Chapter 8 - The Men With the Money
Another problem that confronts the owner of a new hydro full force is to find a sponsor. Previously, I have lightly touched on the responsibilities of a sponsor but how does an owner get one in the first place? It's hard to say actually, some owners have an extremely difficult time at it. The sponsors, of course, prefer an experienced owner with a proven boat and proven equipment that is already bought and paid for. A new organization in debt will find the list of potential sponsors almost non-existent.
The differences in sponsors are vast in themselves. Some just want their name plastered to the side of a hull that people will likely look at during a race...a sort of floating billboard. Others are somewhat interested in the sport but haven't the budget to spend much. Still others are very interested in the betterment of hydro racing and want to spend lots of money for it ...this is the kind to get but is also the rarest.
Some owners do not bother searching for a sponsor, they foot the bill entirely by themselves ...this phenomenon is known in other circles as the "filthy rich". The self-owning owner is a vanishing breed in the modern more expensive hydro circuit. It used to be the popular thing to do ...the Slo-Mos, the Such Crusts, the Gales, Mavericks, Bardahls, Wahoo, Tahoe Misses, $ Bills and Nitrogens, Tempos and Hawaii Kai ...but has now reduced itself to one ... Notre Dame.
Your big-time sponsors rarely change from year-to-year, some get their feet wet before indulging while others suddenly dive right into it. Anhaeuser-Busch Inc. has sponsored a Miss Budweiser since 1963, Associated Grocers owned and sponsored the Miss Thriftways for eight years. Pay 'n Pak Stores have campaigned boats since 1964 (some were known as Miss Eagle Electric) and Atlas Van Lines has been gathering momentum since 1967. Exide Batteries was gung-ho for three short years, but U.S. Equipment Company has operated hydros for 19 years and have returned again in 1973.
Some boats are sponsored by communities, these hydros are just above no sponsor and no money in quality of equipment used. Madison, Indiana, is the most consistent having entered Miss Madisons for twelve seasons -all with a shoestring budget. There has been a Miss Seattle, Miss Detroits, Miss Miami, Miss D.C., Miss San Diego, a Miss Tri-Cities, Miss Sacramento, Burien Lady, Miss Owensboro, Miss Buffalo, Miss Stockton, Miss Burien, a San Diego Mist, Miss Everett, Miss Reno, Miss Spokane and a Miss Seattle Too. Some were not operated by their namesake, however, but were labeled so by tender hearted, or desperate, owners.
Perhaps the name of a boat campaigned for a short time in 1968 sums up not only the determined nature of owner Norman Manson but of nearly all owners like him ... Want-A-Sponsor.
Okay, so the owner lands one - what is expected of this company? The main purpose of any sponsor is that the boat be named after him, it is good advertising when the radio and television announcers are constantly saying the name of your company and the newspapers have it written in their headlines. Industries such as Budweiser Beer, Bardahl Petroleum, Atlas Van Lines Moving Company, Pay 'n Pak Stores, Thriftway Stores and Smirnoff Vodka got gigantic shots in their respective arms with relatively cheap publicity costs ...the price of a one minute spot on national television during the super bowl.
To get a well known name, the sponsor must spend lots of money, our original theme, and so-on ... it's a vicious circle, but, much like any other form of business - you get what you put into it. He must produce buttons for the collectors (a black market type trading post deals in these items) and other assorted knick-knacks to be handed out as souvenirs for the hydro nuts. The sponsor is the only person associated with any boat who is in the sport to realize a profit but he does so through indirect means. It is the sponsor, however, who has spent the money to keep the sport in existence with the rising costs of the campaign ... without them there would be no thing as Unlimited racing as we know it today.
(Reprinted from Roostertails Unlimited by Andy Muntz, 1973)
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