There’s a bizarre cultural phenomenon where I’m from. In Montgomery County, Maryland, drivers put stickers of the logo of either their university or children’s universities on the rear window of their cars.

Erm why….? 

According to the author Sam Gosling, these kind of outward facing stickers are ‘identity claims’, used to make deliberate symbolic statements about how we want to be perceived by others. Perhaps you’re incredibly academic (MIT), or you love to party (West Virginia University), or you’re handsome, smart and talented (Wake Forest University GO DEACS), or even that you’re likely unemployable (UNC Chapel Hill). Parents driving Volvo’s that they bought new in 1993 slap on their child’s Yale University logo halting any potential judgement of their 27-year old rust bucket.

Regardless of where you stand on the overall necessity of a university or college degree, the fact remains that very few of these people, either paid or are paying, $30k-$100k per year for a sticker on a car. Ultimately, the investment was about:

  • What they learned
  • Who they met
  • The impact it had on their development over time

The impact to their personal brand

The exact same frame applies to motorsport sponsorship and partnership. So often in our industry, the yet-to-be-informed reject the notion of sponsorship as just an ‘expensive sticker on a car.’ The reality, however, is that it’s much more akin to going to university. Therefore, new partners should focus on:

Knowledge Transfer

Motorsport teams and championships are rich in technology across a variety of disciplines ranging from engineering, data storage, data analytics, cyber security, network communications, digital consumer engagement, IoT, and more. Providing enterprise-focused partners the chance to not only showcase their own technology but also pressure test and evolve it in a high-performance competitive environment. Almost as exciting as that continuing education course your engineers went to in Minneapolis last year.

Principal-to-Principal Network

Motorsport teams and championships are full of impressive blue-chip and challenger growth organisations with C-suite level buy in and support, so they’re a hotbed for principal-to-principal interactions and collaborations. Additionally, the sex appeal and entertainment value provide an ideal draw to engage senior and Board level prospects, customers, and investors.

 Cumulative and Compounded Impact to the Business

 Similar to university, the relationships, knowledge, maturity, and experiences compound over four years with the whole becoming much greater than the sum of the parts. Businesses who attempt to model potential sponsorships on linear commercial transactions often forget to add a compound interest multiplier as well as model out impact on softer targets like talent attraction, brand equity, employee engagement/retention, and even category prevention—keeping the opportunity away from competitors.

 The ‘Human’ Element

 While your university degree looks great on the wall, it was probably the Kappa Kappa Gamma keg parties that shaped you more as a person. 

Believe it or not your customers are not just Russian bots but actual human beings. Some are married, some aren’t, some have kids, and some get to sleep in on Saturdays, but what they all have in common is that they’re all after cool experiences, a bit of excitement, stories, and connection. Spending an exciting and interesting half-day or full day with someone and their spouse or kids creates an emotional and personal connection that takes you well beyond whatever your corporate brochure or latest case study says. I’ve watched a mild-mannered Chief Information Security Officer of a $20BN company absolutely lose his mind after a race-win, showering himself with a jeroboam of Moet amongst a sky of confetti. I’ve seen a hardcore female CEO of a technology company walk away giddy after an hour conversation on a yacht in Monaco with Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) and my body double; model David Gandy. I’ve seen a major CEO give his tearful 11-year old son a huge embrace following a photo with Felipe Massa. Motorsport is full of these incredible emotional moments getting you and your organisation off the page and into the hearts of your customers. Sharing in them adds colour to an often-drab corporate world.

 Brand Identity Claim and Association

A university brand or association can speak volumes about a student long before they walk into a room. Just as our friend Sam Gosling writes, motorsport partnerships create brand identity claims about who our organisations are, especially as it relates to B2B organisations in fragmented industries where differentiation isn’t always obvious or easy. Take three recent partnerships from the cyber security industry; DarkTrace’s partnership with McLaren in Formula 1 highlights their premium positioning and alignment to great British engineering. Forcepoint’s partnership with Formula E driver Lucas Di Grassi speaks to their role as a disruptor and innovator in Industry 4.0 and how human performance and data come together. Fortinet’s partnership with BMWi in Formula E speaks to Fortinet’s focus on process, efficiency, and performance.

Hopefully, the next time you’re in Montgomery Country, Maryland you’ll appreciate the rear window university logo phenomenon and know that it goes far deeper than just a sticker on a car. (And go to the Village Green in Gaithersburg—tell Ahmed that Ricky sent you)

*1440Sports accelerates business outcomes through motorsport partnerships.

An international management consultancy with golf & motorsport at its core.