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Toyota’s NASCAR Involvement Drives Brand’s Market Growth

Since making its entrance into the sport, Toyota has seen a 61 percent increase in the acceptance of its brand within NASCAR.

Kraig Doremus

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With two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships since its entry into NASCAR in 2007, Toyota’s success on the race track is evident. What’s also changed over the past 11 years is the opinion of the brand at the track and the attitude of consumers towards Toyota, which is something that NASCAR has helped play a significant role in.

Since making its entrance into the sport, which was heavily dominated by the likes of Ford and Chevrolet, Toyota has seen a 61 percent increase in the acceptance of its brand within NASCAR.

“When Toyota first came into NASCAR, it was a foreign brand,” said Laura Pierce, motorsports general manager for Toyota North America. “At that time, nobody wanted Toyota in NASCAR. It took some time for us to earn our stripes in the sport and to get that recognition and people saying, ‘hey, they’re an equal competitor; they’re equivalent to the Ford or Chevy being in the sport.’”

Of that 61 percent increase in acceptance, 10 percent has come in the past three years. What that means for the manufacturer is that Americanization is happening — and it’s happening fast. Toyota has invested more than $21 billion in the U.S. market and plans to invest $2 billion more each year until 2022. In the United States alone, 17 million Toyota vehicles have been manufactured, while over 350,000 Americans are employed by Toyota USA at various locations across the country.

No longer do NASCAR fans and consumers consider Toyota a foreign brand. Rather, they see Toyota as equivalent to other American manufacturers and have increased purchase considerations of Toyota’s substantially.

“We’ve seen a 24 percent increase in purchase consideration since we came into the sport,” Pierce said. “That increase makes us equally considered with Ford and Chevy when people go to buy a car. I think that’s a huge return on investment that when people go to look at buying cars that they’re considering us.”

NASCAR has helped Toyota get on equal footing when it comes to consumers heading to a dealership and choosing which brand of vehicle to purchase.

“There’s still an opportunity with us being in the sport to continue to express the Americanization message,” Pierce said. “We want to say, ‘hey, we’re a manufacturer here in North America. We’re equivalent to the other manufacturers that are building cars in North America.’”

Toyota-NASCAR

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry, won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) championship. It was Toyota’s second MENCS championship in the past three seasons. Image from Toyota Racing.

It took a little less than 10 years for Toyota to capture its first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, but Kyle Busch piloted his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry to the championship in 2015. Two years later, Martin Truex Jr. drove the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Camry to the championship, giving the manufacturer two championships in three seasons.

The championships on the race track have done wonders for the Camry, when it comes to consumers driving one off the dealership lot. Since Busch’s 2015 championship, Toyota has seen a seven percent increase in Camry purchase consideration.

“Mike Childs (Toyota Motorsports Marketing Manager) mentioned the idea of winning on Sunday and buying on Monday,” Pierce said. “I think that those cars (Camrys) are viewed as championship cars and thus become something that consumers want to consider.”

One of the biggest announcements that recently took place for Toyota was that the Supra will run in the NASCAR Xfinity Series starting in 2019. Not only will the car compete for a championship, but it will also return to production as a consumer car.

“The Supra is an iconic sports car,” mentioned Pierce. “The consumers have been asking for a long time, ‘please bring it back.’ We’re excited to debut in it the NASCAR Xfinity Series next year and have our drivers try to win races in it. It’s a great way to show commitment to our Toyota fans. We’re bringing back a car they’ve been asking for and are going to bring into a sport they love.”

The Supra will give Toyota a chance to rival Chevrolet’s Camaro and Ford’s Mustang in the Xfinity Series, but also to sell at dealerships.

“Now we’ll have the Tundra, the Camry and the Supra, three of our different brands, in motorsports. It’s a great opportunity for a customer to come see a race and then see the car on the showroom floor,” Pierce said.

The good news for NASCAR fans? When Toyota goes to a race weekend, its activation extends beyond just talking about the cars on the track. Instead, Toyota brings multiple models to the racetrack, giving fans a number of different models to explore and considering purchasing.

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The Thrill Ride at Daytona allows fans to experience a Toyota vehicle during the race weekend. Image from Toyota Racing.

“Our activation space is a display area,” Pierce said. “Fans can go and see the cars and sit in them and try them out. It’s an avenue to reach out to potential customers. Maybe they’ve never sat in a Toyota or experienced one. It’s an opportunity to get them exposure (to the brand).

One of our biggest things for race weekend activation is a thrill ride, where you have the opportunity to get in a Toyota vehicle and see how it performs when it’s truly the stock car that you could buy off the lot.”

And as one would expect, not only does a NASCAR race weekend allow fans to see the different models on the track, but it gives Toyota a chance to market to consumers and allow a local dealership to help a fan make a purchase.

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While fans continue to get exposure to the brand and Toyota’s acceptance and fan base within the sport increases, Pierce and her team understand that it is important to continue to grow the brand.

“We’re a car company. What we do is sell cars,” Pierce said. “We want to continue to grow the recognition that a lot of the cars that we sell are made in North America, the recognition that we employee many, many individuals within the United States. In our activation areas (at the track), you have the map that shows where the cars are produced and you have a ‘born on’ sticker on each car that says it was born in Kentucky or Indiana. Within NASCAR, we have a chance to showcase another car and reach consumers in a different way than our traditional advertising methods. The drivers are big advocates for our brand, so they can help us promote that messaging as well.”

What will the future hold for Toyota on and off the track? Stay tuned to find out as its stable of drivers compete for another championship in NASCAR’s three premier series, which the executives hope will continue to increase Toyota’s market growth.

Kraig Doremus is a content writer for Front Office Sports with a focus on NASCAR. He holds a B.S. in Sport Studies from Reinhardt University and is currently pursuing his M.A in Sport Education from Gardner-Webb University. He can be reached at kraig@frntofficesport.com

Sponsorship

Thunder Announce Love’s As Jersey Patch Partner

Oklahoma City is teaming up with a familiar brand to become the 30th and final NBA team to secure a jersey patch partner deal.

Mike Piellucci

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Courtesy: Oklahoma City Thunder

18 months after jersey patches first showed up on NBA uniforms, the Oklahoma City Thunder became the 30th and final franchise to announce a jersey patch partner.

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, an Oklahoma City-based truck stop and convenience store company, will advertise on the 2.5-by-2.5-inch space for the next five years as part of an extension of the two entities’ existing partnership, the team announced Friday.

“We really appreciate that this is an Oklahoma brand that continues to see the value of supporting another Oklahoma brand,” says Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We love the fact that we’re connected like this as two bellwether brands for the state of Oklahoma.”

READ MORE: REP Worldwide Changes The Licensing Conversation For Female Athletes

According to Byrnes, it’s no accident that the Thunder were so deliberate in their approach to fill the ad space. Oklahoma City is the NBA’s third-smallest market, ranking ahead of only New Orleans and Memphis in NBA market size, and with that reality comes a very small margin for error. Each decision must be scrutinized; each agenda, methodical. Everything is done with an eye on the bigger picture.

“As a general operating philosophy, we’ve always taken the long view on building our business,” Byrnes says. “The long view in how we create product, how we create content, how we treat our guests, how we think about investments. It’s always about building sustainability in the team and the organization, because, being in a small market, it really matters.”

To that end, Byrnes spent the better part of 18 months honing in on what partner could best help the Thunder on a national level. He says he was courted by a bevy of brands, with tech startups and consumer product companies being the most aggressive types of suitors. But as the search progressed, he kept returning to a familiar name.

Love’s has been a partner of the Thunder ever since the team relocated from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Their most visible – and audible – collaboration is on the third level of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, better known in town as Love’s Loud City. Love’s also sponsors the Thunder’s kids camp and has courtside digital signage. The company boasts more than 480 stores in 41 states but, like the team, has designs on increasing its national imprint. The allure of a constant, visible, on-court presence brought them to the table. Ultimately, after what Byrnes calls “several months” of conversations, the two parties reached an agreement.

Courtesy: Oklahoma City Thunder

“We see Love’s on the same level as you would see any other national brand,” Byrnes says. “They align so well with our values of growth and innovation and customer service. We felt that the resources we could provide to them to amplify their story would resonate with us.”

Jersey patch partners have been a boon to the NBA’s bottom line. Partners range from corporate behemoths like General Electric, Disney and StubHub to smaller brands like Bumble, Qualtics and 5miles. No matter their origin, the financial impact has been immense: According to Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts, last seasons’ NBA sponsor spending increased 31% from the year before, ultimately topping the $1 billion mark for the first time in league history. $137 million of that came from sponsor patches, a number that will further increase this season now that all 30 teams have secured deals. Per Roberts, the average patch deal pays $6.5 million annually.

READ MORE: NASCAR Relationship Demonstrates Credit One Bank’s Broader Strategy

Oklahoma City will debut the new patch in Saturday’s home game against the Golden State Warriors. Financial terms were not disclosed, although Byrnes claims that “all of the ways you measure the business, we rank in the top 10 across the league, and this partnership is very much in line with that.”

Ultimately, Byrnes believes the deal’s greatest impact could lie in the ripple effects. “It sends a signal to the marketplace that we are… open for business,” he says, before noting that the team has taken aim at categories including wireless communications, automotive, airlines and the cloud.

“We’re hoping to send the signal to the marketplace that there are other opportunities as well,” he says. “We are a megaphone for the state of Oklahoma.”

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NASCAR Relationship Demonstrates Credit One Bank’s Broader Strategy

Building on its initial sponsorship in NASCAR, Credit One Bank continues to spread its sports marketing locally and nationally to build customers.

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Photo credit: Chip Ganassi Racing

Credit One Bank approaches its partnerships looking to build customers and attract employees.

The two-pronged approach will be exemplified this weekend as Kyle Larson and his Credit One Bank car will be at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is the fourth season as a sponsor of NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing and, specifically, the primary sponsor of Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet.

“We’ve seen good improvements in our awareness,” said Laura Faulkner, Credit One Bank vice president of marketing. “NASCAR has been there since the beginning, producing the results we were looking for, so it’s adding on to that.”

The initial jump into sponsoring NASCAR was because the consumer credit card-focused bank was growing fast and the direct marketing campaigns needed help, Faulkner said.

READ MORE: How Two Top Brands Market Products Via Partnership With NASCAR

With NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing, Credit One Bank campaigns have been able to be experimental, Faulkner said. The experimenting developed into “Credit One Lap To Go” and has since expanded to other sports, like “Credit One Minute To Go” at Vegas Golden Knights games.

“That’s one of those things we tried out because we didn’t see other sponsors doing it and that worked,” she said. “People know us for that and we can take that to other sports — a focus that’s signature to us.

“We’re appreciative of NASCAR for letting us try different things and adjusting those that don’t work and increasing the things we do.”

Since sponsoring NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing, Credit One Bank has expanded to become the official credit card of the Golden Knights, Big 12 Conference and the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators.

Outside of being the official credit card in name and its activations, athletes like Larson regularly participate in meet-and-greets, “surprise and delights,” and content like interviews with women in NASCAR, which provide a differentiated look inside the bank and the sport.

Faulkner said the sports partnerships offer an ability for Credit One Bank to show a different side of a financial institution and gives fans a way to connect to the company they might not otherwise have with a bank.

Larson is also heavily involved in the bank’s efforts for Meeting Street Academy, a charter school in South Carolina.

“They’ve been with [Chip Ganassi Racing] since the beginning and I’m young, so growing with them and together as a brand is great,” Larson said. “It’s been fun; really laid back.”

With the partners, Credit One Bank likes to activate on two sides — one for customers, but two for employees and potential employees. Larson has spent time at the bank’s headquarters in Las Vegas, as has Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland. The partnerships also allow employees to go to races — there are two NASCAR races in Las Vegas — and hockey games.

READ MORE: ‘Bundle All the Fun Together’: The Art of Sponsorship Activations in Vegas

Attracting employees is a reason the bank is focused on several Las Vegas teams, including the Golden Knights and the Aviators. The Golden Knights gave them a national and local platform simultaneously, Faulkner said.

“We’re growing so fast, we want a local and regional audience of potential employees,” Faulkner said. “Over the last few years, we’ve had some good success and added new sports sponsorships to focus on and enter different parts of the U.S. market.

“Whether it was last year with the Golden Knights, and then this year with a lot of college football, all of these different segments give us different demographics and parts of the country.”

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‘GM School’ Gives Fans an Inside Look at the NBA, SAP Partnership

Powered by SAP, fans with NBA front office ambitions used real statistics while competing on the reality show “GM School.”

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Photo credit: GM School

SAP continues to leverage partnerships in ways to showcase its technologies.

Last week, the company and NBA premiered the series “GM School,” a reality TV show that allowed four aspiring general managers to test their skills.

As the power behind NBA.com/stats, SAP executives were looking at ways to tell the story of the technology they’ve built around that core of statistics and information. Following a brainstorming session with SAP’s sponsorship agency, Momentum, the idea of a reality program emerged.

“We were immediately intrigued,” said Dan Fleetwood, SAP vice president of global sponsorships. “It hit on so many themes, from providing tools to thinking about things in a different way.”

Like any reality show, “GM School” producers Jane Street Entertainment sent out a casting call and presented nearly 30 contestants to the SAP and NBA partners.

READ MORE: Data Is Changing the Way the NHL Does Business

From the NBA standpoint, league representatives were excited about the ability to run a competition to leverage the information in a way to generate interesting content and potentially recruit new talent.

“It’s a great content opportunity to program on NBA TV during a quiet time of the calendar,” said Evan Wasch, NBA senior vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. “More broadly, it’s continuing to build the narrative we’re an innovative and data-savvy league and doing so in a fresh format.

“Lastly, if we can build from there, there is a recruiting and fan development aspect. These were four candidates who, one day, could end up in a front office and there was a lot of commentary saying,  ‘I’d love to be part of it and show what I can do.’”

The show took the four participants through a series of three challenges. The first was a press conference challenge where they had to digest a stat sheet in 30 seconds and explain strategies and reasons for the stats. The second challenge came when they were given blind stats and had to draft two each before the picks were revealed as real players. The final challenge was picking a lineup of five players — all NBA players except MVP-type players were available — while staying under a salary cap, and explaining how they were envisioned playing together.

All the stats were derived from the SAP platform the NBA uses, which provides information from basic stats like points and rebounds to more nuanced items like tracking information, Wasch said.

“We are [advanced] in terms of data we present and use to tell stories,” Wasch said. “That’s what I found most interesting, is we’re letting contestants dig into the most in-depth stuff we have and letting them see how it all works.”

Continuing to level up partnerships beyond just providing the data platforms is important to SAP, Fleetwood said.

“We have done a great job with the NBA and NHL, and other partners like the San Francisco 49ers and San Jose Sharks,” he said. “We always said there has to be an authentic partnership, rooted in real stories. Now we’re telling those real stories around how these guys are using our technology.”

READ MORE: NHL Fan Fair Gives Fans Look at New Coaching Tool in VR Game

The one episode was what Fleetwood called a “successful pilot” and now it’s determining what the future might be for “GM School.” The NBA would be receptive to the idea of extending to a full series, Wasch said.

There is actually a meeting this week to decide what could be in store for “GM School,” Fleetwood said.

“Right now, we’re excited about the initial reaction,” Fleetwood said. “Do we try to partner with broadcast? Go out on our own? It’s been overwhelmingly positive and we want to continue to tell stories like this.

“Maybe we extend the partnerships and do something like this with the NHL.”

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