By Barry Janoff
August 31, 2016: Behind official alliances that include Nascar and several of its racing teams, Toyota Center (Houston), the New England Patriots, Dew Tour, Nitro Circus, Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, Lallapalooza and the Bassmaster Elite Series, Toyota Motor USA has become the most active sponsor among car companies in the U.S. in a category where the Top Ten companies spent $790 million.
Toyota led all auto brands in the U.S. by spending an estimated $195-$200 million in 2015 on sports, festivals, arts & entertainment and cause events, according to the Auto Category Sponsorship Report from research, consulting and data firm IEG, Chicago.
Overall, 34% of properties with a sponsor in the auto category reported a deal with a Toyota brand, including Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing, according to IEG.
Toyota last year signed a ten-year deal to become a Top Tier global partner with the International Olympic Committee and this month became a founding partner for the IOC's Olympic Channel.
Ford was second, with 19% of properties with a sponsor in the auto category reporting a sponsorship with the company; and General Motors third (18%).
The Top Ten most active car companies in sponsorship activation last year also included Fiat Chrysler (8%), Honda (8%), Volkswagen (6%), Hyundai (5%), Mercedes-Benz (5%), Hyundai sibling Kia (4%) and BMW (4%,)
A whopping 67% of Toyota's sponsorship spend in the U.S. last year was on sports.
“Usually when people talk about sponsorships, they are focused on how much it costs . . . and what the marketing merits are," Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoya said in a statement at the time the IOC deal was unveiled. "But we decided to take on this deal because we want to pay back the society that has helped us grow as a company,”
The Top Ten most active car companies spent upward of $790 million on sponsorship deals in 2015, according to IEG.
Toyota's sponsorship spend of $200 million in 2015 was followed by Ford's $155-$160 million, GM's estimated $150-$155 million, Mercedes-Benz ($55-$60 million), Honda ($40- $45 million), Hyundai ($40-$45 million), Kia ($35-$40 million), Fiat Chrysler ($25-$30 million), BMW ($25-$30 million) and Volkswagen ($20-$25 million), according to the IEG report.
Last year, Toyota was the official auto partner for the Special Olympics World Games, held in Los Angles. The automaker also built a "Fueled by the Future" multimedia campaign to support the iconic date of Oct. 21, 2015 in the movie, Back to the Future, including stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, touting its Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car
Toyota this year sponsored live streams at such music festivals as Sasquatch, Firefly and Stagecoach.
According to IEG, Toyota said, "The activations paid off: Millions of consumers watched the Stagecoach and Sasquatch streams, with each user spending more than 14 minutes on average with the brand." Toyota said it also generated tens of thousands of engagements with its 'Music Moves You' Tumblr content for each festival."
Keeping in line with Toyota's numbers, sports received the largest share of sponsorship spend, with auto companies allotting 64% of their U.S. sponsorship dollars in 2015 to the category, per IEG.
The other top categories include festivals (11%), causes (11%), entertainment (10%) and the arts (4%).
Kia Motors allocated 83% of its sponsorship spend in 2015 on sports, more than any other motor company, according to IEG. That was driven by an official alliance with the NBA and 12 teams (via the Kia Optima mid-sized sedan) as well as the LPGA Kia Classic.
Among its other endeavors, Kia's sponsorship spend last year included 7% on entertainment, 6% on festivals and 4% on the arts.
Behind Kia and Toyota, the most active car companies in U.S. sports sponsorships last year were Ford (63%), Mercedes-Benz (63%), BMW (62%), Honda (60% ), Hyundai (60%), GM (60%), Fiat Chrysler (59%) and VW (55%).
Among the Top Ten car companies in U.S. sponsorship spend, Fiat Chrysler allocated the highest percentage of its U.S. sponsorship budget — 20% — to festivals in 2015.
They were followed here by Ford (15%), GM (15%), Honda (15%), Hyundai (15%), VW (13%), Toyota (8%), Mercedes-Benz (7%), Kia (6%) and BMW (4%), according to IEG's Auto Category Sponsorship Report.
Among the Top Ten car companies in U.S. sponsorship spend, Mercedes-Benz allocated the highest percentage of its U.S. sponsorship budget — 21% — to entertainment in 2015.
They were followed in thecategory by BMW (16%), VW (12%), Fiat Chrysler (10%), Hyundai (10%), Honda (10%), Hyundai (10%), Ford (8%), Toyota (7%) and Kia (7%), per IEG.
Ford Motor Co.'s 2015 sports sponsorship included Professional Bull Riders (Built Ford Tough Series), Roush Fenway Racing, Penske Racing, AT&T Stadium (home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys) and the American Quarter Horse Assn.
Ford also sponsored Fox's American Idol, the Tribeca Film Festival (NY) presented by AT&T and other arts-centric properties to support its Lincoln brand.
The company this year is sponsoring more than 10 fairs and festivals on behalf of the 2017 Ford Super Duty truck, per IEG.
"The activations paid off: Millions of consumers watched the music festival streams, with each user spending 14+ minutes on average with the brand."
General Motors was the only one of the Top Ten U.S. auto sponsors to decrease sponsorship spend in 2015 "as a result of dropping its mid-eight-figure NFL partnership," according to IEG's Auto Category Sponsorship Report.
The automaker still spent 60% of its sponsorship money on sports last year, followed by festivals (15%), cause (13%), entertainment (8%) and arts (3%),
GM's Chevy earlier this year renewed its 11-year-old partnership with MLB, and GM's Buick is an official corporate partner with the NCAA. The company also added country music star Luke Bryan as an ambassador for Chevy trucks.
“Chevrolet’s partnership with Major League Baseball is a natural fit and allows the brand and our dealers to connect with generations of Americans on a personal level through the support of hometown teams at both the professional and youth levels,” Paul Edwards, U.S. vp-marketing for Chevrolet, said in a statement when the MLB deal was unveiled.
Fiat Chrysler sponsorships in 2015 included the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Assn., X-Games-Winter Games, Motley Crue “Final Tour," the Kentucky Derby, the NBA's Detroit Pistons, Academy of Country Music Awards, FLW Outdoors; and via Jeep the World Surf League and USA Basketball.
At Honda, top properties in terms of sponsorship spend include the PGA Tour Honda Classic, NHL, Indy Racing League, Disneyland and naming rights and other activation in the Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.).
Honda in 2016 extended its Disney partnership, anchored by the sponsorship of Disneyland Resort’s Autopia attraction.
The company's entertainment alliances also included the Honda Civic Tour with the Honda Stage, a digital music program created in conjunction with Live Nation Entertainment, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Vevo and Revolt.
According to IEG, "The 2015 emissions scandal appears to have had limited impact on Volkswagen’s sponsorship strategy."
Volkswagen's lead sponsorship deals include the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Assn. (via Audi), BNP Paribas Open ATP/WTA tournament, MLS, Yankee Stadium, New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Television Academy (Emmy Awards).
In 2015, Hyundai signed a multi-year, valued at $50 million per year by industry analysts, to replace GM as the NFL's official vehicle.
"We are huge football fans at Hyundai and feel there is no better venue to reach consumers, increase consideration and tell the Hyundai brand story," Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO for Hyundai Motor America, said in a statement at the time.
The company's other major U.S. sponsorship deals include the PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions, an alliance with the NFL's Houston Texans, 24 colleges via a pact with IMG College, college football's Hyundai Sun Bowl and the Grammy Awards.
In 2017, Hyundai said it would move its title sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions in Hawaii to the Tour’s tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles i(located near corporate headquarters in Fountain Valley) to promote its new Genesis luxury vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz now has naming rights deals to two NFL stadiums, adding to the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It is scheduled to open in 2017 with main tenant the NFL's Falcons as well as the MLS expansion Atlanta United. It already is scheduled to host the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020 and has been selected by the NFL to host Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.
Top U.S. sponsorship deals for the company include the USTA's U.S. Open and such golf properties as PGA of America, The Masters and the PGA Championship.
Mercedes-Benz in 2015 ended its long-running sponsorship of New York Fashion Week.
In addition to the NBA, Kia is the official vehicle of Madison Square Garden — home to the NBA's New York Knicks, WNBA Liberty and NHL Rangers — and the Kia Classic LPGA tournament
BMW of America is an official partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee, but will relinquish that in 2017 when Toyota assumes worldwide rights as part of its deal with the IOC, according to IEG.
The company has been riding the NBA championship route via a deal with the Golden State Warriors, and also has alliances that include the BMW Championship PGA Tour tournament and the BMW Golf Cup International.
Film, Food, Festival Sponsors Spend Record $878M
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