A Texas Howdy -- TMMMTX team members who competed in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series events in San Antonio gather for a group photo. Joining them (in black running suit, front row, near center) is Meb Keflezighi, silver medalist in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics and winner of the Boston Marathon in 2014.
Talk about engagement marketing.
When Mario Lozoya learned that Toyota was sponsoring a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series stop in San Antonio in December, the manager of External Affairs at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX) didn’t simply help promote the event, he competed in it.
“I wasn’t planning to run. I hadn’t been training,” says Lozoya. “But then I got the call and I said to myself, ‘I have to do this.’ So I committed to the half marathon. Everything went well. It was great!”
For Lozoya, the weekend-long extravaganza was personal. He had run in one of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events nearly 20 years ago when he was a Marine at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, Calif. But for Toyota, it was just one of 22 events throughout the year where the brand could connect with owners and potential customers in a fun, non-sales setting.
Since its humble beginnings in the 1990s, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series has grown into an entertainment and participation powerhouse, combining races of various lengths with a health and fitness expo and a rock concert, featuring such groups as the Goo Goo Dolls and Lady Antebellum.
Last year marked Toyota’s first as the series’ official pace vehicle and title sponsor of the concerts. Based on that experience, it recently decided to renew the sponsorship for the next fiscal year.
“This series aligns perfectly with a key lifestyle category for us,” says Tyler McBride, Toyota Motor Sales’ engagement marketing manager. “It incorporates health and fitness, running and music. It allows us to integrate many of our core vehicles. It’s a national property. And in some cities it draws as many as 50,000 participants—not including spectators.”
The local San Antonio was a huge success. It drew an estimated 25,000 people in all. That includes 130 TMMTX team members who ran in a 5K, 10K half marathon or full marathon, as well as another 30 or so who filled the Toyota Cheer Station to encourage the runners.
Meanwhile, all in attendance had the opportunity to engage with Toyota vehicles, including RAV4s and Highlanders that served as pace vehicles and a Tundra that helped transport members of the media.
“We had a ride-and-drive in San Antonio, just as we do at every event,” says McBride. “People could get in our vehicles and experience them firsthand. We had product specialists there to answer questions. We had a giveaway for those who went through the activation. And Toyota owners were given the VIP treatment, including a special gift. And the first 200 who showed up were given access to a Toyota Owners booth.”
Product Placement -- In addition to serving as the official pace car of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, Toyota's sponsorship offers vehicle displays at all 22 events nationwide. Here, a Tacoma and Highlander get their moment in the San Antonio spotlight.
Hiring Our Heroes, a Toyota-sponsored organization that helps military veterans find employment, had a booth in the expo. And Third Eye Blind, a band out of San Francisco, headlined the closing concert.
“We had Toyota branding all over that as well,” says McBride. “This series really offers something for everyone, from the first-time runner to the seasoned veteran, including Boston Marathon qualifiers. And it gives us the opportunity to connect with team members at Toyota facilities and dealers around the country, just as we did in San Antonio. It’s a great partnership for us. We look forward to leveraging it even more in 2016.”
By Dan Miller