For those not familiar with Kickstarter, it's been making huge waves in both media and gaming circles in the past year or so. The idea is that it can be used as a source of "crowdfunding" for projects that migt not otherwise see the light of day. In return to donating money towards the accomplishment of a project, backers are often rewarded with anything from a simple word of thanks to a copy of that item. (For example, pledging to fund the development of a video game often has a reward level of getting a copy of the game upon its release, along with perhaps some promotional items if you pledged at a higher level). It isn't a sure thing, and some projects have been notorious busts, but there are also big success stories.
We all know that funding in racing is a dicey proposition. Drivers such as Justin Wilson have already tried a fan-funded approach (see: the Justin Wilson Investor's Club), and a couple of racing teams have tried selling stock to fans before. So could the Kickstarter model work to get an IndyCar driver the funding for a ride?
Well, first off, you'd need to look at the cash needed. For our purposes, let's say we have a driver that's aiming for the Indianapolis 500. You're looking at about $500k for a smaller Indy-only program. Now, you'd need to have a driver with a strong social media following, but that's not all. You'd need a good story so the Kickstarter gets picked up either for its novelty or interest through several media outlets to get the word out.
Perhaps most importantly, you'd need goals to whet the fans' interest to donate more. So perhaps at the 35 level, the fan gets an autographed shot of the driver. At $50, perhaps they get a t-shirt. If you have a limited number of very high-level slots (say at the $500 level), it might include a meet n' greet or special event with the driver for the Month of May.
Still, if you had to raise that much in funds, you'd have to set some realistic donation levels, give it plenty of time, and have the right driver in terms of social media outreach and the ability to hook interest to give the effort a shot at funding. Frankly, I'd be immensely curious to see a driver try it, because I'd like to simply see if it could be done. I think if it caught the imagination and got picked up by enough outlets it could, but it would be no sure thing.
Someone mentioned midget racer Jessica Bean has a crowdfunding effort in place, though it works a bit different than Kickstarter. With a goal of $10,000, she's raised half that in about three months. It makes me wonder what someone really active online, like an Alex Lloyd (especially with his Jalonik hookups), Pippa Mann, or even Bryan Clauson could do if they tried to get the funding needed through Kickstarter to run Indianapolis. I suppose if I had tried everything else, I might give it a whirl. I know I'd throw in for any of those drivers to get another shot at the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. The question is, how many other folks could be persuaded to do the same?