Why motorsport and crowd funding don’t mix

Published on Friday January 26 2018

More and more drivers are turning to crowd funding to compete. Pic: Jakob Ebrey

I have a genuine disliking for crowd funding schemes in motorsport.

This modern invention, spawned from the growth of social media in society, just doesn’t fit with the sport in my eyes.

A quick internet search for ‘motorsport’ or ‘racing’ on some of the larger crowd funding websites reveals pages and pages of hopefuls, all putting forward their stories in the hopes of donations from generous internet benefactors so they can indulge their sporting passion.

Now, I’m not the insensitive type. Some of these campaigns are genuinely worthy and even heart-warming – take the phenomenal response to Billy Monger’s life-changing accident at Donington Park last year. No qualms about that at all.

The racing community is often referred to as a ‘family’ and a ‘small world’ and never have those statements been better proven than being part of hundreds of thousands of people pulling together to help somebody who was truly in need. Same goes for James Winslow’s current campaign after his brake failure in Abu Dhabi led to a huge accident, multiple major injuries and soaring medical bills.

There is an argument that we enter this dangerous sport at our own risk and should think about insurance as a fall-back option, which is true to a degree. But in cases like this the basic instinct to help a fellow human in need, regardless of that cold logic, comes through strongly.

I get these kind of campaigns.

Billy Monger is the perfect example of how great crowd funding can be. Pic: LAT

But using a similar type of thing to simply ‘help young talent, Joe Bloggs, get on the grid’?

Sorry, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. Surely these types of online charity need to be reserved for genuine crisis, not the pursuit of a luxury?

Motorsport has always been expensive, and therefore a sport for either the privileged or the hard-working.

Like it or lump it, but money is often the determining factor. You may have a load of natural talent, but that doesn’t guarantee you a place in the sport’s upper echelons, or even its grassroots ones.

I can see the various reasons why people would attempt such campaigns to go racing, rallying, karting or whatever – the self-belief in what they can achieve (and given the chance I’m sure many of them could), the near-desperation to get back into a race car after the bug has well and truly bitten. Or even just the slim chance to chase a dream.

But take a second to think about the message starting a crowd funding page sends out to those in the industry.

Motorsport is expensive, even at a national level. Pic: Ebrey/LAT

From a teams’ point of view it’s essentially like raising a big flag reading ‘I’m skint’, a fact made even worse if your page publically boasts just a few quid – nowhere near the necessary number of zeros needed to achieve the goals of some, rather more ambitious, campaigns.

Giving that message out early means most teams won’t even look at doing business with you. Especially when they know that the minute a bumper falls off you’re fully reliant on charitable donations to put a new one on.

From a sponsors’ point of view it’s lazy. I’ve known many drivers who have had their entire careers funded by sponsorship, but that’s because they work tirelessly at it. They spend days, weeks and months at a time chasing new partners and securing the necessary deals they need. Then once they’ve got them they work hard off the track to give value back to the investors. They do corporate events, meet and greets, advertising, track days – the options are limitless.

What they don’t do is simply create a free webpage and hope a major backer stumbles across it and donates.

Many drivers work hard to secure sponsorship. Pic: Ebrey/LAT

I’m not suggesting that all of the people behind these types of pages haven’t tried hard at some point to secure corporate sponsorship. I’m sure some have. But having this type of campaign in the first place just screams last resort.

We have a sport dominated by rich people – there’s no escaping that and it’s been that way since motor racing was invented. It will likely stay that way too.

But there are opportunities out there for drivers without money to make their mark. But they’re usually spending their time creating carefully thought out, innovative and targeted sponsorship proposals instead of joining the growing number online resorting to the virtual begging bowl.

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