Photo courtesy of BrockImaging, used with permission.
Author: Michael Marino, Owner/Principal, Marino Communications
Although many motor sports competitors and teams understand that they need a social media presence, it is often less clear which social media platforms they need to be on. Maintaining a professional presence on any social media platform is time consuming. While content can be shared between some platforms, a motor sports team on a budget does not want to spend more time managing social media than they need to. In most industries, a marketing manager looks at customer demographics and picks social media platforms that cater to those demographics. Motor sports teams, however, have additional factors to consider. They must maintain a baseline social media presence, as well as consider the marketing needs of their sponsors.
While many privateers and smaller teams compete in professional motor sports at a loss or break even, any professional motor sports entity is inherently a business entity. Therefore, a motor sports team must maintain a basic, professional social media presence that reassures sponsors of the professional nature of their racing endeavors. Chief among the social media baseline accounts is LinkedIn. Sponsorship is a business-to-business (B2B) sales relationship, and LinkedIn is the social media king of B2B communication. Many riders and crew chiefs no doubt have personal LinkedIn accounts. However, it is important to create a company page for any professional motor sports endeavor. Company pages on LinkedIn allow for paid promotion of the page and its content, as well as make a privateer racing effort look more professional with a branded, dedicated page. Moreover, a rider may have fans on LinkedIn who follow their racing career, but not want to let them have access to their personal LinkedIn connections.
The other baseline social media account for a racing team is Facebook. For one, many companies are already on Facebook. Facebook also has the most active users of any social media platform, and its users represent a wide range of demographics (age, gender, income, etc.). Facebook provides businesses with a robust set of advertising tools, and is a great way for teams to interact with fans during events on a slower-paced platform than Twitter. Like LinkedIn, a Facebook page also gives a privateer’s fans a place to follow their career without having to add them as Facebook friends and give them access to their personal network.
In addition to the baseline accounts discussed above, motor sports teams also need to consider the marketing goals of their sponsors. As discussed in the Marino Communications FAQ section, sponsorship is not a charity. Brands are giving teams discounted or free products, or money, as part of a marketing campaign. Everything done in marketing is strategic. While some teams may have a few sponsors who give them money without expecting any publicity in return, many sponsors expect their support to expand their brand’s reach or improve its image, or generate sales or sales leads. Motor sports competitors and teams therefore need to make sure they are doing everything they reasonably can to support their sponsors’ marketing goals. Given the rise of social media as an advertising platform, motor sports entities should align their social media presence to compliment those of their sponsors.
For example, if a sponsor’s target market is younger adults (18-to-25 years old), that sponsor is likely on both Instagram and Snapchat. The teams that sponsor supports should add Instagram and Snapchat to their social media presence. A sponsor who primarily caters to women or has a highly visual product means a team should create a Pinterest account. Teams should also be making at least one post at each racing event to show the sponsor’s logo within the team, or how its products or services support the team.
In the end, sponsorship is not only about money: it is also about value. Until the total amount of sponsorship money increases in many American professional motor sports series, teams and riders/drivers will continue to compete against each other for limited sponsorship dollars. Being able to deliver better value to sponsors (broader social media reach, being on the same social media platforms as sponsors, etc.) is one of the many ways riders/drivers and teams can distinguish themselves to marketing managers and business owners.