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Thread: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

  1. #1
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    Default Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Reality is a bitch that does not want us to have any fun.

    I come from a corporate sponsorship background as a former VP of marketing and sales.
    While we would all like to see a healthy pile of cash for purses available to draw more unlimited aircraft into the game, I don't ever see it happening at the level required. There are two reasons corporations and individuals sponsor events;

    1. An individual or corporation with deep pockets has a soft spot for the event, and they support it with sponsorship cash or services. Think about the "dream" money a Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Jay Leno level celebrity might throw at the event...or if the owner of Coca Cola was an air race fan or participant. In this case R.O.I. , “return on investment” is not the primary reason for the sponsorship.

    2. Corporations will sponsor events to promote their product or service to an events audience. This is done generally for purely positive financial or "goodwill" promotional reasons. Think local casinos/hotels, Aviation manufacturers, Champion, Brietling, Stihl, etc.... For it to make economic sense to support any event, the “cost per contact” must be appropriate to the perceived R.O.I. The air racing community and fan base is pretty darn small. So this makes air racing sponsorship a hard sell to a board of directors who are beholden to stockholders at the end of the day.

    And then to the elephant-in-the-hanger few are willing to speak about, Air racing has an extreme element of danger to it. There are now decades of statistics on just how dangerous air racing is. This is the major roadblock to high level corporate sponsorship in my humble opinion, as I don’t have a clue how to overcome the sh!t storm created by accidents and the inevitable resultant negative press and public perception associated with any major accident. For a major corporation to be willing to accept that calculated risk in 2018 and beyond, is, well, risky.

    Agree, disagree, delete it if this offends you, but truth is truth, and sometimes it hurts.
    My name is Glen Merritt. '71 S.D.1000, '85-'91,'95,'97-'99,'02,'04,'06,'08,'10,'13,'14 NCAR.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Complete agreement here. I work in a niche industry. Every show or event touching my market wants me as a sponsor. However, the amount of sponsorship we provide is proportional to the demise of our business. By which I mean, I could easily put myself out of business for the "honor and ego boost" of being a title sponsor. When we put up real money (I'm talking only $5-15k here) it's a marketing exercise based on love of the hobby. ROI? Close to zero. Like I said, we do it for love of the toys, not the money.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Quote Originally Posted by planecrazy2 View Post
    <snip/>
    And then to the elephant-in-the-hanger few are willing to speak about, Air racing has an extreme element of danger to it. There are now decades of statistics on just how dangerous air racing is. This is the major roadblock to high level corporate sponsorship in my humble opinion, as I don’t have a clue how to overcome the sh!t storm created by accidents and the inevitable resultant negative press and public perception associated with any major accident. For a major corporation to be willing to accept that calculated risk in 2018 and beyond, is, well, risky.

    Agree, disagree, delete it if this offends you, but truth is truth, and sometimes it hurts.
    I agree that it is likely a problem for potential sponsorship partners, but you might remember back in 2011 how we all marveled at how much more dangerous auto and motorcycle racing is than our sport! MANY people in and out of the participant level have been killed and injured, many more than our sport has EVER injured.

    Sure, on the surface, it looks really bad.... but, again, not nearly as dangerous as those sports which, by the way, flourish with extremely sponsor partners...

    Biggest problem for our sport, IMHO, is the FAA and the fact that air racing accidents are treated in the same way as non-racing accidents. MUCH more publicity given an "event" due to the after investigation being done by an entity that understands a completely different thing... air TRANSPORTATION!

    Imagine if auto racing was held to the same rule set that governs our highway system.. it would be in the very same boat we're in!
    Wayne Sagar
    "Pusher of Electrons"

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    I remember a little blurb of a show that followed Rusty Wallace, when he was the driver of the 2, and a visit he made to the corporate headquarters of Miller Brewing on a Monday the day after a race. Wallace went into a room where five people were cutting clippings from news papers, magazines, just any publication that might have a word about the 2. Two or three people were watching a replay of the race, timing every second the 2 was visible on camera and counting the times it was mentioned by the race announcers. Wallace mentioned that he didn't win the race and the response from the marketing people was, "visibility".

    I asked the head of marketing at a casino where I worked if there would be any interest to getting involved in something like the air races. He said one word, "visibility".

    Sad thing is Red Bull found some "air race" fans that make up a television audience. If there is enough interest in Red Bull "air racing" to be on the tube, well.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Quote Originally Posted by Reever View Post
    I remember a little blurb of a show that followed Rusty Wallace, when he was the driver of the 2, and a visit he made to the corporate headquarters of Miller Brewing on a Monday the day after a race. Wallace went into a room where five people were cutting clippings from news papers, magazines, just any publication that might have a word about the 2. Two or three people were watching a replay of the race, timing every second the 2 was visible on camera and counting the times it was mentioned by the race announcers. Wallace mentioned that he didn't win the race and the response from the marketing people was, "visibility".

    I asked the head of marketing at a casino where I worked if there would be any interest to getting involved in something like the air races. He said one word, "visibility".

    Sad thing is Red Bull found some "air race" fans that make up a television audience. If there is enough interest in Red Bull "air racing" to be on the tube, well.
    You cannot compare the Red Bull races and Reno. Remember, Red Bull is the product and their races are advertising for the product. Their races are on TV because they pay for their races to be on TV.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Quote Originally Posted by Race5 View Post
    You cannot compare the Red Bull races and Reno. Remember, Red Bull is the product and their races are advertising for the product. Their races are on TV because they pay for their races to be on TV.
    You made my point. Red Bull realizes the return on investment by putting these air race infomercials on tv. There are enough people interested in watching aircraft fly between inflatable pylons to make it worth the money. Visibility.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Our sport is unique and fast.

    Reality show - Velocity

    Lets take the reality show Street Outlaws OKC for example. The first couple seasons didn't watch it, thought it was lame. Well, now I look forward to watching it, even my daughter and son watch it now. Shawn and the Chief rock.

    The technology used today to build fast street cars blows me away compared to when I was young and we cruised El Camino and Brotherhood way in the early 70s :-)

    Our "real" air racing sport has more than enough entertaining characters to host a reality show featuring the adventures of several teams working towards the ultimate goal "Gold in September".


  8. #8

    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    The essence of the thread here is that like it or not, Reno has not and likely will not rise to the level of NASCAR, Red Bull, NHRA, IndyCar, F1, or other major motorsport events, for a variety of reasons. If it could have, it would have by now given it has over 50 years of racing behind it. It’s not for a lack of trying, mind you. As I stated previously in another thread, and as stated here as well by others, it's an exposure ("visibility") issue for corporations looking to get their name out there over and over again and have it associated with a broad audience.

    Case in point, for the latest year I've found records for:

    NASCAR: Annual attendance - 3.6M; Avg per event - 99K; number of events - 36 (+/-)
    IndyCar: Annual attendance - 1.5M; Avg per event - 91K; number of events - 17
    F1: Annual attendance - 1.9M; Avg per event - 100K; number of events - 19
    MotoGP: Annual attendance - 2.4M; Avg per event - 137K; number of events - 18
    Reno: Annual attendance (2016) - 200K; Avg per event (day) - 38K; number of events - 5 (Wed-Sun)

    Point is...put yourself in the board room of a corporation. If you were seriously interested in sponsoring an event (whether it's title, prime, or supporting) how would you "sell" the concept to the pencil-pushers in Finance & Accounting. Where's the bang for the buck? Where can our $500K or $1.5M do the most good? By almost any measure (specific interest, ROI, exposure/visibility), the unfortunate reality is Reno would fall far short of making the second cut.

    Don’t get me wrong…I love this sport and hope it’s around for another half-century! After 15 years of judging it’s so engrained in my blood that my calendar flips over every September, not December. But the hard fact remains that we’re dealing with a fairly limited audience here. Two things to consider: the majority of the age and income demographic Reno speaks to would be in Stead every September, regardless; second, the vast majority of age and income demographics Reno is attempting speak to in broadening its base have limited interest in aviation, never flown an aircraft, and have little to no appreciation for pulling the levers in a cockpit…to them, it’s as much an exhibition as a competition. They can, however, identify with a steering-wheel and four tires, regardless of the configuration. And they can do it 10, 15, even 30 times a year. Which gets back to the sponsorship angle…spend $250K and get in front of 100K people (not to mention TV advertisement) 30 times a year, or spend $250K and get in front of 200K people once a year. It’s fairly simple math. It’s the lot Reno has been dealt and there’s really no one to blame here. It’s just the reality of the situation. Given all the factors at play (and yes, especially after 2011), RARA has done a remarkable job of keeping the lights on! Who saw Stihl coming in as title sponsor? Time will tell…and my money is on RARA continuing to work hard and smart toward expanding its audience and securing sponsors. They have a history of doing just that and I, for one, don’t see that changing.
    Air Judge
    Deputy Chief Pylon Judge
    Owner - AIR BOSS ONE LLC
    http://airbossone.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    It's hard to put what I'm thinking into words, but I wonder if it's possible to make Reno into a "rich man" sport? Of course the biggest way to get the rich interested on a LARGE scale is to make them more money. But take a F1 race in Italy, or a Catamaran race, a lot of the people that go to these events are rich actors/actresses, people who show up in Ferrari's and Tuxedo's just to be there. Of course these events have the accommodations for these people, wine bars with TV's showing the race off-site, they aren't necessarily there for the race, just there because it's what other rich people are doing. Gambling too, if NCAR had a unique way of betting on the races at all of the Casino's in Reno, that's another way to draw the wealthy into it. Look at horse racing....
    *My Air Race Site*

    Reno from '99 to '17

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Thoughts on air racing sponsorships

    Well said Air Judge. Air Racing is in my blood & has been since the 1946 Cleveland Air Races. I would probably be a lot richer if I hadn't gone to all the Air Races but I wouldn't trade it for anything. That's why "Tiger" keeps coming back & why many of the race pilots have flown different planes just to be in the race. I'll be there as long as I can just to watch a certain breed of pilots flying race planes.
    Lockheed Bob

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