A friend of mine has loved American car racing since he was a kid. Stock cars, modified, dirt tracks … he loves it all.
Still he complains about how things have changed. How sponsors have left the sport, especially at lower levels, causing the teams to shut down and racing the series contract. How some drivers get rides based more on their ability to attract sponsors instead of solely on talent.
I get it. He loves racing and is understandably worried about the future. But hearing the same complaint gradually grows old. One day I let my frustration show.
"If you are so worried about it," I said, "maybe you should put your money where your mouth is."
He stared. "I can't afford to sponsor a team," he said.
"I don't mean that," I said. "But you can afford to buy a product. Or a service. Or a hat or t-shirt. Or in some way support a company that supports racing."
"It wouldn't do anything …" he said.
Look at a little coffee shop on the corner you've visited once or twice. The coffee is good, but a little pricey, so you've only stopped in once or twice.
Then, one day, you see that it is in operation.
It's a shame, you think. Once again, big companies and national chains have crushed the little guy, you think.
If you want a small business to run, you need to support it from time to time. (If you don't, that's ok. But you can't have it both ways: I know people who are fighting Amazon's impact on small bricks and mortar retailers … but who haven't bought any purchase from a mum- and pop this year.)
If you want a small business owner to be in business, you must occasionally add side price / value metrics and rational market theory and top convenience and take a chance on a new or struggling entrepreneur: Buying a few items from a local store, hire the small restaurant down the road to accommodate a non-critical event, or call a new vendor and request a quote.
Granted, you might use a little more. Or the meal may not be good. Or the quote may be a bit loud.
It's okay. At least you tried.
And formed a small part of a larger solution.
I like professional cycling. I enjoy watching the Tour de France on TV. Unfortunately, like motor sports, pro cycling is a tough business. Sponsors are incredibly difficult to come by.
So every year I buy something: from a team sponsor, from a TV coverage advertiser … from someone who directly supports the sport.
I don't use much. Nor am I as noble, charitable or altruistic.
I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for me. I want the sport of pro cycling to be a sport – and that I should be a sport I can watch through TV or streaming. (My worries are not baseless; the flagship race on the US road racing calendar, the Tour of California, has gone "hiatus" after a 14-year run.)
I like motor racing. So I subscribe to TrackPass, NBC's streaming service that offers NASCAR, IMSA, American Flat Track …
The "niche" sports audience is not big. If enough people do not pay for coverage – or do not support sponsors who expect return on their marketing investment in these sports – the services that lead them to decide to buy these rights will not be worth it.
these sports will disappear from virtual viewing.
And maybe disappear completely.
Just like the coffee shop on the corner.
Again, don't get me wrong. Buying a product from a sponsor, subscribing to a streaming service … doing so doesn't make me special or fantastic or in any way worthy of praise.
Just like supporting a small business, you hope remains in the business.
You're not doing it for the owner. You do it for you .
Which by extension is good for the owner.
And that's exactly how it should be.
Because that means everyone wins.  Published on: January 16, 2020
The opinions expressed here by the Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.