Amherst's Nathan Kelly is preparing for another season of Formula BMW Racing. He's also looking for sponsors to support his racing career.
AMHERST – Motorsports is not a game of luck and good fortune, every move both on and off the track is a calculated precise action with little to no room for error.
Nathan Kelly of Amherst has spent the past 12 years of his life sculpting a career around his passion, learning firsthand the pressures of the sport.
“It’s been a challenge, racing isn’t free and with the economy the way it is companies don’t hand over sponsorship dollars easy,” the 22-year-old said.
Last November, Kelly spoke with two teams involved in the Indy Car ladder system, called the Mazda Road to Indy.
“It was great to talk with them, it really opened my eyes for how much of a challenge it is to get into professional racing when you don’t have a professional level budget, they had both offered seats for the season but it wasn’t in my budget,” he said.
The term budget does not sound like a word that an athlete would have to be concerned about, unless you want to be a racecar driver, explains Kelly. He said 90 per cent of the drivers pay for their seats in racing.
“It sounds outrageous I know, but it’s the truth. A seat in F1 can cost between $3 million to $44 million (Ferrari), NASCAR can be around $100,000 per race. Even down to the local series like the Maritime ProStock tour are spending huge amounts of money to get cars on the track, there is rarely such thing as a hired driver in racing,” he said.
Kelly has since sent out fully customized sponsorship proposals to businesses hoping for the right opportunity to connect. He said it’s like any business you do in life. You need to show the investor why it is best for them, businesses need to understand why unique marketing is so important in today’s world.
“Look at Redbull, they only sell energy drinks but have enough money to send a man into space at $10 million-plus and spend $675 million on their F1 team annually,” Kelly said. “It’s all about marketing in today’s world. If people don’t see your brand your sales will plateau and decline very quickly. No longer is it a world of relying on repeat valued customers, that generation is slipping away.”
Kelly further explains that he does way more than just put a sticker on his racecar for sponsors. He tries to give his sponsors current marketing practices and it’s really limitless with what can be done. Technology, like GoPro video cameras, has changed what is possible.
“It’s great if 300,000 people see your logo, but they need to remember it, that’s where I come in,” said Kelly, who feels auto racing it is one of the best marketing tools out there.
“In no other athletic sponsorship do you get opportunities such as: full television coverage, international magazine advertisement, social media advertisement, a billboard that moves at 250 km/h and your logo on a transport truck that travels internationally.”
All of this is just a taste of what comes with partnering up with this young talent.
When asked about local sponsorship (Amherst area) Kelly was very grateful to speak about Carters Sports Cresting,
“They have been beyond amazing, their support is outstanding and the work is incredible. Mark Carter has been behind me with my racing since I first started at age 10, and I can’t thank him enough for it,” Kelly said.
Gaining sponsorship can be quite difficult explained Kelly, however this isn’t something the young athlete will let slow him down.
He has found an ideal program that allows him to train in a high performance vehicle without the extensive costs. He is racing a Formula BMW racecar across eastern Canada with the support of Kartbahn, Bell Helmets, K1 Racegear and Amherst’s own, Carters Sports Cresting.
“The series is perfect for me at this stage; I was able to get enough funding through all of my sponsors to cover my costs for this season,” Kelly said. “The majority of racers have their family members paying their way, I was able to accomplish this strictly on corporate funding.”
Kelly further states that you have to think of it like a business, it cannot be compared to a sport like hockey or baseball; it is a world where money talks and talent walks.
Kelly hopes to some day compete in touring car racing, series like the 24-hour races at Daytona and Le Mans.
“It would be nice to race touring cars, and hopefully land a position as a fully paid driver; even still I understand that I will need a second job to live comfortably,” he said. “Currently, I am looking into engineering positions with a couple race teams in England”
Kelly has already started to prepare for the 2015 season; he has been in touch with multiple large corporations negotiating sponsorship opportunities and they are listening. He is also on the radar of three professional teams.
“I have already spoken with three teams in the series that I am interested in for next season, the series is fully televised and the cars are truly amazing.”
Next seasons venue include the Montreal Formula 1 Weekend, and the Toronto Indy, both of which set sporting event attendance records in Canada.
If anything Kelly feels that what he has learned about business through this journey cannot be replicated with a degree, even though he is finishing that up as well.
“I have learned a ton just from doing all of this; I feel that the best learning only takes place with trial and error. It’s also really important to me to have a degree behind me as well, it adds credibility. I do all of my classes online so I can still travel for racing,” Kelly said.
Kelly has a website (www.nathankellyracing.com) and you can keep up with him on twitter @nathankelly77.