Toyota just inked a huge new, multi-year sponsorship agreement with what remains the hottest entertainment property around: the National Football League. The automaker said it will newly leverage the year-round NFL calendar as a powerful marketing platform to communicate its brand message to football fans across the U.S.
The deal enhances and coalesces around marketing arrangements that Toyota already has with 11 separate NFL teams on the local and regional levels and hugely intensifies the car company’s relationship with what remains the most powerful sports-marketing juggernaut in the world.
“This brings an umbrella over everything to the national level and puts us on the national stage with the NFL,” David Christ, group vice president and general manager for Toyota, told me.
Christ declined to disclose the value of the deal.
The Toyota move fills a void that the NFL has had for a while in terms of an overall automotive sponsor. Ford departed as the league’s official truck sponsor in 2022. The league hasn’t had a car sponsor since Hyundai declined to renew its deal after the 2019 season.
It’s not that Toyota hasn’t been a presence in NFL telecasts, stadia and other properties. In the 1980s, the “Toyota Halftime Show” first appeared on ABC’s Monday Night Football. In 2006, Toyota handled halftime sponsorship for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, an engagement that remains in place today. Toyota’s new partnership with the NFL will be enhanced by national broadcast television and online media investments.
“A lot of things aligned with our marketing strategy and values,” Christ said. “The NFL has a diverse audience, and we are very focused on diversity and inclusion, and there are demographics where they’ve grown. We felt like the target market was spot on with our target market.”
Those “demographics” lately have notably come to include young women. The NFL has been aiming to bring on more of them as fans over the last several years and has used a number of gambits to attract them, ranging from stylish apparel and swag to an annual focus on October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
But the recent attention by young females to the apparently budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has brought young women’s interest in the NFL to a new — for now, at least — level.
“Overall, we are very excited to see the NFL growing in popularity with women and young girls, also with people of color,” Christ said. “Parents with children under 18 is a big growth demographic for them and us.”
Christ said that there’s no commitment by Toyota, as part of the deal, to advertise in the Super Bowl telecast in 2024. “We evaluate that decision each year, and it’s really more between us and the sponsoring broadcast partner,” he said. “Super Bowl [advertising] decisions are based more on what products we are bringing to market rather than just being in the Super Bowl.”
Last year, for instance, Toyota didn’t advertise during the Super Bowl after having done so for five years in a row.