When Toyota Motor Corp. decided to tackle the American full-size
truck market, they faced a dilemma. Long known for manufacturing
small, reliable, fuel-efficient vehicles, Toyota knew it would have
to do something significant to convince U.S. truck buyers they had
something to offer. "We are a latecomer in the full-size truck
market. Obviously, Ford and Dodge have been building them for
decades," says Les Unger, Toyota's National Motorsports Manager.
"We wanted to increase the awareness of our full-size truck, the
Toyota Tundra, and increase buyer consideration and, by extension,
Part of Toyota's solution was to turn to the racetrack: In 2004,
the company became title sponsor of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
race, the Toyota Tundra 200, in Nashville. To hear Unger describe
it, the sponsorship was an ideal chance to accomplish the myriad
goals Toyota had set.
First, Toyota promoted the event heavily through regional
advertising in order to tell local consumers about the Tundra, a
vital objective for the region's dealers. Those same dealers used
the event as an easy platform for reaching potential customers,
both at the race - where they displayed a fleet of Tundras - and
away from the track through event-related incentives and
Just as important for the company, says Unger, was its ability to
use the Toyota Tundra 200 to thank employees at five nearby
factories and to wine and dine important customers and other VIPs.
"We had what we think was the largest NASCAR hospitality venue of
any event," says Unger. "There were between 8,000 and 9,000 people
in our 10 acres of hospitality tents. It was a huge success."