20 April 2015 12:24

Pat's Corner - The Money Tree

Category: Pat´s Corner, 2015

I regularly get asked by teams how they can get more sponsorship. No team ever had enough money regardless of their budget and as Formula Student cars get more sophisticated, so the cost of competing increases. 

My usual first response is to ask what the team have done to raise sponsorship. The responses don't differ much. Usually it involves sending out requests for funding, either by snail mail or in emails and the responses are always disappointing. The scattergun approach to finding sponsorship rarely works, a better result being from carefully aimed 'sniper shots' at targeted potential sponsors.

The 'money tree' does exist! You just have to find out how to find it.

For my sins, I once spent a couple of years as the marketing manager of a company in the automotive aftermarket business. Each week I got several letters or emails asking me to "Please give me some money to spend on my racing car"!  Even though I love motorsport and had some available budget, all but one of these approaches went into the recycle bin, often without even an acknowledgement.

What made that one request different?

That proposal didn't ask for money or parts, it asked for a meeting! Whereas it is easy to delete an email, it is very difficult to look a potential sponsor in the eye and say "NO" and psychologists know this!

At the meeting we identified a marketing opportunity where I could use the images in promotional material but that involved painting the entire car in a corporate colour with the corporate logo prominent. I eventually used the same colour/logo combination on all company packaging so there was a visual connection between the racing Porsche and the product I was selling.

The colour is important. Cars used in promotional material must look bright and 'pop' off the page or screen. This will not happen with a black car! Look at these two pictures of virtually identical Indycars and see which one 'pops'.

Carbon black might look cool to engineers when viewed up close, but from a few meters away, it is just 'black', sucks up the light and the detail disappears into the shadows.

But, why would a team be asking a Marketing Department for sponsorship? Motorsport is certainly a marketing opportunity but Formula Student is not motorsport (regardless of what you may call your team)!  An application for funding a 'racing team' is in competition with many other similar applications and bluntly, FS has little to offer when a company is allocating its marketing budget.

But companies have other budgets and those a FS team should be targeting are the HR and R&D department budgets.

If a FS sponsorship application is presented as a request for assistance for a University team entering an International Engineering Design competition rather than a motorsport event, other avenues to funding may open up in the targeted Sponsor. Remember, any sponsorship agreement is a two way street. The team must give back as much as it gets, be this in publicity, technical assistance and feedback or even personnel as interns etc.

Another thing to remember is that, in this 'green awareness age', motorsport may be viewed in a poor light, as a waste of resources, by some people. This is particularly the case with University staff, who are often notoriously conservative in outlook.

An application for funding by students in a 'Global Engineering Competition' may well appeal to a company manager's 'Good Citizen' heart strings and so release some funding.

So, to sum things up...

  • Meet potential sponsors in person
  • Target the right department of your potential sponsor 
  • Don’t call yourself a ‘Racing Team’
  • Don’t have a black car

Finally, when you find a Sponsor, cherish them! Look after them in any way you can because it is easier to keep a sponsor than to find one in the first place!

Design Error of the Month

Not so much a 'Design Error', more a cautionary tale.

As 450cc single cylinder engines become more popular in FS, engines are getting difficult to source and more expensive.

These motocross/enduro bike engines are very highly stressed competition engines. They have a very limited service life and are very expensive to recondition or repair, especially those with titanium valves like several Yamaha models.

Sourcing these engines second hand can be a very risky business as their usage,  service life and maintenance may well be unknown or even lied about by the seller. In competition use especially, these engines are used very hard and may be very close to the end of their life, even though they run and sound great. This is because many internal components have a finite fatigue life.

One US team bought a second hand Yamaha WR450F engine knowing the potential problems. Parts were ordered to recondition it (at very high cost, even with a FSAE discount) but some critical parts were on backorder to Japan.

As their car was almost ready to test and no other engine was available, the team decided to use the engine for testing before rebuilding it in time for the competition.

During testing, the gearbox jumped out of gear, the engine was over-revved and stopped. A post mortem showed the engine was comprehensively destroyed and was no longer suitable for rebuilding. The team had already paid for the rebuild parts and could not afford a new engine, even if they could find one. As a result, they had to withdraw from the competition.

450cc Electric start engines are available new from several motorcycle manufacturers through their dealer spare parts departments. They are expensive and there may be a significant delivery delay but this is a better solution than buying a second hand engine.

Another option is to buy a complete new bike and selling off the unwanted cycle parts as there is a considerable market for dirt bike parts.

As we get closer to FSG 2015, I hope most teams have reached the testing phase of their project. I look forward to seeing you all in Hockenheim and don't be afraid to stop by and say hello at Pat's Corner.

 

 

Pat