motorsports + sponsorship

© 2007 Michael Chinnici  Laguna Seca, CA

bring your brand to the head of the pack

Everything you need to know to win big in motorsport marketing


Today, motorsports is regarded as a powerful marketing media. A smart, well-placed partnership with a team, driver, series, or single race event can provide clear marketing opportunities and produce tangible marketing results for your business and your brand. The most significant benefits are detailed below in no particular order.

Creating Awareness & Exposure

As a stand alone benefit, brand exposure is useful; but to be as effective as possible, it should only be the start of an on-going marketing campaign. Sports car racing is a high profile way to gain positive exposure both at and away from the race track. Brand identification opportunities within a team will vary, but will usually depend upon your objectives and investment. Exposure will then be directed to the various media outlets including television, radio, written publications, internet, and at-race promotions with the spectator audience.

Enhancing your Image

Partnering with prestigious, world-class brands such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin or Corvette will help build, develop and enhance your public image. Through partnership with one of these manufacturers, your company will become associated with the qualities, values and attributes of the sport and team. Your partnership will also become associated with the images of other partners of the team, series or driver. You will then be able to use an enhanced public image in product advertising and promotions. A few of the buzz words to describe this elite form of sports car racing are: intense, sophisticated, dynamic, leading edge, authentic, exotic and romantic.


Your company should use your association with a racing team, driver or series in advertising campaigns. Your partnership with one of these elite race teams can form the basis of a new media campaign or can be integrated into existing campaigns. Corporate racing partnerships can be used in all advertising media and need not be restricted to racing-related outlets. With the scope of sports car racing, and because the team drivers will often be from different countries, your campaigns can be run nationally or internationally using the team and drivers as spokespersons. A racing partnership can also provide your company with ready-made advertising content for campaigns— this can help cut conventional media production costs.

Immersive Hospitality

Entertaining your guests in front of the most revered brands in motorsports is one of the best ways to take advantage of a racing partnership. In some cases, hospitality may be the basis for a partnership program. Partnership with a team or driver can give your guests an unprecedented level of access to the race, team and drivers and deliver a memorable experience. Providing direct access to the team and drivers will build interest and an emotional tie with your guests. This will increase their loyalty to your company. Most other sports cannot offer the level of access and involvement that motorsports can.

The Right Audience

Fan demographics should play a key role in determining which racing series, team or driver you choose to partner. Fans of world-class sports car racing provide an ideal target market for companies that are looking for an affluent, educated and successful consumer. Fans and spectators are extremely loyal to the companies and brands that support their favorite teams and drivers.  This presents an exceptional opportunity to present your brand to a receptive consumer fan base.

B2B Opportunities

There are three standard ways that a racing partnership can lead to new business opportunities for your company. First, racing can be the vehicle for combined sponsorship and promotional activities between business partners. This concept has really taken off in recent years as sponsors look to provide more tangible quantification for the return of their sponsorship investment. Secondly, if a dynamic relationship like this does not already exist, racing can provide an ideal environment to form a commercial or technical partnership. Lastly, there is the new business that can be generated directly as a result of your partnership program and related advertising campaigns.


A sports car partnership will send a different message to the consumer than conventional advertising. The perception is that any company can purchase conventional media advertising, but only the elite companies can be involved in sponsorship. This reason alone is a good reason to position your company with the premier marques involved in sports car racing.

Media Enhancement

Sports car racing will provide your company with an ideal opportunity to influence the media in your favor. Generally, the media are sympathetic to sports and those that are involved or associated with sports. Your company should also explore the opportunity to create dedicated media campaigns and promotions centered on the racing partnership to increase your level of positive media exposure.


It is not uncommon to use racing partnerships as the basis for particular sales promotions. This can include promotions at the point of sale, employee pride campaigns, displays, social and viral marketing, targeted marketing, merchandising, conferences or exhibitions and various printed materials.

Team Endorsement

Many different industries can benefit from the endorsement of a professional athlete. Technical and commercial endorsements are commonplace in the racing industry today using the drivers and team to communicate a positive message to consumers. Racing fans and spectators are the most brand loyal of any sports fan and are extremely knowledgeable about the products and services used in the sport by the teams, drivers and series. Drivers are often seen as an ambassador of the sport and provide your company with the perfect statement of credibility for your brand or service.

Team Appearances

Exotic sports and grand touring racing cars attract loads of attention whenever they make public appearances. It would be a good idea to capitalize upon the popularity of the cars and drivers by arranging public appearances as part of your promotional activities both at and away from the race.

Sponsoring in Motorsports

Motorsports offers numerous opportunities for your company to be involved. You must decide which option is best for you and which option best meets your marketing objectives.

Sponsoring a Team

The most common form of racing sponsorship is to partner with an individual team or car. Race teams will look for financial and technical sponsors for their team. In general, teams will have numerous sponsors supporting the team at different levels with one major financial supporter and secondary sponsors providing less support. There are also technical and supply partners that provide products, services and expertise to the team in return for marketing benefits. The top reason to sponsor a team is that your company is associated with the entire team, including drivers and other partners, all the time!

Sponsoring a Driver

Sponsoring a driver is a very effective form of sponsorship as the driver immediately becomes a part of your company and can be regarded as an ambassador. Although this can be accomplished through team sponsorship, specific agreements with a driver can take your relationship to the next level. In sports car racing, it is very common for drivers to have their own sponsors and take them to the team they wish to drive for.

Sponsoring a Race

If your company’s objective is to make a local impact in the market place where the race will take place then sponsoring a race is a viable option. Although there is no tie to a particular team or driver, and the race is a one off event, it is a good idea to make use of the massive amounts of advertising (track signage and naming rights you will receive at the circuit and on television) and the hospitality.

Sponsoring A Series

Racing series have official sponsors and partners. In most cases there is an overall series sponsor with naming and title rights and then several category sponsors such as the official watch and timekeeper, official tire manufacturer, or fuel, etc. In most cases, your involvement at this level should be considered in addition to your involvement with a team or driver.

Getting Started

Your company can both contact and arrange a partnership directly with team or driver, etc. or you can use a specialist to act on your behalf.

Getting the Right Help

It will be a very time consuming process for your company to directly approach a team, driver, or sanctioning body and it also requires a fundamental knowledge of motorsports and that particular series. With this in mind, many potential sponsors decide to use a specialist consultancy such as Red Octopus Motorsports Marketing.

Benefits of using Red Octopus

The benefits of using Red Octopus Motorsports Marketing to arrange your world-class sponsorship are clear. Combing our talents gives you a representative with the appropriate level of knowledge within the racing industry with an understanding of the best opportunities available and the experience of marketing and advertising that can evaluate these opportunities against your set of objectives and ensure you confirm a return on investment while the team is also satisfied. Combined we will also undertake the marketing activities that are required to properly support the sponsorship.

Evaluating World Class Sponsorship Opportunities

There are numerous factors that you need to consider when evaluating sponsorship opportunities. Most if not all of these factors should form the basis of your sponsorship objectives.

Fan Demographics

Different racing series are followed by different demographic groups. It is often easy to tell which racing series is followed by which group based upon the types of brands sponsoring in a series. For example, it is safe to assume that Formula One has a higher percentage of professional, above average income, and technical fans than does NASCAR.

National vs. International

Although this would seem to be an obvious consideration, many potential sponsors overlook this factor. It is important to also recognize that national or international not only refers to where the events will take place, but also where there is substantial media exposure of the event.

Media Coverage

One of the most important aspects of any sponsorship is the level of media exposure your company will receive. Although media exposure is dominated by television, other mediums can also provide very valuable and often, more intimate exposure. The level of media exposure will have a direct bearing on the investment of your sponsorship.


Enhancing or maintaining your image should be closely related to the demographics of the series and the image the series reflects. For example, partnering with one of the automotive brands, teams or drivers that compete in world class sports car racing will put you in a sophisticated, leading edge, high-tech, exotic and romantic arena.


The initial investment should be one of the top priorities when considering which series and which team to become involved with. There is an obvious relationship between the level of investment and benefits that will be available to you. It is important, however, that you receive the best value for your investment which Red Octopus Motorsports Marketing will ensure.

Marketing Initiatives

All racing series offer opportunities to build marketing campaigns around a sponsorship. However, in series’ such as F1 and NASCAR where the investments are extremely high, it also quite regimented. This means if you plan to execute an initiative directly involving the team but it is not in the contract then it most likely will not happen. Sports car teams are not quite this strict and offer a wide degree of freedom to implement marketing initiatives and campaigns including those involving the team.


In recent years, racing has become an important platform for business to business opportunities and plays a major role in some company’s selection of a particular racing series. For example, Federal Express became involved in Formula One to seek new business relationships with many of the top tier companies involved in Formula One as competitors, suppliers and sponsors. SunTrust Bank did the same in the Grand Am Rolex Series with the intention of providing team financing. Today, they support 80-90% of the teams.

Is Motorsport Marketing For You?

There are many industries and companies that racing may not be appropriate for. Traditionally airline companies have not flocked to racing due to the perceived lack of safety. However, these types of dynamics are changing as certain series have high levels of business executives and travel decision makers. And as the opportunity for team travel and cargo opportunities arise they are beginning to rethink this. Before you answer ‘no’ to this question, let us examine all the factors involved.

Sponsorship Objectives

Your objectives are the key to your decision of which team, driver, or series you will sponsor. Crystal clear objectives need to be set before activating a sponsorship and they should also be understood by the team, driver, or series that you choose to partner with. The marketing of the racing program can then be tailored to meet your objectives. The most common objectives among motorsports sponsors are: increase company awareness, improve company image, pursue B2B opportunities, provide a forum for corporate hospitality, create a corporate rallying point and increase long term sales.

Measuring Sponsorship Effectiveness

Constantly measuring the effectiveness of your sponsorship is an integral part of the process. The best way to do this is by comparing it to the objectives previously set. Measurement can also be done through market research to determine media exposure, sales of a particular brand that was advertised through the sponsorship or public opinion polls.


There are many misconceptions in the motorsports sponsorship industry. Most of these you have heard and there are simple explanations as to why they are not true.

Sponsorship can only be successful if you win on the track

A sponsorship program should be totally independent of the results on the track; any sponsorship that is not is asking for disaster. Regardless of the team or drivers, on any given race day, your team has a 1:20-50 chance of winning depending on the series; truly these are not good odds. With this in mind a sponsorship marketing program has to stand up using its own backbone and has to be independent of performance and deeper than just racing. The reality is because of the odds previously mentioned, most sponsors are not successful on the track, yet their sponsorship programs are dynamite. Likewise, success on the track is no guarantee to success off the track. If a team wins every race the marketing benefits can only be realized is there if a proper program in place to capitalize on them.

Sponsorship is expensive

Your sponsorship investment has to be compared to a number of criteria including your objectives and benefits. A good sponsorship should represent value for the money. For example, if your sponsorship investment is $3,000,000 but you derive a 20:1 return, was it expensive?

Sponsorship is for the big companies

Whether a world class sponsorship is suitable for your business depends upon your objectives and criteria as mentioned previously. Le Mans may not be for your small business; however there are many viable options that are local and even amateur that may easily meet your needs. The key is to tailor the program to meet your needs.

Motorsports does not provide a good return on investment

If a sponsorship program is properly activated, it can provide an even better return than that of conventional marketing and advertising mediums. Again, the return must be compared to your objectives.

The effect of sponsorship is not quantifiable

Analyzing the effectiveness of a sponsorship, at times, can be quite subjective if it is not measured against your original objectives. Although one must remember that every marketing medium, including conventional television advertising, and especially social marketing is subjective and difficult to clearly quantify.

Michael Chinnici, Founder & CEO of Red Octopus, is passionate about

motorsports and has personally sponsored race cars in Grand Am, Nascar,

Formula Ford, European GT and Arca Remax. As Michael puts it,

“by experiencing both it’s joys and it’s disappointments, we get that much

closer to understanding the business and helping our clients decide on

what type of sponsorship is best for them. Fortunately for us, we experienced

an unusually high percentage of wins and poles. Call us lucky.”

Michael has attended Formula One races in Canada, United States, Italy and Monaco. Moto GP in Spain. The 24 Hours of Spa, Nascar, CART, Indy and

other open wheel and road racing series’ throughout North America. He is

also an accredited FIA GT, Grand AM and Moto GP motorsports photographer.

If you are considering Motorsports Sponsorship and Marketing, or interested in learning more about it, please contact Michael Chinnici.

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