Drag Racer and Sponsorship Expert Jeff Lambert on How to Pay For Your Passions.
If you’re willing to do the work, says Jeff Lambert, this is a great time to secure sponsors for your passion. It’s also still important – and possible- to give back to others using the funding of sponsors and donating your own time and talent.
Jeff realized the value of initiative and hard work while in the Navy. It was only by putting in extra hours, sowing extra effort, that he was able to move from an area he was less passionate about, into one he’d sought after all along.
He poured his whole self into his time in the military, including a deployment during the first Gulf War. Once he left the military and the structure it held, Jeff had to learn how to reapply that initiative into the civilian world. It was not an easy transition for him to make. While he struggled to assimilate into the civilian mindset and blend his military experience into his new life, he found work in a field he loves.
Jeff dug into his new career in the golfing world. He rose to become a sought after instructor and worked alongside Vince Gill and Amy Grant, as an instructor at a golf camp they supported. Eventually Jeff worked his way into a high-paying position as the director of instruction at a golf academy. He was also spending time following another personal passion in the sport of drag racing.
Life was good. It was great, in fact. Personally and professionally, Jeff was living his own version of the American Dream. But then the recession hit.
Jeff experienced the same unexpected hit millions of Americans did when he was laid off from his job. Undaunted, he made an effort to transition from a coach to a professional Golfer. One mini-tour at a time, Jeff pulled together sponsorships to fund his pursuits. But sponsorships began to dry up and Jeff was again forced to pivot. This time he landed in the medical field as a corporate investigator.
Jeff settled in to this new career at the same company his wife worked for. Any disappointment he felt over sidelining his golf career was tempered by his increased involvement in drag racing.
The sport of drag racing is one Jeff had been interested in for years. Throughout his different career paths, he’d indulged that interest by competing and going in depth into that community. He had no idea it would also turn into his new path.
It began when a neighbor wandered over to check out the restoration work he was doing on a car. Jeff thought nothing of it when the neighbor began spending time helping him out. They were just two dudes hanging out working on a car. It wasn’t until his neighbor’s wife came to him one day and thanked him, says Jeff, that he realized it was much deeper than that.
“She thanked me for saving his life,” he says. HIs surprise was absolute. He had no idea what she was talking about – all he’d been doing was hanging out with a neighbor, he thought.
In reality, he learned, that time was a turning point in his neighbor’s life.
His neighbor is a Vietnam veteran. He was still trapped in his own struggles to come to terms with the mental, moral, and emotional wounds of his combat service all those years ago. HIs depression was so powerful, his wife explained to Jeff, that he’d begin talking incessantly about his death – until he began working on Jeff’s car.
With tears in her eyes and emotion packing her voice, she told Jeff that her husband had new energy and joy in his life. He talked incessantly about cars instead of his own death, and she wanted Jeff to know how much he’d impacted both their lives.
That, says Jeff, is when he knew he had an opportunity to give back to other veterans.
Armed Forces Racing is the 501(c)3 that was born from that moment. It is the nonprofit that utilizes the sport of drag racing as recreational therapy for veterans. Jeff loves seeing a sport he loves serve as a conduit to healing for a community he loves – his fellow veterans. He also learned how to fund it through donations and sponsorship.
At first Jeff was not fully aware that he taught himself a marketable skill. He knew only that he was meeting a need he had for himself and his non profit. It took another professional plot twist for him to discover the value of his ability to secure sponsorships.
Jeff is not a political person by nature. He especially has no appetite for inner politics in his professional life. So he was not exactly surprised when his dislike for the inner politics at his own job resulted in him being laid off. He even finds the humor in it now, as he recalls that he was fired while his wife was not. She even got to take half a day off on the day he was let go, he laughs.
Jeff was again faced with the loss of his income. He was again in a position to decide what move to make next. With the support of his wife, he went all-in on Armed Forces Racing. He turned his experience and determination into full-time sponsorship connections until he was able to fully fund his non profit.
Today he’s turned that talent into his own company, Race Sponsorships.net. He’s become an expert at securing sponsorships for drag car racers and teaching those racers how to keep those sponsors happy. He’s built relationships across the industry and developed trainings for anyone to use, when seeking to secure their own sponsorships.
Even in the midst of COVID, says Jeff, there is potential.
It’s all about relationships and mindset. “If you can focus more on what you can do for a company than what they can do for you, that can turn into a sponsorship,” he says.
For instance, a local restaurant may not be able to spare any finds in the midst of this crisis. But they could likely use some help keeping their doors open. Why not offer to help out with deliveries or use your social media skills to help them promote themselves – whatever you have to offer them, do it. That not only just makes for basic human kindness, but it goes a long way toward building relationships that can turn into sponsorships down the road. Perhaps that restaurant owner has a connection that will be open to jumping in to spuuport you, as well.
This current crisis is the perfect opportunity to shine, says Jeff. get out there. Offer value. Take whatever job you have to in order to pay your bills but continue adding your own unique value out into the world. Continue showing up doing what you love to do and demonstrating why a partnership with you is a win-win.
It may seem counterintuitive right now, Jeff agrees. But he’s built a business and a stellar reputation in the fine art of sponsorship, and he knows it is the mindset that will separate those who emerge from this time stronger, and those who are left behind.