NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Toyota and NASCAR: A Strong Partnership Across All Platforms

There are very few truly excellent sports sponsorship advertising campaigns, but the Toyota “Sponsafier” program absolutely has to be included in that elite group. A unique, innovative idea it’s a program that fans, Toyota drivers, and the sport itself has genuinely embraced.

2011 saw the third round of the popular competition which allows fans to design and enter their own NASCAR Sprint Cup car via www.toyotaracing.com. An online tool, “Photokit”, then gives fans the opportunity to place their sponsafied car in a high-resolution, three-dimensional environment from which their design can be showcased at almost any angle.

Fans can create as many different paint scheme designs as they like, concepts they are encouraged to share via social networking sites and with family and friends. The top ten designs are then selected by way of a public vote from which a winner emerges through a combination of NASCAR personalities, Toyota executives and one more round of fan voting. In 2011 alone more than 220,000 votes were cast by NASCAR fans the length and breadth of the country.

“Interest from fans in the Sponsafier program has exceeded our expectations,” said Ed Laukes, corporate motorsports marketing manager for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. (TMS). We’ve received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from fans, and our Toyota drivers have really enjoyed being part of the program. We would like to thank all the fans for their submissions and encourage everyone to stay tuned for the next phase of Sponsafier.”

The lucky “Sponsafier” winner in 2011 was Tim Blankenship of Berkley Springs, W.Va., who was chosen from more than 45,000 different entries. Blankenship’s artwork showcased “Chelsea’s Hope”; an organization that serves to raise awareness, promote education and provide emotional support for individuals and families affected by Lafora Disease.

Lafora Disease is an inherited epilepsy syndrome that affects children and young adults: characterized by seizures, difficulty walking, cognitive decline and dementia for which there is currently no effective treatment. So rare is Lafora Disease, that there are currently only 200 known cases in the world, 20 of which are in the U.S.

“I wanted to design a car with real meaning behind it and help these kids have the chance to make their rare disease known, so that hopefully, with national exposure, they will be able to raise the funds needed to find a cure,” said Blankenship. “I am very grateful and honored to accept this win on behalf of the real winners: the Chelsea’s Hope Organization and the kids who deal with Lafora Disease every day.”

As the grand prize winner, Blankenship’s paint scheme was brought to life and showcased both at Toyota PitPass and on SPEED during the All-Star Weekend. He also received a prize pack of Toyota Racing gear and enjoyed time with Denny Hamlin, his favorite Toyota NASCAR driver.

“The whole Sponsafier program has been a lot of fun to be a part of, and a great way for race fans to design how a car looks,” said Hamlin, who drives a Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. “It really enables race fans to promote causes that are important to them. It’s neat that my No. 11 Camry was selected as the winning Sponsafier design – for the second time since the promotion began last year. Hopefully, the ‘Chelsea’s Hope’ design will bring attention and awareness to Lafora Disease, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

And glad to be a part of it could also describe Toyota’s relationship with NASCAR. After an initial rocky start, Toyota – led by Joe Gibbs Racing – has more than come into their own winning a grand total of 36 races from the 159 races the manufacturer has entered. But for a company with foreign ownership, Toyota has deep roots in America employing more than 30,000 people in the US. What’s more the motor company giant’s investment in the United States is valued at a staggering $18 billion. In 2009 alone, through a network of more than 1,500 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealers, more than 1.77 million vehicles were sold.

The Sponsafier campaign is just one example of how Toyota activates their involvement. Another is, of course, the joint race sponsorship with Save Mart of this Sunday afternoon’s road course race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Ca. – the fifth year Toyota has been involved. The pace car will be a Camry Hybrid and it’s worth noting Toyota sold their 3,000,000th hybrid in March this year – one of 16 Hybrid cars they sell in the US. Also this weekend, the Toyota Owners Hospitality (TOH) will be up and running allowing any fan at the track with a Toyota, Lexus or Scion key to gain access to a private area with complimentary food and beverages as well as free gifts.

Sponsafier 4 started on 6/4 and fans should submit their paint schemes. The winner of that program will be announced during the fall Phoenix race.”

_This article is a sponsored advertisement. All rights reserved._

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