SBJ/June 16-22, 2014/In Depth

Toyota races to get Hispanics behind wheel

Considering that open-wheel racing has traditionally been seen as the favored form of motorsports for Hispanics, NASCAR wasn’t always viewed by marketers as the most viable play for a sports sponsorship targeting the demographic.

But when multicultural marketing agency Conill was tasked with helping client Toyota further burnish its brand in America among Hispanics, it saw the stock car racing circuit as the right fit.

Toyota is using NASCAR as a bridge between its marketing efforts in the United States and Mexico.
Photo by: Conill
“One of the overarching goals for Toyota is how can we strengthen the company’s position in the marketplace of exciting, fun-to-drive vehicles,” said Brett Dennis, Conill senior vice president and chief media communications officer. “Given that NASCAR is an up-and-coming sport for Hispanics in terms of viewership and fan following, we saw the marriage of those two things for the Hispanic market as a beautiful place to be, especially for a nondomestic brand, because the domestics have had such a strong presence in that sport for years.”

Toyota is starting to increasingly pour resources into NASCAR, as the company in February signed an 11-year deal to become a founding partner of the renovated Daytona International Speedway. It also is title sponsor of the Toyota Series on the NASCAR Mexico circuit.

“We look at NASCAR as a way to bridge some of our efforts with Mexico,” Dennis said. “We think that Mexico for Toyota is clearly sort of a feeder market for us, given the history of the brand in Mexico and the movement from Mexico to the U.S. in terms of population.”

Dennis and Cilmara Santos, Conill’s vice president and director of client services, said they are using the NASCAR deal more as an on-the-ground experiential play than one that is focused on broadcast exposure.

For its on-the-ground activation, Conill is bringing Hispanic celebrities, such as LPGA golfer Lizette Salas, to races to have them tout the Toyota brand. Particularly for NASCAR Mexico races, the company invites key members of the Hispanic media to races to teach them about the sport and Toyota’s efforts in it. It also is arranging meet-and-greets between the media and the Latino drivers.

“For NASCAR specifically, the main goal is to build a platform to really change how people perceive the brand in
the U.S. to show it is bold, strong and aggressive and has a great and powerful engine,” Santos said. “The reason why they want to compete in NASCAR is to make sure they can prove that they have a powerful engine as much as domestic companies do.”

Dennis said that financially speaking, Toyota is exponentially less involved in NASCAR than some other sports, but, in part because of the Hispanic upside, it sees rising value in being in the stock car circuit.

“We really try to have a multisport approach, thinking beyond just soccer — particularly as it comes to Hispanic millennials,” Dennis said. “As you think about NASCAR, clearly performance, excitement and driveability really fit well within the Toyota brand. And then we really work hard to define what it is we mean by a fan, specifically we kind of go after the superfans. And Hispanics are probably the biggest superfans in the U.S. because they’re watching traditional Hispanic sports like soccer and American sports. So you get a kind of double whammy with those guys.”

Adam Stern writes for sister publication SportsBusinessDaily.com.

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