Digging through some of our archives, we found this gem… an interview with Travis Patrana circa 2001/2002. Read what TP had to say about sponsorship, promotion and PR back in the day…
Q: What do you think the definition of sponsorship is?
Travis Pastrana: I feel sponsorship is someone that supports you because they believe you are going to be an asset to their company. If someone is sponsoring you it’s not because they like, although it’s good to think that they do (laughs), they’re sponsoring you because they believe you have something to offer them. If you present yourself well and do well even at your local races, that’s typically what sponsors look for.
Q: Thinking back to when you were an amateur, what was the most difficult part of getting sponsored?
TP: I think the most difficult part is actually getting sponsors to look at you. My biggest thing was that I had to travel. As a motocrosser, there is pretty much four major amateur nationals a year. If you don’t go and participate in those events or do well while there, sponsors aren’t going to look at you. They might give you a 10% discount or dealer cost, which is great that they even do that. Unless they see you with their own eyes like if you are in a magazine and won a national championship, they are not going to be as “giving” with their sponsorship.
Q: Who works on all your sponsorship deals now? Do you hook up all of your deals, or do you have an agent?
TP: My parents have always been really good when dealing with sponsorships. At this point right now, I pretty much have everyone that I need and if I need something else I can talk to one of the sponsors that I have and they usually help me get my foot in the door. When I signed on with American Suzuki for instance, I got team sponsors like Motul and a few others automatically. So some of the bigger corporate sponsors come with other sponsors.
Q: When do you begin thinking about sponsorship for the upcoming season?
TP: It’s never too early to start thinking about sponsorship. There is no way a professional racer could make it without some kind of sponsorship to help them. It’s just not financially feasible. The biggest thing is that you have to go to the major races and sometimes you have to put out a little bit more money to get a sponsor to recognize you.
Q: Do you still have a resume?
TP: Oh yeah. I still have resume for sponsors that I try to get. Right now, Kicker Stereo System picked me up a couple years ago who is obviously not in the sport of motocross. MasterCraft Boats and Specialized Bicycles; I had to try and convince them that giving me a boat or a bicycle was going to be worth their trouble that it would actually pay off for them.
Q: How often do you keep in contact with your sponsors and what type of relationship do you have with them?
TP: Quarterly at the minimum. Four times a year is the absolute minimum that you should keep in contact. You don’t want to be calling them everyday or bug em, because they’ll probably drop you for sure that way (laughs), but every time your doing a race or going some where you should definitely send them a letter like a hand written letter. A form letter is best to send for a majority of sponsors, but once you have a sponsor make sure you establish your contact and that he/she knows who you are. If they don’t know who you are, they will be less inclined to keep you the next year.
Q: Besides putting stickers on your bike, what else do you do to further promote and endorse your sponsors?
TP: Well, Suzuki has had me go to a Public Relations class every year since I was 8 years old. Every year we would go and basically, they would educate us on what to say. Don’t lie, but if the bike was running well, make sure you say, “my Michelin tires and Suzuki really got me off that starting line really great” when you’re being interviewed anytime on television or over the air. If your sponsors are sponsoring that event, say “I’d really like to thank Suzuki because they are doing a really good job of helping the sport grow.”
Q: Wow, you’ve been going to a Public Relations class since you were 8 years old?
TP: Yeah, every year from 8 until now. They actually hire a PR agency who comes in to Suzuki and coaches team managers, riders and everybody.
Q: What a typical process that you would go through to obtain sponsorship?
TP: Well, it really depends on what you are trying to achieve or accomplish. For motocross, the amateur national championship at Loretta Lynn’s or in general, August is about the time that sponsors are going to be looking to expand or start putting together next year’s program. You want to have a resume that is in (to sponsors) by the end of August or at the very latest, September. By November they are already pretty much full for the new year. So make sure you get your resume in early and if you have the chance, go to Loretta Lynn’s. If you do well at Loretta’s, you’re almost guaranteed that you’ll be looked at or watched and you’ll have a chance to prove yourself.
Q: What advice would you give to a young up and comer looking to get sponsored for the first time or make it to the factory level?
TP: It’s really hard; I think the biggest thing is going to be results. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. It’s how you are finishing and whether you are traveling, so definitely work hard and ride a lot, but some of the other things they look for is education. If you’re a ‘D’ student, they are not going to be as inclined to pick you up as much as they would if you’re an Honor Roll student. I also think if your parents, I know it’s tough, but if your parents aren’t supportive and are never with you at the track, that’s something sponsors look at too if you do get along well with your parents.
Q: People recognize how strongly you communicate with your sponsors. What is the most important thing for a rider to learn about the sponsor-rider relationship in order for them to obtain and keep the best sponsorship packages possible?
TP: I think it’s good to keep it on a business standpoint for the most part. If you can get to know your sponsors…the people who are going to be handing you stuff like bikes, products, discounts or whatever it may be, if you get to know them they are going to be more inclined to help you out than if you simply send them a quarterly message that is sent (generically) to all your sponsors. I think that’s the biggest thing…after you already have a sponsor is when you get to this point.
Q: Now’s the time, if you’d like, to give a shout out to everyone who has helped you along the way?
TP: I definitely have a lot of sponsors I’d like to thank. I used to memorize them alphabetically as an amateur, but right now I can’t go through that list because a lot of the sponsors that had helped me out got switched when I turned Pro. I really want to thank American Suzuki, No Fear, Spy Goggles, Michelin Tires, Pro Art Works, which is a local helmet painting company whose alw
ays been there for me painting my helmets, Specialized Bicycles, Kicker Stereo Systems, Shoei Helmets, RG3 Suspension, Alpinestar Boots, and MasterCraft Boats are the real major ones.