In its first year supporting the Olympic and Paralympic Games as the official mobility partner, Toyota is off to a quick start going all-in for the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. In addition to supporting the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), teams and athletes leading into and during the 14-day event in PyeongChang, Toyota saw the Paralympic Games as an opportunity to share its vision of mobility for all.
“We think our relationship with the IPC and the Paralympic Games aligns really closely with a lot of the Toyota values,” said Chris Schultz, General Manager of Olympic & Paralympic Marketing at Toyota.
“Para-athletes, we believe, overcome obstacles of mobility that most people don’t have to deal with on a daily basis and we think as a company we can help assist in that arena and into the future with helping remove barriers for them to move freely throughout society.”
From a mobility standpoint, the storytelling of Paralympic athletes and their overcoming of obstacles drive the tactics of how Toyota’s research or products can help the athletes.
Toyota surrounded the Paralympic Games around the ‘Start Your Impossible’ initiative, which debuted in November 2017. The corporate Start Your Impossible initiative also presses onward the Paralympic athletes’ story of overcoming obstacles.
For exposure and viewership to the Games, NBC, the primary broadcasting group of the Olympics, was able to broadcast the Paralympic Games nearly twice as much as previous years with Toyota onboard as the presenting sponsor — a big step for brand exposure and storytelling.
“It was initially their commitment to help the Paralympic Games — NBC had the desire to cover the Games,” said Schultz. “These are world-class athletes. Their abilities are part of their story, and the Paralympic branding is being elevated.”
“I think it only strengthens the message of mobility and aligns with the brand values of the Paralympics,” said Rebich.
Toyota’s mobility rebrand ties hand-in-hand with future, similar engagements within their sports realm. The Paralympics only furthered its brand by engaging directly with the mobility message.
“Sponsorship alignments with like-spirited sports events or sports properties will continue to build the story around mobility,” said Rebich.
“An increase in sponsorship value allows for more brand exposure and if the goals are strongly aligned, then it creates an emotional relevance with the audience,” said Rebich. “Sports sponsorships should always be cognizant of the brand’s mission and how it aligns with their own.”
As history was being made in the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, Toyota also offered a group of U.S. dealers a trip to South Korea. Through this program, fifty associates received a chance to experience the Paralympic Games first-hand, meeting athletes, watching events and becoming involved with the Games.
“The goal was to take dealers and hope that they become emotionally involved and attached into the Paralympic Games,” said Schultz. “We have over 1,200 dealers nationwide in every nook and cranny of the United States and what we’d like to do is for them to be able to amplify Toyota’s support on the ground and in their local communities.”
Earlier this year, Toyota also worked with Team Toyota athlete and Paralympian Danelle Umstead and her husband and sight guide, Rob, in a North Carolina wind tunnel. The two athletes competed together in Paralympic alpine skiing, in which Danelle has earned three bronze medals at previous Paralympic Winter Games.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD), the engineering arm of Toyota, provided engineers to give feedback on the Umstead’s body positioning, drafting, and speeds, information not unknown to TRD, who traditionally works with Toyota’s race teams across motorsports like NASCAR and NHRA.
It is through not just its commitment to its athletes, but through elevated marketing, sponsorship and rebranding plots that Toyota is paving a new road in the sports industry, chronicling athlete stories, rewriting identity narratives, and increasing exposure and audiences for the Paralympic Games.