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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

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Teams and Leagues Cozy Up to CBD Brands

The sports world is beginning to bring CBD companies into the fold, marking a significant milestone for the CBD industry.

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

As teams and leagues look for emerging partner opportunities, CBD brands are showcasing that they aren’t afraid to spend when it comes to sports partnerships. 

While not really a thought in the minds of professionals more than a year ago, CBD presents both a revenue opportunity and an interesting challenge for teams and leagues.

How did this happen?

Before the enactment of the new nationwide 2018 Farm Bill. there wasn’t much mainstream conversation around CBD. Since then, the category has exploded across both retail and sports.

When the bill passed, it legalized industrial hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high-value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.

Teams and leagues are starting to find interest…

Just this past week, the Portland Pickles became the first baseball team with a CBD partner.

Before that, the Big3 signed a deal with cbdMD that made the brand the official CBD partner of the upstart basketball league. 

And, ahead of this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced its partnership with DEFY – a CBD-based sports performance drink.

The only problem with this partnership is that the drivers of the car can’t drink the drink due to the fact that CBD is on IndyCar’s banned substance list

Who’s sponsoring what?

Below you will find a list of some of the CBD and cannabis-related partnerships that have been signed recently.

Las Vegas Lights / NuWu Cannabis Marketplace

Big3 / cbdMD

Portland Pickles / Lazarus Naturals

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / DEFY

Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / Liquid Gold Processing

RC Enerson / Craft 1861

It’s not just teams and leagues…

While the bigger deals might get more attention, CBD companies have also struck deals with athletes. 

For example, Bubba Watson has a deal with cbdMD, the same brand that is sponsoring the Big3.

Before Watson, Scott McCarron signed an endorsement deal with Functional Remedies, a hemp manufacturing company.

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Are NFL Jersey Ads Next?

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May 15, 2019; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) runs a drill during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

Jersey ads aren’t an unfamiliar sight at NFL practices. Brands like Lecom and Hyundai are visible on the practice jerseys of the Browns and Cardinals respectively.

The one place jersey ads haven’t shown up is in regular season games. 

Could that be changing anytime soon?

Speaking with SI, an NFL spokesman said, “Never say never, but there are no current plans to pursue or explore.”

With what SI estimates to be $224 million in revenue being left on the table by not having patches on the jerseys, why would the league not consider it? 

According to those inside the industry, the NFL is concerned about conflicts of interest between teams who may have patches of competitors of current partners for opposing teams.   

The NBA has found success…

The NBA launched its jersey patch program in 2017 and as of March of 2019, every team in the league found themselves with a patch on their jersey. 

According to Terry Lefton and John Lombardo of SBJ, the patch program has generated more than $150 million for the league.

Another important stat is that of the 30 team patch sponsors, 20 are doing business with NBA teams for the first time.

At this point, not having ads is more unusual…

Even MLB, considered the most traditional of sports leagues in the U.S., has experimented with sponsor patches since 2000. Of the major sports leagues in the U.S., here’s a look at which ones have ads on their game jerseys and which ones don’t. 

NBA: Yes

WNBA: Yes

MLS: Yes

NHL: No 

NFL: No

MLB: Yes (for special occasion games only – Mexico Series etc)

Internationally, teams are cashing in…

While soccer is somewhat different in that the advertising is not just a patch, but the primary part of a team’s uniform, the revenue potential can’t be argued. Here’s a look at what just five brands are paying international clubs, according to The 18.

Emirates / Real Madrid: $80 million per year 

Chevy / Man U: $68 million per year

Rakuten / Barcelona: $60 million per year

Emirates / Arsenal: $56 million per year

Yokohama / Chelsea: $51 million per year

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CohnReznick Sponsors a Dive Inside the Business of Baseball

Accounting firm CohnReznick shows the business of baseball in two video series with MLB, “Business of Baseball” and “Front Office Focus.”

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Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

Accounting firm CohnReznick is taking an authentic approach to its MLB sponsorship. Through a video series called Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus, CohnReznick lends its name to an inside look at professional baseball. The series is produced by MLB Network, where it airs, along with, MLB.com and CohnReznick’s website.

MLB confirmed CohnReznick as a sponsor of the video series to FOS. The two parties collaborate on ideas, but MLB declined to speak on the sponsorship further.

“Our team really wanted something that was authentic, not just a way to slap our name onto something, but to own something,” says Frank Longobardi, CEO, CohnReznick. “We are able to align some of our core values with what’s being talked about in Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus. That makes us feel good, as we felt we could drive content and value with our strengths.”

READ MORE: MLB Flies Under the Radar With Sponsor Patches

While service-oriented companies have sponsored sports for decades, it’s becoming more common for non-consumer brands to find ways to cut through the clutter,” says Joe Favorito, a sports marketing and communications consultant.

“These companies are tying to something that resonates,” Favorito says. “Consumers have millions of choices. If it comes down to personal choice, they remember the company for who their spokesperson is or the story being told.”

The Business of Baseball series launched during December’s Baseball Winter Meetings, where CohnReznick was the presenting sponsor of the meetings for MLB Network. Over the course of the video sponsorship, there will be approximately six Business of Baseball videos and up to 35 Front Office Focus clips through the season.

“They’re topics, like hospitality and security, that are the same types of things we deal with our clients,” Longobardi says. “We wanted to show similarities of how Major League teams go through some of the same things our clients go through.”

Each of the videos feature commentators and baseball executives. Front Office Focus highlights discussions with executives from the league’s 30 teams about issues ranging from team strategies to club operations, while Business of Baseball looks into how franchises transform the game through analytics and management, but also how they redefine the fan experience.

A recent episode, “The Business of Food,” featured a look at how food experiences now play into a fan’s trip to a ballpark., like a sit-down interview with Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer by CohnReznick Managing Partner Cindy McLoughlin talking about how the game day experience has evolved to include a culinary aspect. The restaurant industry is evolving inside and outside the ballpark.

“When you look at stadiums and games, it’s not just about baseball anymore,” McLoughlin says. “Fans expect an overall experience. People get to stadiums to stand in line, they need to get their Shack Burger.

“That led us to Danny Meyer to really peel back why it’s a benefit to him and how those synergies line up.”

The video topics originated in a brainstorming session featuring CohnReznick’s team and  MLB. The topics center around issues with innovation and analytics to elevate customer experience and retain loyalty. From these conversations, MLB could consider matching a team with a relevant topic.

“It puts us front and center with a really good brand,” Longobardi says of the partnership. “In any business, you want to align yourself with good organizations, and this relationship does that well and connects the right type of people we’re trying to attract, the C-Suite individuals to middle market to small public companies.”

READ MORE: The MLBPA Has Embraced Athlete-Driven Marketing

The sponsorship has allowed CohnReznick to provide clients, potential clients and employees with strong relationship building opportunities at games and events.

“It really has allowed us to spend some time with key clients and be able to spend quality time with our employees and enjoy ourselves,” Longobardi says. “We can more closely align MLB brand with our clients and our staff, and that makes it a unique experience.”

By tying in with behind the scenes content, CohnReznick hopes to resonate with clients beyond just a name on the screen.

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