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Toyota Grows Olympic Involvement With Six New Partnerships

Ahead of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Toyota has expanded its Olympic commitment, partnering with the National Governing Bodies of six new sports.

Kraig Doremus

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USA Swimming is one of the six new NGBs that Toyota is teaming up with ahead of 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. Image via Toyota.

Toyota is more than just a car company.

Branding itself as a mobility company, Toyota is set to partner with the National Governing Bodies of six new sports for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo – skateboarding, surfing, wheelchair basketball, swimming, triathlon, and track and field.

With the addition of six sports, Toyota now has 16 partnerships with National Governing Bodies between the winter and summer games.

“We firmly believe that movement is a human right,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president, Toyota marketing. “We believe that it is within the mantra of the Toyota brand as we evolve from a car company to bring solutions that can help people get out of bed, or to see the stars. It’s very much a vision right now and a process, but we are determined to get there.”

With that goal in mind, Toyota wanted to make sure it partnered not only with Olympic sports but also Paralympic sports. The executives at Toyota did not have an easy time making a decision on which NGB’s to partner with, but decided on the six sports after an extensive portfolio review. 

WATCH: Inside Toyota’s Massive Daytona Activation 

“We vetted every NGB (National Governing Body) that was out there,” Laukes said. “When we went to the Winter Games in South Korea after we announced our sponsorship as a global partner, we went through NGB portfolios and already had some relationships, like USA Hockey. We wanted to diversify and align ourselves with top Olympic and Paralympic sports.”

Skateboarding

Josh Friedberg, the CEO of USA Skateboarding, knows that a partnership with USA Skateboarding can’t just be national, but must begin at the grassroots level. The fact that Toyota wanted to market locally, regionally and nationally is something that helped make the partnership a perfect fit.

Toyota believes in the power of skateboarding, from the grassroots to the Olympic level,” Friedberg said. “Their commitment to support skateboarding from the ground up, and their willingness to tell the story of skateboarding’s journey to the Olympics, makes them an ideal partner of USA Skateboarding.

Regarding marketing, Toyota’s Dedra DeLilli, group manager for Olympic and Paralympic marketing, expanded on the topic.

Grassroots marketing is a huge priority,” DeLilli said. “We’ve collected partners across the United States and have been able to get several of our 1,200 dealers involved. The response has been fantastic. They’re engaged and excited about the opportunity.”

Swimming

Partnering with USA Swimming will be beneficial to both Toyota and the athletes, as the partnership allows the sport of swimming to reach a wider audience, thus creating an interest in swimming for many more Olympic viewers.

“There’s no doubt that partnering with an Olympic family sponsor with such national and global reach like Toyota will benefit our athletes and the sport of swimming,” said Tim Hinchey, USA Swimming’s President & CEO. “Our combined reach and ability to tell our sport and athlete human interest stories will allow us to engage with a wider audience and ideally create further interest in people joining the sport of swimming.

Once again, Toyota will be able to market both grassroots and nationally with swimming. At the grassroots level, the company will get dealerships involved and provide vehicles — something that will be done for all six NGBs.

“Having a partner who recognizes the added value of (providing vehicles), to help alleviate physical and financial stresses for our athletes, is incredibly significant,” said Hinchey.Our goal is to make the partnership fruitful for both parties. We hope to support Toyota in enhancing and growing their mobility brand story, while engaging potential new swimmers to join our membership. We look forward to the next few years and the incredible opportunities we will create together.”

Surfing

For USA Surfing, CEO Greg Cruse believes that it’s a match made in heaven. Cruse stated that the two are “historically intertwined, as Toyotas have always been a favorite means of getting to the surf, whether it is a local beach break or secluded surf spot.”

Cruse is excited for surfing’s Olympic debut, calling the opportunity “extraordinary,” but knows this is just the beginning and that there is plenty of growth potential.

Surfing’s debut on the world’s biggest sporting stage — the 2020 Olympic Games — will introduce an incredibly beautiful and athletically demanding sport to huge new audiences. We are honored to have such a powerful partner in telling surfing’s compelling story and extending its benefits to more and more people.”

Triathlon

Toyota will partner with USA Triathlon as well, and CMO Chuck Menke is excited for the opportunity, not only to engage in activations surrounding the Olympics, but also for the chance to participate in a national media campaign.

Alignment with a top partner like Toyota is an unequaled opportunity to showcase the sport to the mainstream U.S. population,” said Menke. “This includes not just our custom programming and activations with Toyota over the next two years, but also the opportunity to be a part of their national media campaign leading up to Tokyo.”

Activation with USAT could be a huge benefit for the Toyota brand as Menke mentioned that of 14,000 USA Triathlon members who participated in a survey, nearly one in six drives a Toyota.

“As the most popular vehicle among triathletes, it’s critical for us to not just maintain Toyota’s leadership position, but to build upon it,” Menke said.

Menke also knows that Toyota’s mission to become not just a vehicle company but a mobility company aligns perfectly with partnering with triathlon athletes.

Simply said, there’s a lot of synergy here and I truly believe no other sport better exemplifies Toyota’s concept of mobility. Toyota vehicles are designed to provide superior performance on their pathway, much like the body of a triathlete – speed, turning, durability and readiness to handle any situation on the course.”

Wheelchair Basketball

Showing its commitment to eventually becoming truly a mobility company, Toyota has partnered with wheelchair basketball for the 2020 games.

“The platform of the Paralympics and aligning with their values is important,” said DeLilli. “As an organization, we take time to get to know the Paralympic athletes and provide them with tools and resources to make their journey as great as possible. We align our brand, but it’s personal too. We’re passionate about it. We have relationships with them.”

Will Waller, a board member for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and two-time Paralympian, was excited to know that, for Toyota, a successful partnership meant connecting local programs with Toyota dealers.

The NWBA has over 225 teams across multiple levels, so it’s much more than just a national campaign for the association.

“When we get our local programs involved with Toyota dealerships and build those connections, it will mean that we are exponentially increasing the chances that more people with disabilities will learn about our sport and get involved.”

Waller was also very excited to know that Toyota will provide vehicles for use by the athletes and staff.

“We are pumped for this piece of the partnership,” said Waller. “We will use the vehicles for training off and on through 2020. But, the Toyota team has also committed to provide vehicles for our major events, including the 2019 Toyota National Championship Series. We think of our destination as athletic success, national championships, and Paralympic medals, and Toyota is ultimately helping us ‘Go places.'”

Track and Field

USA Track and Field CEO Max Siegel is excited about the chance to grow the sport and increase the reach of their athletes thanks to the partnership with Toyota.

“Having blue-chip, industry-leading companies support national governing bodies is critically important for further elevating the Olympic movement and the brands of the sports within it,” said Siegel. “A partner like Toyota is a brand validator, but it also helps amplify the message of our sport and the profile of our athletes, nationally and internationally.”

READ MORE: Toyota’s NASCAR Involvement Drives Brand’s Market Growth

Once again, Toyota is not only working with the USA Track and Field athletes at the national level, but also the grassroots level. The goal? Help the athletes reach their dream of making an Olympic team.

“Toyota was very clear throughout the process their priority is to support USATF and our athletes throughout the year, every year,” said Siegel. “Our Indoor and Outdoor Championships serve as the selection events for World Championships and provide important prize money and television exposure opportunities for our athletes. Making an Olympic team is a lifelong process for most athletes. Having sponsors like Toyota who support that process helps our athletes realize their dreams.”

The Goal

The goal for Toyota through these partnerships is tough to narrow down to just one specific item, but DeLilli summed things up well.

“We want to help both the National Governing Bodies and athletes drive their brand and develop content,” said DeLilli. “We want to tell their stories, but more so, we want to help people move better across the world, and we are committed to doing that as we move from a car company to a mobility company.”

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

Innovation

Mesh Seats Help Showcase Innovation at New Las Vegas Ballpark

The Las Vegas Ballpark is set to open this year with brand new mesh seats that promise to keep fans cool and comfortable in the Las Vegas sun.

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Photo via Las Vegas Ballpark

When Las Vegas Ballpark opens on April 9, more than three decades of stadium advancements will be on display.

The old stadium, Cashman Field, opened in 1983 and was already out of date by 1993, said Don Logan, president and COO of the Las Vegas Aviators, the recently rebranded moniker of the AAA team. The team also signed a development agreement this fall with the Oakland Athletics, after its agreement with the New York Mets expired.

Despite stadiums quickly surpassing Cashman, it took another 25 years to break ground on a new venue.

“Cashman, I hate to bash it, but it just outgrew its usefulness,” Logan said. “The world changed and it didn’t.”

Enter the Howard Hughes Corporation, a major land developer in Las Vegas — specifically behind the Summerlin neighborhood. The company purchased the Las Vegas 51s in 2013. With more than 400 acres at its disposal for Downtown Summerlin — about half of which is developed — a space was reserved for the Las Vegas Ballpark, an approximately $150 million project right next door to the corporate headquarters and practice facility of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

READ MORE: Minor League Baseball Showcasing Deeper Partnership Connections With Hot Dogs

The two sports facilities are at the center of a master-planned community meant to provide an idealistic “live, work, play” environment in Las Vegas. More than 4,000 urban residential units can be built around the stadium in the near future.

“Even in 2011, I’m not sure we’d see iconic sports facilities in downtown Summerlin,” said Tom Warden, Howard Hughes Corporation senior vice president of community and government relations. “It’s a lot of opportunities for the team and also for Summerlin; we view this as an amenity for the Summerlin community.”

The new stadium has greatly improved amenities in all aspects, largely focused on player development and fan amenities, with a capacity for 10,000.

The centerpiece might be the video board, which Logan said is in the top 25-largest in all of organized baseball with 3,930 square feet of digital space. On off nights, movies might be played on screen for community residents.

A big consideration behind much of the Las Vegas Ballpark design was the high heat of Southern Nevada summers. The seats in the stadium are mesh, which greatly reduces the heat on spectator backsides. Logan said when a summer day reaches 110 degrees, plastic and metal seats can reach near 200 degrees. The mesh seats maintain temperatures below 100 degrees.

Likewise, there are giant fans from the company Big Ass Fans circulating air throughout the concourse. Fans can navigate the stadium 360 degrees with various destinations throughout to keep fans occupied and in the stadium, Logan said.

In the outfield, a swimming pool will look out at the field. A kids splash pad is also found in the stadium.

“This is all a tribute to the Hughes Corporation being willing to spend money where it matters and improve the experience,” Logan said. “We want to make people more comfortable and want to come back more often.”

The suite level will have two end caps with walkout party decks with capacity for 350 people.

Logan also said the food and beverage program will be much more aligned to modern minor league baseball than Cashman was and more indicative of the Summerlin community. They’ve even built in a show kitchen to bring in celebrity chefs to cook for fans.

“What other Triple-A team has the ability to do that?” Warden asked.

For players, they too get a respite from the baseball season heat. Cashman Field had no indoor batting cages, weight training or rehabilitation center. The facilities were regularly regarded among the bottom of organized baseball.

READ MORE: The Minor League Baseball of the Future

Now, there’s three indoor batting cages under the right-field stands, as well as greatly improved player facilities for better development.

The organization is already in talks with college conferences to host tournaments, and it plans on hosting more MLB exhibitions than the one or two a season at Cashman. The Aviators’ former stadium is still home to the Las Vegas Lights, the city’s United Soccer League team.

Las Vegas Ballpark is one of two Minor League Baseball stadiums opening next season, along with Advanced Class-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.

“We’ll be the belle of the ball,” Logan said. “The good thing is we had 35 years to learn from and improve on, and we’re benefiting from all of it.”

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Innovation

Gratitude Helps Chelsea FC Unlock Winning Engagement Strategy

Over the holiday season, Chelsea FC launched #CFCFansgiving, a social campaign designed to honor its most loyal American fans.

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Photo via Chelsea FC

The holiday season has come and gone; so have the social posts from brands honoring the several weeks of heightened spirits.

Amidst the traditional holiday posts from different brands, however, was a full-fledged social campaign from an English club that started by celebrating a very non-English holiday. In November, Chelsea FC launched a multi-week campaign to celebrate Thanksgiving — a holiday that, at a glance, wouldn’t be a brand fit for the London-based club — and the rest of the holiday season. 

The soccer world is still buzzing about it weeks later. The campaign, branded #CFCFansgiving, was designed for Chelsea’s American fan base and executed on @ChelseaFCinUSA, the club’s new U.S.-specific handle that launched earlier this year.

During the week of Thanksgiving, Chelsea showed appreciation to its U.S. family by deploying over 200 random acts of kindness to fans across the States. Recipients of these surprise-and-delight moments were chosen either through nominations by fellow U.S. fans or based on their use of The 5th Stand — Chelsea’s mobile app and the chelseafc.com website.

READ MORE: Super Soccer Stars Grows Its Presence in the Health and Wellness Space

Surprises coming out of the campaign included a father and son duo from Los Angeles receiving a trip to London to watch Chelsea play live; recognition of two youth soccer leaders from the D.C. area; and a donation to fight ALS in honor of a fan suffering from the disease.

Many more fans were sent #CFCFansgiving gift boxes that included autographed memorabilia, an authentic ‘18-19 home jersey, or a “your next drink on us” package that included two pint glasses and gift cards.

While the campaign was primarily executed during Thanksgiving, surprises from #CFCFansgiving lasted well into December when the club visited New York City for NBC’s Premier League Mornings Live event.

To wrap up the campaign, Chelsea surprised three members of New York Blues, a Chelsea supporters club, with a VIP experience at Barclays Center ahead of a Brooklyn Nets match. The club also treated them to dinner with former club player Eidur Gudjohnsen, and surprised them with a personalized message and autographed jersey from current star Eden Hazard.

“#CFCFansgiving was an incredible event, from the packages being sent out across the country, to the fan experiences with Eidur Gudjohnsen in New York. For American fans, Fansgiving not only made us feel part of the club, it made us feel valued as a fan base,” said New York winner Anshuman Bhatia.

Now looking ahead for new campaign ideas to execute in 2019, the club is set to ramp up its efforts in North America — and the strategy to engage with their loyal fans there is a smart one.

Many followers of the @ChelseaFCinUSA account have been fans of the club for years, supporting the team from overseas without there being any strong American ties.  The benefit of the new Twitter account is that it provides a home for these fans and content that is more tailored to their interests and culture than the main @ChelseaFC handle.

Some have questioned the need for U.S.-specific accounts for Premier League teams, given that the main club accounts are managed in English.

#CFCFansgiving is a prime example of the value that an account like @ChelseaFCinUSA can have.

READ MORE: Sacramento Republic FC Makes a Child’s Dream Come True

The content is tailored to the American audience whose holidays and interests often differ from those of Chelsea’s UK-based fans, making an activation like this successful in a way it wouldn’t be on the main handle. The fan community in the U.S. is also different in that they wake up early to watch matches being played thousands of miles away. The content generated by these accounts can play into those norms and bring together this community in a way that the main club account cannot.

Bhatia, like many others, hopes this is just the start of the club’s American fan interactions.

“It was a great experience, and I hope it’s the start of a growing connection between the club and their worldwide fan base,” said Bhatia.

#CFCFansgiving was a way for the club to honor the fans who loyally wake up to watch their club — no matter the time — and celebrate, for the first time, what it means to be a Chelsea fan in the United States.

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Innovation

Double Amputee and Paralympian Driver Finds Unique Way to Overcome Obstacles

Alex Zanardi designed hand controls to be able to continue racing and will pilot a BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the upcoming race.

Kraig Doremus

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Photo via BMW

Go back to 2001 and take a look at who members of the motorsports community thought were the best drivers in the world.

Chances are, CART — now known as INDYCAR — driver Alex Zanardi was at the top of the list.

Tragically, Zanardi lost both of his legs in a racing accident then, but he’ll compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the first time on January 26-27.

The date was September 15, 2001, and Zanardi was competing at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany. A violent crash resulted in having both of his legs amputated. Following the crash, Zanardi worked to recover and not only continued racing, but took up hand cycling. In the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, he won a combined six medals – four gold medals and two silver medals.

WATCH: Inside Toyota’s Massive Daytona Activation

Zanardi also continued racing. With a no-quit attitude and a strong backing from BMW, he has been able to race with the assistance of specially modified prosthesis. The kicker? Zanardi designed and built the hand controls himself. Between 2005 and 2009 he won four World Touring Car Championships and is ready to make his first start in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“It’s difficult to explain by emotions leading up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona,” Zanardi said. “It’s exciting to be driving a BMW race car. I’m here, and it’s extremely special. It’s a unique opportunity that I have to compete in Daytona and to see so many old friends too.”

Zanardi, who will turn 53 this year, knows just how complicated the cars are and that he faces an even tougher challenge having to use hand controls to pilot his race car.

“These cars are complicated with all the electronics inside them, and all I have to work with is my hands,” Zanardi said with a laugh. “Our lives as drivers are more complicated because we have so many instruments to try to deliver the best performance. I’m used to just a few switches. Now, I have more to deal with and my hands are all I can use to drive the car and shift, etcetera. I hope I can be a fast learner and support my team with a sufficient performance to not let them down.”

Zanardi, who began testing the BMW M8 GTE that he’ll pilot for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in December, is able to change gears with the simple touch of a button. On the steering wheel, he moves through the different gears. His right hand breaks and downshifts.

READ MORE: How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

The race checks off a bucket-list item for Zanardi and although it is currently a one-off, he doesn’t guarantee that it will be last race of his career.

“This race is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I can’t say for sure that it’ll be the last race of my career. In 2009, I really started focusing on cycling, and now racing is just something I still do on the side. I don’t think I’d have sufficient energy to compete at the level that it takes to compete for an entire championship, but an event like the Rolex 24 at Daytona is fascinating to me.”

Will we see the inspirational driver back in a race car in 2019, or will he officially hang up the helmet following the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona? He uses an interesting analogy – one involving a cat and mouse – to explain his feelings.

“If you ask me if I want to drive a car, it’s like asking a cat if he likes the mouse,” said Zanardi. “The answer is yes. We’ll see what happens down the road. BMW offered me a great opportunity, and we’re taking things one step at a time and just focusing on this event.”

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