This may be the most important racing marketing article you will ever read!
Just one short year ago, a single post about the history of the Rumley 6 late model and one very talented dirt track driver named Kyle Larson brought Jackie Rumley to the forefront of social media. One could even say she may have gone viral for a moment. While the last year has seemingly created a whole new chapter in the book of Jackie Rumley, the chapters before have been full of memories inside the world of racing.
While growing up in southern Ontario, her family was involved at the local racetracks and fielded race cars before developing the Ontario Dirt Late Model Series while Jackie was a teenager. She took those early life lessons to heart when she moved stateside to North Carolina to continue to pursue a career in motorsports. She met her husband, Kevin Rumley, through a mutual friend and has been fully entrenched in the family racing business ever since and is integral to the team’s successes.
While her summer was historic on the track, Jackie Rumley spends the school year teaching college students and even continuing education students about motorsports at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina. Given that the off season is pivotal for race teams to not only build and prepare cars for next year, it is also monumental in obtaining the sponsors who make the upcoming season possible, who better to speak with at this time than the woman who teaches about the world of motorsports marketing? Dirt Empire Magazine stole a few moments with Jackie to not only talk about her life in racing but pick her brain about some of the most important factors in marketing a race team.
Dirt Empire: Your day job involves motorsports marketing, specifically teaching. What first started your interest in motorsports marketing?
Jackie Rumley: Throughout childhood, when we would do career planning in school, I would say I wanted to work with animals. I think it started as a zookeeper, and eventually landed on being a veterinarian technician. It went so far as I already knew what college I would go to, and I got a job in high school working at a vet clinic. I’m glad I got that job though; it taught me real quick I didn’t want to be a vet tech after all. The only other thing I knew was racing so I guess you could say working in racing was my backup plan. Marketing just came naturally to me, probably from my involvement in my parent’s series growing up. This was also when NASCAR was at their peak, early 2000s, so there were lots of opportunities for work on the marketing and hospitality side of the sport. When I first moved to North Carolina, drivers and teams from back home would have me make them sponsorship proposals; which was a welcoming project since I was unable to legally work in the US while on my student visa. Also, while in college I did numerous internships and volunteer opportunities locally to gain experience and to network since I couldn’t work. In 2008, I was the marketing intern at Concord Speedway and helped with a lot of their special events, like with sponsors or themed nights, and coordinated victory lane every night. That internship is what lead me to my first post-college job at Racing Electronics, as the company owner used to race at that track in a Legends car.
DE: Eventually this interest brought you to the world of teaching. What made you decide you wanted to begin teaching?
JR: Teaching was never on my radar. My grandmother, mom, and sister have always been involved in education, which might be why I never really had any interest in it. However, in late 2014, the Program Chair of the Motorsports program that I was a graduate of suddenly passed away. Richmond Gage’s passing was a huge blow to the program, as he was the one who created it, and basically was a mentor to every student who came through his doors. I started thinking about how the program could continue without him, and that if I could help in any way to continue the program for him I would. As we all know, motorsports is a special niche, so without a ‘motorsports’ person running the program would it have a chance at surviving? At the time I was considering going back to school to get a master’s degree, so once learning that in order to work at the college they require one it was a no-brainer to get started. Turns out I made the right decision, as they hired me in 2019 as an instructor, which was over a year before I even finished my MBA. Hopefully one day I will get the Program Chair position, but for now I’m happy with teaching (and having my summers off to go racing!). I think Richmond would be proud, he was always very supportive.
DE: You offer something very unique and beneficial to grassroots race teams, or those getting started into motorsports. During the spring/winter semester, you teach a continuing education course open to students and nonstudents that encompasses creating sponsorship decks and obtaining sponsors – tell us about this class and the benefits of taking a course like this?
JR: This Motorsports Marketing course is my baby. I was the first person at my college to do a course like this, where it has both curriculum and continuing education students in the same course. I pitched this to the school as I knew a lot of people would be interested in taking the course but would be turned off by the process of having to apply at the college. By doing it this way, anyone from anywhere can take the course by a simple sign up on the college website. The difference is the continuing education students receive a Certificate of Completion at the end, versus actual college credit. The other benefit is the cost of the course is locked into the NC student rate, instead of having to pay an out-of-state tuition fee (which is over $800). Some employers might even be willing to pay for this course too, as a lot of companies set aside funds for continuing education.
DE: While the sponsorship class is part of our focus today, you do teach an entire curriculum involving racing. What is an overview of the classes you teach for anyone looking into the motorsports marketing side of things as a student? What can they expect to learn or experience in these classes?
JR: Motorsports Marketing is only one of the courses I teach – there are six more! The motorsports program actually offers four different versions, an Associate of Applied Science, two Diplomas (one in Management and one in Marketing), and a Certificate. The unique aspect to the program is that it puts equal concentration on both the business and technical sides of motorsports.
DE: Currently, we are in the offseason and it’s a fact that race teams are planning budgets and working to securing sponsors for the next race season, let’s talk about one of the key items needed when it comes to marketing a race team. How important is a good proposal when you are trying to obtain sponsors big and small?
JR: A good deck is key, at least if you’re just starting out and not known. It not only shows that you are professional – even if you don’t race professionally – but it also shows you took the time and effort into finding a sponsor. A good deck is something that gains attention from a prospective sponsor and makes them want to reach out to talk more about the potential sponsorship. A deck is short and concise, and is meant to get a potential sponsor interested, not necessarily sell them on the deal right away. The goal of the deck is to have them reach out for more information.
DE: For those unfamiliar with the term deck, can you give a short description of what a deck is and the role it plays in obtaining a sponsor?
JR: This is something I’m even guilty of confusing at times. As most, I use the term deck and proposal interchangeably a lot but they are actually different documents. Using a driver as an example, a deck is usually a PDF document that presents information in a graphically pleasing manner. A sponsorship proposal on the other hand usually comes after the deck and is a more fine-tuned version of the information in the deck but is almost like a contract, where it’s written out what the sponsorship will contain and the goals associated. The proposal can also include minimum requirements from the driver, as well as the agreed upon sponsorship amount.
DE: Many grassroots teams are unable or do not have the funding to pay for someone to create them a deck professionally. Is it possible for small teams to create their own decks and still obtain sponsors?
JR: Absolutely they can! The graphics can be a little difficult to do by themselves, but there are lots of YouTube tutorials and free or cheap online graphics platforms that can assist (such as Canva, Adobe Spark, or Crello). The hard part is putting together the information that will be included in the deck. Then the next step would be gathering as many photos as possible and then using some sort of graphics platform to put them all together. It requires a little work and effort but could have great results.
DE: What would you say are the top five most critical pieces that need to be included in a deck?
JR: To keep it simple, I’ll use a driver deck for example. Of course, you would want a small introduction to the driver (think short bio), information about the type of car/class and where it races, more statistics the better like general motorsports demographics, track demographics, streaming/TV numbers, what that driver has to offer to the sponsor, and finally how to contact to discuss the partnership further. The last point sounds like common sense but I think a lot of people assume their contact information is in the initial email so including their contact information on the deck isn’t necessary – forgetting that sometimes attachments can get separated from emails.
DE: What would you say are three things you should not do when reaching out to potential sponsors?
JR: I think I could probably list at least 15 pretty quickly. First of all, just asking for money before knowing anything about the company or their needs is a big no-no and will definitely turn them off from any future conversations. Another thing is making it all about you. While I know a lot of people are proud of their accomplishments, talking about yourself the whole time isn’t what a potential sponsor is looking for. While the accomplishments might be impressive, the potential sponsor wants to know how sponsoring you would fit into their overall marketing plan and goals and how you would help them achieve those goals. Finally, don’t over promise what you can do for them. Selling a potential sponsor on a lot of promises that you might not be able to keep will surely create tension as the partnership goes on when they realize they might not be getting all that they paid for and were promised; which probably means they would not consider being a sponsor again the next time.
DE: As a previous student of your continuing education course, one of the things you speak in-depth on is your value in regards to a potential sponsor. How often do you think this key factor is overlooked by race teams and how overall does it affect the outcome of obtaining a sponsorship?
JR: It’s definitely one of the biggest overlooked factors. Like I’ve said previously, I think people resort to talking about themselves and their accomplishments, instead of actually putting a number value on what their potential partnership might provide. However, calculating that value can be tedious and daunting. Not to mention, there is no industry-specific way to calculate value. The best bet when calculating the value is to be transparent to the potential sponsorship about how that number value was calculated and why you think it’s a fair valuation. The outcome could turn out a few different ways, if you undervalue your value then you are undervaluing your sponsorship amount, then of course you could have the opposite issue and overvalue your sponsorship amount, which could lead to the sponsor deciding to not sponsor you because it’s out of budget. There is a fine line with finding the actual valuation and a lot of factors contribute to that number. Honestly, I think a lot of the time there are zero calculations put into place and they just ask others what they get for sponsorship, so they just use that as how much they think they should ask for.
DE: What do you feel are the two most overlooked contributing factors to figuring your value to a potential sponsor?
JR: I don’t know that this is overlooked, but finding actual data is the most difficult part. In order to do some value calculations you need real numbers, like how many people come to the races, how many people see your car on TV/Streaming, how many people are engaging with social media, etc., in order to calculate a true valuation. If one can’t find or obtain that information, it makes it incredibly difficult to come up with an accurate number. Luckily, series and tracks often can help drivers/teams get some of that information, as they’ve been keeping track of it in recent years. The other overlooked factor is to make sure intangible assets are also put into the calculation, such as awareness of the driver or series they compete in, fan loyalty, and differentiation of this particular driver to the next.
DE: If you’re a team just starting out and waiting to grow in the right direction for brands to notice you, how big of a role does social media play and how can you utilize this to grow?
JR: Social media plays a huge role! Obviously, race car drivers are drivers and not social media experts under most circumstances but the fact that social media is a free tool and to not all take advantage of it is crazy in my mind. Gaining a following doesn’t happen overnight – well, unless you go viral – but is something that grows over time. The key to social media is putting out content that people are interested in; just posting race results or racing plans probably isn’t going to cut it. Giving an inside look at the team, race day, or preparation would be a good starting point to stand out. Posting “looking for sponsorship” isn’t probably the best content to post because again this goes back to it helping the driver versus the driver helping the brand.
DE: If you’re someone who would rather pay to have a deck created, what can someone expect to spend and where might they go to find one of these individuals?
JR: The pricing varies depending on who is doing it and the level of expertise that person/company has. It also depends on if that person must do a lot of research in order to make the deck, such as demographic information, stats, etc. A lot of graphics people who make wraps might be willing to make them and then you can go upwards to marketing companies. I’d say one must be prepared to pay at least $500 and up. While off school for the summer this year, I worked with Molly Helmuth of 9D Creative located in Mooresville; she would be a good option for someone looking to outsource the job.
DE: Any underrated but important tips or tricks to marketing your race team or obtaining sponsors?
JR: Exploit what makes them different. That could be anything from an odd color the car always is, a personality trait from the driver that makes them more personable, a big social media following, or a close charitable cause they are involved with. The other tip is trying to make the conversations and deck very specific to the sponsor you’re trying to reach. It’s a little more work but, in my opinion, sometimes quality outweighs quantity. Reach out to maybe ten companies with a company specific deck, versus 50 companies with a generic deck. I would hope that the extra effort in those ten decks would create a good impression with the potential sponsor, instead of a generic deck that they know was sent to many other companies. One thing to never forget is never use photos that aren’t yours, and especially ones that have a watermark through them. Reach out to track photographers and ask them if they have bulk pricing for multiple photos, most will help you out give you a good price for bulk. A prospective sponsor would definitely notice watermarked (stolen) photos. Another thing I teach in the motorsports marketing course is to try to refer to sponsors as “partners”, it sounds better and makes them feel a part of the team instead of just a way to fund the team.
DE: When should race teams begin looking or reaching out for sponsorship for the 2022 race season and why is this crucial?
JR: It’s already cutting it close to be looking for 2022 sponsorship. I tell my students earlier the better at approaching companies. This is for a few reasons; the biggest is that companies set their budgets 3-5 months before the end of year. The other reason is because businesses take a long time to make decisions. Even if someone reached out to a company in September for a following year sponsorship, it might take a couple months to get to the right person or get a decision made, and by that point the budget could already be set.
DE: For those interested in signing up for your continuing education course on motorsports sponsorship, where can they find all of the information and when do they need to be signed up by?
JR: Throughout November and December I start posting about it on my socials. They can also go to the Rowan-Cabarrus Motorsports page (http://rccc.edu/motorsports) and more information will be posted about it then. Although, the easiest option would be to email me directly to send more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).