
As you can see, sponsorship is a two-way street. A company that even considers you wants their product to be first in your mind as well as theirs. They want loyalty to the brand and honesty when things go awry (and they will, too). Be straightforward and loyal, try to win but be convincingly respectful when you lose (and you will), and you'll be on target for that next wave of the magic wand.