Missing Word Solutions Partners With Star Racing On Fan Sponsorships,
Achieves Success With Time-Limited Campaign To Raise $30,000 In 30 Days
In the fall of 2014, Star Racing team owner George Bryce had an opening on his NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Series team. Bryce, one of the most accomplished owners in NHRA history with six world championships and more than 80 race series victories, took the opportunity to reconnect with Angelle Sampey to see if she had an interest in returning to the track. Angelle, who had won three NHRA world titles as the primary driver with Star Racing during the mid 1990s and early 2000s, had retired from racing in 2006 to focus on her family. With more than 40 career race wins to her credit, Angelle had missed the competition. In the midst of testing the comeback waters toward the end of the 2014 NHRA season, Angelle suffered a significant injury to her Achilles heel. Instead of utilizing the offseason to prepare for the 2015 NHRA campaign with a full-time return to Star Racing, Angelle had to focus on an intense rehab following surgery to repair the Achilles injury. While she was certain that she wanted to race in 2015, Angelle (and George) had questions about how many races she could run in coming back from a major injury after years away from track. The uncertainty of a potential race schedule made securing traditional sponsorships quite challenging. In addition, the pool of available sponsorship dollars had gotten smaller over the past few years with many traditional corporate sponsors tightening budgets and exiting the racing market. Given the questions about her return from injury and the changes in the sport’s sponsorship landscape, Star Racing and Angelle (even with their respective track records of quantifiable success) were unable to find the right fit from a major backer or title sponsorship that could carry the team through a season.
Plan of Action:
George Bryce and the Star Racing team reviewed potential budget options available to them to launch a run during the 2015 season. There was enough internal funding available to run the first three races in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Series in 2015. George and Angelle decided to move forward with plans to begin the season as a way to test the waters on her return to racing after the injury as well as to have a presence on the circuit with potential sponsors. Angelle and George both have substantial social media followings and they shared the plans over Facebook and Twitter. A member of the creative leadership team with Missing Word Solutions had previously worked with George saw his social media posts. Missing Word Solutions had noted that several of followers had expressed a desire to help fund the team’s 2015 season. After some research on possible options, Missing Word Solutions contacted George about the possibility of launching a dedicated website focused on promoting a fan-funding campaign component.
Following some initial discussions about potential for the funding campaign and its goals, Star Racing engaged Missing Word Solutions to develop JoinTeamAngelle.com. As a website presented by Star Racing and dedicated to Angelle’s fans, it would become the platform for operating a funding campaign that sought to raise $30,000 during a 30-day period that ran from May 15th through June 15th of 2015. The funding drive would allow Star Racing to extend the number of NHRA events the team planned to run during what would be an abbreviated 2015 race schedule. Most importantly, it allowed Star Racing the ability to continue to run three additional races at the beginning of the NHRA year. This strategy offered a number of benefits, including additional time for Angelle to come back from injury and test her comfort level on the bike in race conditions. It also kept the Star Racing team in the spotlight as an innovator as no other NHRA team had ever launched this type of campaign. Beyond the fundraising, it offered George a new platform to network with potential major sponsors while providing affordable single-race packages to companies that had never been able to participate in the motorsports market.
Work with designer Scott Wallace on the JoinTeamAngelle.com website began in mid April of 2015. Given the time and budget parameters, Missing Word Solutions developed an electronic platform that, in featuring a graphically strong and adaptable to mobile devices, used a quadrant approach on the front page that made all the key components accessible from the moment visitors went to the JoinTeamAngelle.com home page. We utilized Angelle’s status as one of the most successful and popular drivers in the history of the sport, and visitors were welcomed by a blog column from Angelle at the top of the site. The website also featured a blog from George, who provided an owner’s perspective. The blogs offered news and insights from the principal players while also serving as a form of persuasive communications. We kept the blogs updated with fresh content each week – spacing out the days for two columns and sharing them across social media. Another significant component for the website was a JoinTeamAngelle YouTube Channel. In addition to videos shot on iPhones by Angelle and Star Racing, we augmented the YouTube Channel with professionally recorded and edited pieces that we shot at the time of the rollout on May 15th at the Atlanta Raceway. The most important component of the website was that it offered multiple opportunities for visitors to become “fan sponsors” with various levels that provided fans with JoinTeamAngelle merchandise and fan experiences with the team in exchange for a sponsorship commitment. Working in collaboration with Star Racing, we established two secure platforms to receive payment for the fan sponsorships – the crowd-funding website Indiegogo and the Star Racing Merchandise Store. Because this was a public campaign, we believed it was important to utilize an independent third-party resource like Indiegogo featuring key mechanisms that could track the progress of the campaign against a defined time period.
Given the need to maintain a competitive advantage over other NHRA teams that might co-opt or undermine the campaign strategy before it was launched, Missing Word Solutions coordinated with Star Racing to make the website public and debut it on the day of the announcement, May 15, 2015. We had both Angelle and George tease the announcement through their social media channels in the days prior to the May 15th press conference at the Atlanta Raceway. After we confirmed time slot for the press conference with NHRA, we locked down the time for our distribution of our JoinTeamAngelle.com press release through the US1 National dissemination channel of PR NewsWire. In addition to our rollout plan, we had established a strategy and schedule for adding fresh blog content, new videos and social media engagement prior to the debut of the website. We also outlined plans for follow-ups with trade industry press and further press releases announcing progress within the campaign.
JoinTeamAngelle.com had an impact from its first day of operation,
garnering more than 5,000 hits and numerous media inquiries from the campaign’s first press release, according to metrics from PR NewsWire. The debut of the website and campaign took the NHRA fan base and sponsors by surprise – with industry press noting the innovative approach that had been developed by Star Racing (and, by extension, Missing Word Solutions). The campaign continued to receive coverage from trade press during the first 30 days and beyond. It also generated conversation on social media – as we had predicted. The fact that we pulled down more than $10,000 in the first nine days of the campaign helped to make coverage of JoinTeamAngelle.com newsworthy from the outset. Missing Word Solutions worked directly with the Star Racing Marketing Team, which is overseen by co-owner Jackie Bryce. Missing Word Solutions served as a plug-and-play resource for Jackie and her team. In addition to working with the team on the development and execution of the overall strategy, maintaining the website and overseeing the social media posts, Missing Word Solutions put together a printed piece that could be distributed on site at the races by Star Racing.
While providing a cost-graduated structure for fan experiences appeared to be in line with the grass-roots comments George and Angelle had heard through the years (and was evidenced on social media in January and February of 2015), the fan response on the lower sponsorship levels was less than we had anticipated. However, we did have fans take advantage of the on-site experiences at the race track with the team at the $1,000 level. Meanwhile, the campaign appealed to corporate level sponsors who found the $7,500 single-event sponsorship much more affordable than longer more expensive commitments available in the NHRA market. (Additionally, these single-event deals offered more of a concentrated spotlight as – in the case of Platinum General Construction Services – these sponsorships were accompanied by a press release).
By June 13, 2015, the JoinTeamAngelle.com campaign had reached $30,125 and a fully funded status on Indiegogo. The JoinTeamAngelle.com website had gone from nonexistent to a well trafficked and strong source of information about the team’s activities in less than 30 days.
The additional financial resources allowed Star Racing and Angelle to expand their modified race schedule in the series during what proved to be a transitional year for the team. As noted, Angelle had essentially been away from the sport for a decade and she was also still trying to recover from the Achilles injury. The campaign provided an opportunity for Angelle and Star Racing to demonstrate the potential for a run with a major sponsor. During a June race in Norwalk, Ohio, Angelle finished second – opening eyes as sponsors looked toward the future.
Star Racing and Angelle made the decision in July to ramp down to a select number of events in 2015, placing a focus on running a full schedule in 2016 with a major sponsor. Angelle used the offseason to continue to strengthen her Achilles. Meanwhile, George used the positive exposure and additional races made possible through the campaign as a tool in securing a season-long sponsorship through Precision Service Equipment for 2016.
“Missing Word Solutions provided an invaluable service to Star Racing during our 2015 season, and they were a great fit for what our team needed at that time,” said George Bryce. “The Missing Word Solutions team brought the highest levels of professionalism and strategic thinking in presenting a workable plan for our fan sponsorship campaign. In a challenging market for the racing industry, they developed an innovative platform and expertly executed the work on a tight deadline — allowing Star Racing to achieve our crowd-funding goal of earning $30,000 in fan sponsorships within 30 days’ time. Missing Word Solutions displayed the unique ability to perfectly plug into Star Racing – essentially becoming an extension of our team. Through their work and their attention to every detail, Missing Word Solutions consistently demonstrated that they were invested in the success of Star Racing.”