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Racer and Dealer Sponsorship Must Be a Two-Way Street

You’re better to have no racers than the wrong racers.

You’ve decided to sponsor a few local riders. There’s a motocross track nearby as well as a very twisty paved track and lots of off-road racing as well. I’m sure I’m not alone in having people of all ages wanting me to sponsor them. Usually, it’s someone who has done well locally — or thinks he or she will do well soon.

Sometimes it seems like there’s a steady stream of people wanting me to either help them out with costs or give them a full ride. What most riders don’t seem to understand is sponsorship must be a two-way street. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone tell me that if I give them huge discounts on parts, they will put my stickers on their bikes.

The first thing I do is ask for a resume from potential riders. That seems to be a complete surprise to them. They expect me to just give them money or parts without knowing who they are or what they have accomplished. Usually, I already have a good idea which riders I would like to support, but you never know who’ll be the next Valentino Rossi or Jeremy McGrath.

This request of a resume usually deflects the majority of the potential sponsored riders. The few who do bring in resumes have passed the first hurdle. Often, however, they have no idea what a resume is. Sometimes it’s just a list of races they have come third in — not necessarily who I’m looking for.

The ones who have promise, I note the names, and when I’m at the track, I search them out. I learn a lot about them by just staying in the background and watching behavior. I will watch them racing, but that’s not necessarily the most important part of the equation. Racing and performing well, in a sportsman-like fashion, is one of the biggest things I look for.

I’m not looking for someone who is too aggressive. By that I mean, does the person race fairly? I want someone who has an eye on the win, not someone who wants others to fail. The racer’s technique should be good, and having skill is great, but it’s not everything.

The most important thing is how this person is regarded at the track. Do the other riders look up to him or her? Does the potential sponsored rider freely give out advice and congratulations? Or does everyone stay away from this racer when he or she is in the pits because that person growls at everyone? I want the former rider: the one who people like, and no matter how that person does on the track, is still open and welcoming. Not the guy who throws a chair after a poor race result.

I want the racer who is going to be a mentor. The person who will give my shop good representation. The one who brings people to my shop that say, “Betty (or Bob) sent me!” That’s who I want!

Quite a while back, there was a local racer who all the dealers wanted to race for them. He was a fast rider who won a lot of races. He came to me because he liked the brand we carried. I told him what I was looking for. He told me he just wanted to race and wasn’t comfortable doing the rest of the things that I would require. I wished him well.

Later, I asked the dealer who did eventually sponsor him how it was going. He just rolled his eyes and told me that the only time he heard from or about him was when he wanted something. No one ever mentioned his name at the shop — ever. That’s definitely not the rider I would want to sponsor.

My favorite racer was an off-road rider. He didn’t always finish in the top five, but he did well. What he was great at was being an amazing ambassador for the shop. He helped other racers. He gave great advice. More importantly, it seemed that every day I heard someone say, “Bob sent me!”

You can bet that I helped Bob out as much as I could. He was amazing. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of Bobs out there. You have to go out and find them. It’s hard work, but it is important. You just have to find the right one. That’s the hard part. But with a little digging, you’ll find that person. Just remember: You’re better to have no racers than the wrong racers.

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