Search for a Champion - A contestant’s perspective

It was about six months ago that my life as a sportsman drag racer drastically changed. Generally speaking, in the motorsports world I’d say that there is a real lack of understanding among sportsman racers regarding how to gain support and sponsorship for your race team. The task is looked at as not daunting, but one that is also incredibly convoluted. Part of that is because the word sponsor is a bit of a misnomer. Unfortunately, for the majority of racers their concept of “sponsorship” can be compared to a “one way street.” Yes, the way it works is that a company gives an amount of financial support in exchange for some sort of value from the team to which they are contributing. But the problem is that gaining support doesn’t just mean taking the money and running the decal on the car. It’s a lot more than that actually. A team must understand that they need to provide a great value in return to their sponsor—which is why I prefer the term “Marketing Partner” instead of “Sponsor.”

In fact, most people who are looking for a marketing partner don’t fully realize the amount of time and effort it takes to become a true partner. But it can definitely be done with the right planning, execution and attitude from the racers. It’s an extremely important aspect to motorsports marketing, and I am always looking for ways to get at it.

When I first found out about Champion Spark Plug’s, “Search for a Champion,” contest through National Dragster Magazine, I was really excited. Being a member of the NHRA, I receive their magazine, National Dragster, every month. I just happened to be reading Ernie Saxton’s column, as I often do, when I saw the contest mentioned for the first time. It is a contest for a $50,000 sponsorship prize and all you need to do is make a video about you and your race team. Maybe this is a way to simplify the whole process, I thought, and being in the form of a contest meant that there would be clear rules and outlines for each competitor.

The contest involved creating and submitting a two-minute video, gathering fan votes through social media, and doing lots of self-promotion. That last part isn’t exactly my specialty, but we’ll get to that later. The next day, my business partner, crew chief and MoparMax Editor/Publisher, Richard Kratz and I got together for our daily office hours and both came to each other at the same time with the exact same idea to enter the contest. Let’s see if we can make a video for this!

The contest occurs in two rounds. Round one is all of the videos that are submitted and approved by Champion (they screen for copyright issues and appropriate content) are posted to the contest website and the public votes on their favorite ones. The voting counts for 33% of each video’s score. The other 67% of a video’s score is decided by Champion based on “Best Depiction of a Champion” and “Inspirational Quality.” The 2014 contest launched with 392 video entries. When the first round ends, 15 videos are selected as “Finalists” and they each win a $5,000 sponsorship and move on to round two. Round two is the same as the first one, but this time only one Grand Prize winner is selected and that lucky racer wins an additional $50,000 sponsorship.