In the lead up to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this coming October, wise solar car teams are building their media and social media presence. This has all kinds of benefits. It grows the fan base, and fans sometimes respond to crowd-funding campaigns. Even if they don’t, fans provide moral support. A media/social media presence also helps to attract sponsors, either as a result of a potential sponsor reading a story, or as a result of a potential sponsor googling a team.
Two solar-car media stories, the left from Algemeen Dagblad in the Netherlands (January 2019), and the right from the New Straits Times in Malaysia (September 2018). The orange team shirt on the left has instant brand recognition for both the team and the major sponsor.
Above are two good media stories, one from the champions in Delft, and the other from the newer Ecophoton team in Malaysia. It often helps to place a story if there is a local connection. It’s big news in Zwolle (population 127,000) that a local girl is team leader of Vattenfall Solar Team. It’s even bigger news in Abcoude (population 8,800) that a local student is on the team. During the American Solar Challenge, solar car teams spending the night in a town are pretty much guaranteed to make the local news as well. This benefits a team’s university, in that children are likely to remember the big event when they later go to college.
Other kinds of media story are technology-focused, highlighting the role of in-kind sponsors, such as Sonnenwagen Aachen and Covestro. Transportation and logistics sponsors, like Michigan and Höegh Autoliners, also generate stories of an obvious kind. In all cases, a good team photographer contributes greatly to a good story.
Michigan loads up their famous semi trailer in June 2015 (image credit)
I’ve often pointed out that a solar car team is more like a startup company than anything else. Sponsorship and media is just as important as building and racing the car. The top teams provide a model to follow for all of these activities. Conversely, those teams which fail to recruit a subteam for sponsorship and media should not be surprised if they struggle to find sponsors (which is my cue to mention this great trio of posts on sponsorship from Australia’s Team Arrow).