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SBJ/Nov. 1, 2010/This Week's Issue
Toyota expanding loyalty program at tracks
Published November 1, 2010
Two years ago, Toyota sponsorship executives and its motorsports agency, Velocity Sports & Entertainment, looked to bring one of the company’s most tested activation elements to NASCAR by offering Toyota owners preferred parking at races. Logistical issues made such an offer impossible, leading to the creation of the Toyota Owners Hospitality program.
The alternative customer-loyalty program, which offers free food and an area to relax for Toyota owners who show a car key, has been such a major success that Toyota plans to expand it to 15 NASCAR races and add five NHRA races in 2011, said Ed Laukes, Toyota’s corporate motorsports manager.
Through 11 races this year, Toyota has played host to an average of 1,500 guests, gathered information from an average of 615 guests who opt in for future communication and identified an average of 270 people who plan to buy a vehicle within the next year.
Toyota of Bristol, Tenn., executives said they sold three Toyota Tundras to customers who mentioned the program when they bought their trucks, and Laukes believes that offering existing customers a positive brand experience will foster additional sales and increase brand loyalty in the future.
“We’re a simple company and we appreciate people who are loyal,” Laukes said. “Doing things like this sets us apart from other manufacturers. We want people walking by with any non-Toyota brand — Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge — to look over and say, ‘Wow, they do something really special.’”
Toyota will offer owner hospitality centers at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend and Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 14.
The company tested the program in 2009 in Bristol. It decided this year to triple the program to 13 events because of the promise the program showed in the first year and in part because of the need to reconnect with Toyota owners following this year’s recall, Laukes said.
“In spite of everything they went through and we all went through, they just keep giving back,” said Scott Farrell, service manager at Toyota of Bristol. “We hear about it constantly from customers. The customers are just in love with it.”
The program builds on a rewards offering that Toyota’s Lexus brand developed in Atlanta. The brand partnered with the Braves there to offer free parking to Lexus owners. It subsequently made similar offers to Lexus owners attending Florida Panthers games, the U.S. Open in New York and other events.
Looking ahead to next year, Toyota and Velocity Sports & Entertainment, which helped develop and implement the program, are concentrating on increasing in-market communication about the program. The company hung posters in dealerships and sent e-mail blasts out to customers in dealer databases. It also placed ads on track websites and inserted information into ticket packs sent to fans.
But Laukes believes it can do more.
“Our expectations were higher than where we are [in terms of guests], so the biggest thing we need to work on is getting the communication out there and letting them know it’s here,” Laukes said. He added that next year Toyota will rent a plane and have it fly over racetracks with aerial ads promoting the owner hospitality tent.