Motorsports sponsorship guru Brian Sims, joins Samir Abid on the Your Data Driven podcast. Brian Sims developed his sales expertise to fund his 14 year professional racing career before eventually ending up raising millions of sponsorship funds for the Benetton Formula 1 team. In this show Brian shares his experiences, techniques and philosophies to hopefully help you achieve your own fund raising goals. Expect to be inspired on this one!
Links mentioned in the show:
- Kyalami Grand Prix: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyalami
- Linkedin in profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-sims-dr-hon-univ-144b7126/
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Samir Abid: [00:00:00] So welcome Brian.
Brian Sims: [00:00:02] Thank you for inviting me. It’s great to be here with you summit.
Samir Abid: [00:00:05] Thank you very much for taking the time. This is I get, I’m really excited about this conversation and seeing how it goes. it will be lovely. to give us some background on yourself for the people who may not know who you are. And then, yeah, hopefully we can work towards one or two takeaways that people listening can think about in terms of that club racing and think, actually that was a good point.
I never thought of that. And, that was a really good idea. And I’ll give that a go. How did, how does that sound for you?
Brian Sims: [00:00:31] There’s a very old head with about 45 years of motor sport. Experience it, waiting to actually get going.
Samir Abid: [00:00:39] Wonderful. I’ll sit back over to you. go there. tell us a little bit about you so that we can frame the conversation.
Brian Sims: [00:00:45] Okay. I started off, I left school when I was 17 and my first job, which really showed me that one day I would be a top world champion Formula One racing driver was when I was asked in the builders merchants that I was working in. If I would put some wheels on the wheelbarrows. And I did that for the first three days of my career
Fitting blinking wheelbarrow freezing cold in January, I moved and joined. I became a salesman for Goodyear tire company. I found that I was quite good at selling, learned a lot and became a Xerox salesman, selling Xerox photocopiers. And I went to the residential training school, Samir that, they had in those days for three weeks.
Learning the skills of professional selling. And it was those skills that eventually took me into the world of Formula One.
Samir Abid: [00:01:43] How do you make, sorry, that’s not an obvious job.
Brian Sims: [00:01:46] Let me explain, I was invited to a motor race meeting at Brands Hatch as a spectator. And this was in the late sixties and I watched the racing going on and Formula Ford had just started. And I thought, wow. That looks exciting. I fancy that, but I had no money. And in those days, salaries were very low, but I worked at it and made up enough money.
I saved up enough to go to a racing driver school called the Jim Russell school. Now, one of your previous guests, John Kirkpatrick was the man who eventually owned that school. And John was funnily enough, my first instructor, when I went to Snetterton. 1972.
How about that?
Samir Abid: [00:02:34] Absolutely wonderful.
Brian Sims: [00:02:35] And I started, I did the course, still didn’t have enough money.
I saved up a little bit, but I realized.
Samir Abid: [00:02:42] Did you do the thing? Cause John was saying on the show that, if you didn’t have a lot of money, the whole purpose for those who are not familiar or haven’t heard the previous show, the Jim Russell Racing school was very much about taking them out in the streets, and giving them an exposure to racing.
and even by the end of the course, you’d have your race license, but not everyone could afford to do all of it. So John was saying that, they would sell corners, as well. So you do have to do the whole course, but they would just teach you how to do one particular quarter over there. I really, I repaired a time when people used to come back and buy each quarter for track as they went round.
And I thought that was a fascinating story.
Brian Sims: [00:03:14] Yeah, I did that and I did the same corner for five weeks running because the administration got, the paperwork got mixed up.
I went racing at Snetterton and that was very fast around Riches, but I didn’t know any of them. Only joking. But the thing was that was extraordinary was it gave me the taste of single seat racing and Formula Fords. And it was until you driven a single seat or racing car, you cannot in any way, compare it to a road car. It’s a totally different experience. And I decided that I really wanted to go racing and something happened.
it had happened in 1968, which was extraordinary. Colin Chapman, who was the boss of the legendary Lotus formula. One thing spotted a change in the rules and regulations that ran motor sport. Allowing for the first time ever advertising commercial advertising on racing cars and Curran. Did the deal with the John Player, cigarette company and the formula one cars were Graham Hill and Jim Clark that year were painted in the colors of the Gold Leaf team, Lotus brand.
And that was really the start of a revolution in sport, a revolution that swept from motor racing across all sports sponsorship. And in 1974, I did my put together my first ever. Big sponsorship deal. I’d never raised a car by now. I was still saving up and I spotted a, an opportunity and I put together this sponsorship deal with a nightclub in Kent called Victoria’s Nightclub.
And it allowed me to go racing at brands hatch in a Formula Ford.
Samir Abid: [00:04:57] How did you go about doing that? I’m just for the benefit of people who, who may never have thought of getting sponsorship. I don’t think a sponsorship in collaborating is very, in my experience anyway, it’s very personal. So it’s either coming from your own savings or from a family friend or something like that.
It’s not coming from a third party necessarily in that kind of business arrangement that you may have at a more professional level. So how did you go about. During that, because I’m sure it’s still relevant.
Brian Sims: [00:05:24] I worked it, let me explain. I, the last big sponsorship ideal was, I’ve done a couple of years, two, three years ago, and the same technique applied and that in-between, I’ve been doing sponsorship deals throughout my 14 year professional racing career that took me up to and included Group C racing, which is very expensive.
It took me into formula one. And I did over 45 million pounds worth of deals in a year in formula One for the Benetton Formula One team using the same principle. And that principle is very simple. Any company, whether they’re small, large, big corporate, global, whatever they are has one primary objective. It has to sell more products or more services to stay in business.
Pure and simple, nothing else has changed in the business world and it won’t what they do with that money and how they get that money may have changed, but the need to sell more products is there. So if you can engage a conversation with a business owner, even if it is, as in my case, a small, local nightclub near Maidstone in Kent, I worked out a way, a very innovative way in which they could sell more subscriptions to their nightclub.
That’s what they’re in business to do get more people in through the door, spend more money when they’re in there. And I showed them how to do that in rather a cheeky way, but, it got me the deal and I was
Samir Abid: [00:06:53] Go on, because it’s a little bit tough as well. this is a child-friendly show by the way. So to just keep it clean.
Brian Sims: [00:06:59] it’s very clean. Now, let me explain. I’d seen a racing car. and it was, in a workshop very close to where I lived in near Maidstone and I spoke to the owner and I said, look, I want to ask a huge favor. The car I think was for sale for two and a half thousand pound, ready to raise with engine.
And, I said, can I borrow the car for a day? And the owner said, no, you can’t, you’re not going to go racing or testing. If that’s what the idea is. I said, no, I don’t want that. I said, my company car, which I had now had it at a tow bar. I said, I don’t want to even take the race car off the trailer. If you can put the car on a trailer, let me borrow it for the day.
I think I stand a good chance of being able to buy the car from you. So when I did, I found out I’d be driving down the A20 towards Maidstone in Kent, and I saw a big sign at the side of the road, and it said new nightclub opening in May. I think it was if I remember rightly, and I did some research and I found that this nightclub was quite a big one and at the end of April, they were going to have a businessman’s lunch to launch the new club.
So I did a little more research. I borrowed the car and I drove it, put the single seater, which is quite an attractive car. And of course you don’t see too many single seat of cars. Not on a racetrack. So I put it on the trailer and I drove about quarter of an hour before the start of this business lunch.
And I went into the car park and I parked my car with the trailer and the Formula Ford on the back of it, smack bang in the middle of the car park, which was more or less empty. I walked into reception. I asked the lady in reception. Could I speak to Mr. Kirkoff? I think his name was the owner of the club from my research.
And she said, what do you want to talk to him about? I said, I want to talk to him about selling subscriptions to his nightclub. Anyway, this guy comes out. And when I saw him Samir, he was about six foot seven tall.
Samir Abid: [00:09:05] Oh my God. I mean at any point during this, this experience, were you feeling in any way nervous at all? I’ve just strikes me as quite a brave thing to do.
Brian Sims: [00:09:15] No. I was absolutely scared. Yes. He came, screamed out into reception and his first words were, is that your B dash something racing car sitting in the middle of my car park. And I said, yes, it is. And before I could explain why he said, go and move the, and he described it in a very unusual way for a racing car.
Samir Abid: [00:09:36] Yep.
Brian Sims: [00:09:37] I’ve got a hundred people coming lunch in an hour’s time in quarter of an hour’s time. So I said, okay, I will, but can I ask you one thing? Could I come and talk to you about how we can use that car to help you get more subscriptions? He said, just go and move the wretched thing. Now I looked out the window and by now quite a lot of cars were driving into the car park.
Businessmen were getting out and almost without exception, they were all walking over and having a look at this Formula Ford. And I said, Mr Golkar. Before I go look at that, look at those people out there. Could you imagine if that car painted in your distinctive oberjine and gold livery were in the main shopping Malin sat in Maidstone on Saturday morning with one of your promotional girls selling subscriptions.
And then we took the car to race it brands during the season, same thing, selling subscriptions. Can you imagine the interest there’d be, he said, go and move the. But I went out the door, he gave me his business card. He said, give me a ring next week. And I put together the deal and I raced for Victoria’s night club for the entire season at brands hatch.
Samir Abid: [00:10:49] That’s great. That’s a wonderful story. But the point being is that you focused on his needs. Haven’t you, haven’t gone in there saying, I want you to sponsor my car. I, I you’ve gone. Look what this can do for you without really having to, talk about yourself at all. You’re just like, this is just all about you and this is how this, your association with this racing car can benefit you and your business.
Brian Sims: [00:11:17] That’s right. and I’ve done over a hundred major sponsorship deals in my career. ranging from Formula Ford. right through, GT racing. I was manager of the ground, presoak it in South Africa and did sponsorship there. I set up my own racing school in South Africa, the first ever in the country, a huge operation, and I got massive sponsorship for it.
And it’s always been for the same reason. I’ve been able to show them how I can help them either directly or indirectly sell more products or more services in a sustainable measurable way. and that’s how simple it is. I’m not the brightest on the planet, believe me, but that one, I crashed in my head from the training school at Xerox and I applied the business skills that I learnt there to the world of sport.
And I. Lectured now, across a lot of sports, I was in Dubai recently, running training programs for the international cricket council for their chief executive, their executive groups, world rugby in Dublin. I’ve been to the Bahrain Olympic committee training their people. It’s still the same, nothing changes.
Samir Abid: [00:12:27] What would you suggest to someone who’s never done this before? Maybe they’d been racing a while, but for whatever reason, they’re finding the budget harder to find, and it may not be a big number, but it’s still, a number that is discretionary income at the moment. , What would you suggest to them in terms of approaching things, but would you say, you’ve got to go to a big company or would you say it’s better to start a small company or is the most important thing to stay local or is it a hundred percent to do your research?
What is it that you would say to someone who’s never really, even don’t even know what they don’t know about. This kind of thing. And they might not even work in sales as the day job. this is totally new for them, but they’re still interested to give it a go.
Brian Sims: [00:13:08] People might not like what I’m going to say. But I’m saying it for the right reason. If you have no idea how to go about approaching a company, no experience. and let’s be honest. you take Formula 4 today and this is a real hobby horse of mine. I get very angry at the way that motor racing has allowed the cost to spiral.
Whereas a season, for example, a Formula 4 at the moment, which is the entry level junior single Cedar racing formula with one of the reputable teams. You’re going to be looking at between 300 and 350,000 pounds for your first season. Now that to me is plainly obscene. If you’re looking at something like 750 motor club where you’re looking maybe to run 40 or 50,000 pounds, you stand a much better chance.
However, I would still suggest the best way to do it is to speak to somebody who has experience, who has got a track record in getting sponsorship and. Even if it costs you a few hundred pounds to do it, spend money, working with somebody to help either train you and give you an idea because it is not as simple as I make it sound.
In that way, it is very simple in terms of helping a company sell more products or services, but you’ve still got to have an understanding of the business world as to how you can approach that company. How do you get have the credibility to get a meeting? How do you control that meeting?
Over the years, I’ve done a huge amount of training in, Porsche Carrera cup. employed me to train their drivers, Formula Ford. So association train me to pay me, to drive, train their drivers for awhile. and what I find is that most of them haven’t got a strategy.
They literally think that getting sponsorship is listing. What your last lap time was how many photographs you can put a view on the track, how many, naughts you can put on the budget that you’re going to need to go racing for the next 10 years, instead of actually thinking, what, how can I create a product, a sponsorship property, and call it, which will help that company over there.
So more products or services. It’s as simple as that,
Companies aren’t interested in how many lap records you have, how many races you’ve won. They’re interested in how is the money that I spend there going to improve my bottom line at the company by selling more products.
If you want to be a racing driver and have your racing paid for which I always did for 14 years, you’ve got to work at it. You’ve got to understand that you’ve got to get sponsorships. Sponsorship or do everything you want. It will give you more testing.
It will give you more time on the simulator or giving you homemade. It will give you all the travel expenses, whatever you want, if you do it correctly.
Samir Abid: [00:15:59] Yeah, it’s it’s just difficult one, isn’t it? Because people have got to come with an open mind, I think in terms of how they approach that. and ironically racing is quite a selfish sport. And so it’s a bit of an unusual thought really is to possibly I’m now just throwing ideas around here, but, it’s a, it’s an alien, possibly an alien thought to be putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in responsive that you being.
Cause you’re serving them with your sponsorship. Yeah. Yeah. You’re serving them and they’re paying for the first service and that’s what the sponsorship is. the proposal with the product, the outcome is so maybe that’s unusual for people, but yeah, that’s one end. one end is raising the money to go racing and you’ve touched on this already, but the other is reducing the cost.
Of entry, you come in at both ends of the scale. so what are your thoughts? if you, I know, so you were saying you were talking to someone at Motor Sport UK, or something like that. And they’re doing a big push to try and help, make motor sports more accessible. And I’m sure this is happening all over the world with motor racing in general and, governing bodies.
What kind of things would you say from your experience would. would be things that, maybe they should be looking at that, we haven’t yet seen.
I would just to just, I don’t want to turn to interrupt at all conversation, but I just, in general, cause also we get a lot of people listening to the show who aren’t in the UK.
In general, what would you, what would the kind of things that you were saying that would apply anyway, really?
Brian Sims: [00:17:32] I think first of all, that we’ve allowed the costs of, motor racing to rocket. There’s two. I know this might be. A little bit contentious, but I think there’s too much motor racing that too many categories. and I think what is needed. Is a very clear split between, how can you call it amateur racing and professional motor racing.
It’s very difficult as I think you and I were talking earlier about this Samir. You go into something like the 750 motor club or a cheap form of racing, cetra and C1, fabulous category of racing. The problem is it’s no good going in there and saying, I hope that’s going to get me to formula one.
Because the problem is that the two routes are totally different. There was a young driver. I did a lot of training with the British racing drivers club. They’re young superstars and the rising stars program. And there was a young driver called Dinos ZamBorelli who was sitting on one of the courses.
And do you know, was on the single seater routine. He’d won the formula Renault championship, but he recognized that without money, he wasn’t going to go any further. And he, after the course, he did something that. No, not many people do. He actually rang me and thanked me. He said, Brian, I learned so much.
In fact, he said, I’m going to tear up the presentation that I was due to do in a couple of weeks, time and start again, because he said, I can see that my presentation was all about what I wanted and nothing to do with what the company would really get out of it. And he said, could I ask you to have a look through that?
Which I did. And it led to my over the next year and a half. Not on a professional basis, but just helping Dina. Oh. Because I’m a great believer in trying to help people who help themselves. And he was doing, I’m looking for a budget for GP3. What’s a little bit of help from me, but off his own impetus, he went out.
I believe there’s still not found nearly one and a half million pound for two seasons of GP3 racing. He raised there. And then he said to me, I want to go Formula two. Now the sponsors weren’t interested in that, but he said, okay, fine. He then switched to Porsche Carrera cup.
And he said, I wanted to go Formula One. We all want to go Formula One. But at some stage in your career, you’ve got to take a clear look and say, do I want to go formula one so much that if I don’t get that, I won’t do anything else. Or do you change route and say, I didn’t really want to go sports car racing, but the number of drives and the cost of sports car racing is so much cheaper and that’s what he did.
And he switched to Bush car, Erika and Reggie for the next four years in that professionally. So you’ve got to be very flexible and you’ve got to understand that there are ever at any one time. The best 22 jobs going in Formula one, that’s all, there are the chances of you getting to formula. One are so slim it’s rather than winning the lottery.
But if you widen your scope and look at touring car racing, look at single seat of racing, a historic level, maybe Formula Ford, Historics, or others, then it becomes far more reasonable. But the problem is you’ve got to make a decision very early in your career, because if you’re going to go and be a professional racing driver in Formula one and go that level, you’ve got to do it so early and quite frankly, I think it’s out of the reach of so many people.
So be realistic, look at what you probably could afford with a little bit of sponsorship and then work from there. Does that make sense?
Samir Abid: [00:21:15] Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s a fascinating insight as to I’m not sure how many people listening. We’ll I’m sure they’ll find it interesting. I’m sure. it’s many of many people may have been on that route or as well. which is also fascinating. You touched on historic racing and not something that’s really blossomed. In the last few years in my experience and actually trucks, a lot of professional drivers and you get this mixture of Pro-Am, drivers. what’s your thoughts on historic racing and where that’s going.
Brian Sims: [00:21:49] Whereas rather other time is that you mentioned historic summit. and as much that I’m just, I’ve just formed a new organization in this country. Internationally, called the historic racing association.
Samir Abid: [00:22:01] Because you have a habit of forming organizations by, this is a kind of a lifelong thing of yours. this is not the first organization, the salary that you’ve curated.
Brian Sims: [00:22:10] Well, 27 years ago, I started the MIA. now th there’s a reason for this, and that is that historic racing is by far the biggest growth sector of, motor sport worldwide, all over the world. Historic racing is providing for many reasons, which we weren’t going to now. Some fantastic, entertaining, exciting driving.
I went to the Monaco historic Formula one race last year before last. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The reaction of the crowd when the John Player special came out of the tunnel, that noise, the sounds when the little Formula 3 cars came out and the Formula 1 cars from the sixties that looked like a Formula Ford car came out, they were grown men and women with tears in their eyes.
It was extraordinary. And you go to the. Goodwood revival or you go to the Silverstone classic. It’s a fantastic, the problem is, and it’s become very popular. It is very fragmented, so many different categories of racing, historic Formula Ford classic Formula ford being one of the biggest now, but it is under threat because anybody with any, foresight at all can realize that there are going to be people who say we should ban motor racing.
Across the board and historic will be one of the first because obviously it uses combustion engine. So what I’ve done is to work with, a very big organization, Kimberly Media group, who are produced some of the big publications in historic racing and other racing. And we’re going to, provide an umbrella organization to promote and protect the interest of historic motor sport worldwide as a whole.
So that’s the answer to the question I love historic racing. I think it’s got a huge following and not surprisingly, A lot of young drivers, incidentally, whose fathers, or whatever reason cannot afford to go. Formula 4 are going into historic Formula Ford and for about a fifth of the budget.
Getting experienced driving single seater racing in big grids around all the different racetracks in the country. So there’s another, opportunity there for youngsters to look at.
Samir Abid: [00:24:20] Yeah, you’re absolutely right. it’s, unfortunate enough. some friends of mine, rice historics, we got an Escort. I’m off to our school. And, so we’ve done some of the Goodwood meetings and things and it’s, it’s got such a great feel to it is the paddocks are so open access is so great.
A Goodwood. for the benefit of people who aren’t familiar with it, you’re often required to dress up into period clothing as well as racing period. Cause there’s, that just makes the whole atmosphere wonderful.
Brian Sims: [00:24:49] it is it’s amazing how relaxed it all is. And also I think another reason. It became apparent when I was just watching, for example, I went to Brands, Hatch for the, historic masters Formula one, last year. Just watching those Formula one cars being driven around the circuit. They don’t handle in the way that modern formula one cars do.
They don’t go round on rails. They are animals. And having worked in formula one, myself as manager of the ground, presale in South Africa at kite army in the eighties, talking to drivers like Keke Rosberg, Nicky Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell. These sort of guys, those cars were animals. They had to be really physically thrown around.
And I think it’s no coincidence. You see a driver get out of a 1980s or 1990s Formula one car. They are exhausted. You get out of the modern ones. They look as if they can go and have another race straight after without any problem.
Samir Abid: [00:25:46] Did you talk to those drivers when at the time.
Brian Sims: [00:25:48] Yes. Yeah. I, in fact, I had James Hunt was at my house partying and James was going to drive a tractor for me and tractor a race that I put on the morning of the Grand Prix. Can I tell you.
Samir Abid: [00:25:59] Yeah, a tractor story!
Brian Sims: [00:26:03] 1975, I’m sitting on a plane flying from London to Johannesburg to go and visit my parents. You lived in South Africa and I was going to go and see, I got a ticket to go to the South African grand Prix Kyalami and I’m reading Autosport. And traveling down and the man next to me said, I see you’re reading Autosport magazine.
I said, yeah. Do you want to borrow it? He said, no. I’ve got one. He said, do you obviously liked racing? Then I said, yeah, I love racing. I’ve just started. He said, what are you doing? So I’m racing, Formula Ford. He said, wow, that’s a great starting point. And he said, where are you heading? And I started going to the South African Grand Prix.
He said, when you get there, come and see me. And that man was Max Mosley. And Max Mosley who went on, he was then the boss of the March Formula 1 team went on to become the president of the FIA, the governing body of motor sport, of course. And two years later, four years later, I went back to South Africa and Kyalami the grand Prix it was up for sale.
So I rang the max in England and I said, Max, Has it been sold? He said, actually I think it has. He said why? And I said, maybe I can get a job there teaching or doing some marketing or sponsorship. So he said, leave it with me next morning. I got a phone call from the guy who owned the circuit, Bobby Heartsleeve.
He said, if Brian liked to meet me this evening at four o’clock at the Kyalami ranch hotel for a coffee. Max, and I should talk to you at six o’clock that evening. I walked out as the manager of the Formula one Grand Prix in a circuit in South Africa .
Samir Abid: [00:27:37] wow. The things get done quick. Like it.
Brian Sims: [00:27:40] The drivers came down. They all the cars used to arrive in containers in those days they were shipped out. And the race weekend started and then there was a threat. The drivers were very upset over a licensing issue and threatened to go on strike and then did go on strike led by Nicky Lauda.
So you’ve now got a situation where all the teams have traveled 6,000 miles to South Africa. You’ve got the crowd or coming up from all over South Africa to attend the race. And the drivers sitting in a coach, locked themselves in and said, we’re not racing until this thing’s sorted. And, yeah, so that was, that was a baptism of fire.
Samir Abid: [00:28:19] Tell you, that’s quite an experience. You’re not talking about apexes and breaking points with these guys. It’s something else.
Brian Sims: [00:28:25] The James Hunt thing was fun because James had just finished his career and he was now a commentator with Murray Walker for BBC. And they were at dynamic pairing. They didn’t get on very well. But best commentary team ever, in my opinion, and many people opinion because James was very irreverent.
He’d say it as you saw it, he didn’t try and butter up people that might be able to get him something for fuck for nothing with a new car or something like that. He was really down to earth. And I’d organized on the morning of the Grand Prix attracts or race. I’ve got a sponsorship deal from Deutz, the German tractor company.
I had 24 brand new tractors, big things on the track already. It was a race. We were going to have a big prize for charity, and I had eight of the Formula one drivers, eight members of TV soap opera in South Africa and eight members of the British Speedway team who were out in South Africa.
And James agreed to race as the major sort of personality of the race. He came to my house the night before with max and a couple of other drivers who I knew quite well and partied quite hard. Didn’t turn up for the tractor race. The next day we run the race. Carlos Reutemann the Argentinian driver who won the grand Prix as well in the afternoon when the tractor race.
And I got a beautiful letter from James and he said, Brian, I write to you with my tail firmly between my legs. Not only did I let the charity down, not only did I let you down, not only did I let the crowd down by not turning up, I let myself down.
And I thought it takes a big man to say that. and just to end the story. In 1993, I was out in South Africa at the grand Prix, the last ever South African with Lola for middle one, I was with them. We have them Alberto driving for us. And in the evening I was invited to dinner with James, with Tony, John Dean Nick’s commentator. And three months later, James was dead. Heart attack 40, 45 years old.
Fabulous man, what if only formula one had the characters like James today?
Samir Abid: [00:30:34] Wow. That’s a lovely story.
Brian Sims: [00:30:35] Have you seen the film Rush?
Samir Abid: [00:30:38] Yeah. Oh, yes. Yeah. Several times. Yeah.
Brian Sims: [00:30:40] I was in Bahrain three, four years ago and I met if you’re louder and asked him, I said, Nikki, Talking about Kayalmi and he’s going on an hour. He used to love coming down winter testing in South Africa.
So it was always an absolute pleasure. And I said that form rush. How accurate do you think that was? He said it was scarily, accurate Brian. He said, I hadn’t realized till I saw the film, how close I came to actually not being around anymore. Wonderful man, Nikki louder.
Samir Abid: [00:31:11] Absolutely another one lost them for it.
Brian Sims: [00:31:13] Yep. Yep.
Samir Abid: [00:31:15] this is wonderful one. Thank you for so much for coming to share your views. I think, people will be fascinated to, ah, to hear the stories, but also to pick up some ideas about. How they can maybe raise some money for their own racing.
Brian Sims: [00:31:29] But just one fi final thing I would say. You touched on it earlier, Samir, about whether sponsorship, whether you look locally or whatever.
That the three tips I would give anybody. The first thing you’ve got to do is to make your sponsorship opportunity. Find out all your capabilities, just sit down.
I do this for hours on end with a whiteboard throwing ideas on the board, whether they are sensible or not.
What can I do for a company with my motor racing that will help? And an example of that, if it’s a food company, what are they likely to want above all else to sell more food? The opportunity to maybe sample. Product sampling. A soft drinks company. They want people to try the drink. So what better are you at? A motor race meeting? You’ve got maybe 2000 people there in the crowd and say to them, look, one of the things we can do for you. if this is something you need, we could arrange to have some product sampling there for people that can come up and have free drinks and try it all out.
Think about it that way. And then the other thing is to think about local companies. You’re not going to go and get a sponsorship for racing, a Mini in Mini Challenge from Pepsi-Cola worldwide. Let’s be honest. You’ve got to go though, maybe to your local builders merchants. And one of the things that I’ve done, a lot of deals over the years, with companies that sell other people’s products.
So your local builders, merchants, they don’t sell just their own brand. They sell maybe black and Decker drills, Stanley drills. They sell paint, they sell clothing. And if you can work with them to get some of those brands to club together and come in with them on a small program. It splits the cost incredibly, and you can deliver so much more by offering to have your car there on a Saturday morning to meet people.
They can do a track day with some of the customers and the that. You’ve got to think about it. And the other thing. Finally, I was born with two quite large ears and those ears allowed me to ask the first of all, when I asked a question and then sit and listen to what the company is telling you.
Ask them. What are the things that stop you selling more products and services. Shut up and let them tell you, and then try and work out the capabilities of your product. What can you do to help them solve that problem? Rather than going in blazing telling them everything that you’ve done in your life and what a great racing driver you’re going to be and how you want to be a Formula one driver, does that help?
Samir Abid: [00:34:09] Yeah. I think they’re absolutely great tips, Brian.
The overarching message is about them, not you, but those practical tips, they’re really gonna help people turn that into an actionable thing. And maybe people could now start to imagine themselves.
Yeah. Okay. I can actually see myself approaching the local builders, merchants or another local business and. Thinking again about how they can put together a solution that’s going to help you all.
I think sponsorship is one of those strange subjects, particularly at club racing level, because it’s still optional. And therefore we’d rather not do it if we didn’t have to. cause we’ve got enough to do, preparing a car and get into the truck and do an entries. And it’s another thing we do.
We really want to not spoil our hobby, be distracted by. These kinds of things, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to be like that. I think it can be quite positive and fun for all involved, as well as, helping pay for the actual participation in the racing.
But I think it can actually have some other value
Brian Sims: [00:35:12] You’ve had a very good point there.
A lot of people I say to them, Let me tell you now that the first problem, when you get sponsorship and I found that all those years ago, and then when I actually, can you mention ending up, I had a contract with Mercedes to race touring cars in South Africa, a lot of money.
Suddenly the pressure starts to go on you. When you are doing it. you found the money from borrowing it and begging and stealing and everything, or whatever you want to do. That’s one thing and you can go racing and enjoy it. When you’ve got the pressure of having a sponsor there and they don’t turn around and say, I’ve only given you a little bit of money, so I won’t put much pressure on.
They think because they’ve sponsored you, that gives them the right to say, what are you doing running around in 15th place that doesn’t help me. That’s the reality of the world. So that is a very pertinent question as to, should I even be bothering with a sponsor? Is it going to ruin my, racing and an enjoyment.
If you do decide that you want it, then you’ve gotta be prepared to as Sempra, Ronnie described it. He said, I have a helmet on at weekends on, I have a bowler hat on during the week. In other words, I’m a businessman or week trying to get the money. And I go racing at weekends. But you have got to be very honest with yourself and there’s no good saying, yeah, I want the money, but I don’t want to put the work in to help the sponsor, get the money out and yeah.
Motor racing has got a terrible reputation, Samir for burning fingers with companies where so many people I speak to in the business world say, Oh yeah, we used to sponsor motor racing. Driver came in, who’s going to do this, that, and the other for us, got it. Went off at the money. Never saw him again until it was the day of the renewal.
And he came back and wondered why he wasn’t getting a renewal and thereby lyes the problem. And that was true. Even in formula one. So I got some amazing stories I could tell you of working with FedEx and how Benetton formula one managed to lose FedEx as a sponsor. It’s extraordinary.
Samir Abid: [00:37:16] I find that fascinating, but I suppose that comes down to your own personal, values maybe. and what you. And what you value a person. I find that quite rude if I haven’t fulfilled my obligations, but maybe other people are not quite as comfortable with that.
Also all there’s more to the story possibly, there’s more to the story. There’s always two sides, but it does. It does strike me as. Odd it’s about equally, maybe not unsurprising, unfortunately.
Brian Sims: [00:37:46] Yeah, you’re right about it being on both sides. formula one. when, when I was at Bennington, I remember sitting down with, I won’t mention the name, but he was the CEO at the time of formula one. And, I actually spoke to him and explained that, FedEx were very unhappy about the way they were being treated.
And his words to me were, they are more bloody trouble than they’re worth. And the problem is for Formula one, grew up on tobacco sponsorship. When I was, when I started as an agent with Benetton, I was earning, we were getting $40 million a year from the Japan tobacco company for the Mild Seven brand. And all they wanted was brand awareness. They wanted just the name on television. 70% of their sales were in Asia. They didn’t want anything else. So when I came along, bringing FedEx, Gillette, the HL Marconi, these big companies, brand awareness to them, wasn’t what they wanted. What they wanted was an increased share of business.
And Formula one could not come to terms with that. And they literally found the whole process, a complete pain in the butt because it meant they had to do a lot of work. To maintain a sponsor and there in lies the problem, Oh, we’re too busy. We’re going racing so well then you shouldn’t be looking for that level of money that if that’s the case, you can’t have it both ways.
Samir Abid: [00:39:11] Yeah. it’s fascinating, isn’t it? So part of me thinks it’s a great subject for club racing. And historic r
cinga because because it’s going to help people, go racing for less outlay of their own. Like you say, you get all the benefits, more testing, more tires, everything you want.
And then the other part of me goes, this is really a subject that people want to bother with because it. It’s a job really, or it’s hard work and it does require some personality and a certain mental approach. And the last thing you wanna do is turn someone’s hobby, their relaxation, their pastime into something that , they’re not enjoying.
Brian Sims: [00:39:54] it’s a very valid thought.
Forget about how good you are on the track.
A company couldn’t give a monkey’s quite frankly, unless you’re promoting a product that is a technical product that goes with the car. and so success on the track is important,
a lot of people, in motor racing and it comes back to your point. Be very careful about wanting sponsorship. A lot of people dream the results of having a lot of money. What they don’t want to know is the hard work that goes in between wanting that dream to come true and making it come true.
Historic racing. They have a problem in as much as a lot of historic racing. Why do you even allow sponsorship on the cars other than the original decals? People don’t want to put anything else on there because the Saudia Williams formula one cars as they were, they didn’t want to cover them over with, Burts fish and chip shop and Dagenham do they.
So that cuts out one of the elements of sponsorship as well.
And then when you’ve got it, that’s only the start. So your point is a very valid point.
Samir Abid: [00:40:59] I think it’s fascinating. I think the historic, and this might make you smile. Actually, the historic situation is such that it because you can’t put. Contemporary stickers on the car. It makes you focus more on what is the value that you’re actually giving to your sponsor?
Because. If you think they’re getting value from visibility and putting a sticker on the car and that’s it, then you’ve not necessarily thought it through. because like you say, how does that help them sell more? Where’s the connection. Can you be more proactive? So you can still, I think, put a sponsorship package together for it and also historic racing. You just have to maybe think about it a bit more deeply.
Brian Sims: [00:41:40] To get money sometimes it’s not even sponsorship. can I just tell you one little story about the BBC.
I needed more money than I could get sponsorship this particular season. And I went to the BBC. I went to see a guy called David Croft, who wrote Dan’s army. Are you being served? All those big sit-com programs from this seventies and eighties. And I got the rights to project to work with.
The cast of, Are you being served? The television series, setting grace brothers to departmental store to teach youngsters in shops, how to sell. And that led to working with John Cleese. And doing a training program with John Cleese who had a big, a sales training company as well.
So you’ve got to, you’ve got to be very innovative and you’ve got to look for opportunities, but always think about what you can offer them, not what they can do for you.
That will come naturally. If you can offer them enough, they’ll want to be there. They want to help. And that’s it. End of story.
Samir Abid: [00:42:35] That’s absolutely wonderful. And I think that’s a great place to. So to leave if I try and get people thinking, I look at Brian, thank you so much for taking the time it’s been absolutely fascinating and I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.
Brian Sims: [00:42:48] Samir. It’s been a pleasure inviting me on and I really enjoyed it today. And I enjoyed talking with you and I’m really look forward to keeping in touch with you.