Grassroots Competition: The Struggles of Sponsorship
Sunday, April 18, 2010
By: Aaron Pierce
As Rally America and the sport of rallying grow in the United States, so have the teams that compete. Travis Pastrana and Ken Block, two of the biggest names in rally, have significant support, but most of the competitors in the Rally America circuit are grassroots and compete out of their own wallets. Sometimes they are barely able to scrape by to make it to a rally. These teams, although small, can still be found at or near the top of the points’ board.
One of those teams is T. Hanson Motorsports, a father/son rally team led by driver and son Travis Hanson. Both teams have humble Midwest roots, PMR Motorsports based out of Dublin, OH, and T. Hanson Motorsports loosely based out of Traverse City, MI. Hanson pilots , a 2007 Subaru Impreza STi, in the Super Production class.
Hanson got started in rally after first spectating with his father at Sno*Drift. The following year they worked on a service crew for a team. After that team decided that they were going to get out of rally Hanson and his father decided that they were going to give rally a shot and bought their car.
All of these drivers supported themselves in the beginning and in especially Hanson’s case continue to do most, if not all of it, out of pocket. When asked about support in the beginning, Rooney had an interesting insight into where it came from and what his philosophy was.
“My bank account. No wife, no kids, no ex-wife, no dog and currently no girlfriend. What else are you suppose to spend money on?”
Hanson is currently in first place, leading with nearly twice as many points as Rooney. Initial success came for Hanson in 2006, only his second year of rally. He placed first in Production GT class in the Central Region in his regional championship. Since then Hanson has stepped up his efforts to compete at the National level of rally. Hanson also has the background experience as a driver instructor at Team O’Neil rally school to help give him a leg up on the competition.
Hanson is full time with his rally team.
“For at least the last three years doing national events has been my entire life. I’m totally committed to what we are doing here.”
He continues, “Every dime has gone into this.” Currently he is working on a little marketing team to publicize his team even further. Even with his experience and current dramatic lead Hanson has worries, “I think there will come a point in time soon that if if we don’t get a whole lot of sponsorship or any sponsorship, and you know, well we can’t maintain what we are doing now forever, that’s for sure.”
So Hanson, like many others, continues to work at gaining sponsorship which in many cases can be a full time job.
Even though Hanson is at the top of Super Production right now, he believes that more is possible. “We could do a lot more if we were at that next level of [sponsorship] commitment were the factory drivers are.” Hanson’s thought on this comes from his personal finances, if he wrecks, his bank account has to try and cover it.
The hunt for sponsorship is always on these and many other teams’ minds. It can mean the difference between being able to make it to the rally or not. This thought is on the minds of many of the drivers as the season shifts to the West coast rallies, like Olympus Rally, which can be a logistical and financial nightmare for the Midwest and East coast teams because of the extra cost to operate so far from home. This is especially true for teams like...T. Hanson Motorsports.
So as the season progresses the teams will continue to develop themselves and place points on the board to attract those desperately needed sponsors. They have come from ..., “clueless” new guys to serious competitors with multi-car teams, marketing strategies, and most importantly, big points on the leader board. There is still work to be done however, and they will continue to ..., “strive to become better”. They just need that extra little push to go from grassroots to household.