Is Toyota Spending on NASCAR Paying Off?

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Source: courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.
When Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) fielded its first NASCAR racing team in 2007, there were plenty of upset fans. The following year, Joe Gibbs Racing, for years a Chevrolet-powered team, switched to Toyota. In 2015, driver Kyle Busch gave Toyota its first Driver’s championship, and the next year, Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 and Toyota took home its first manufacturer’s title.

Last year, Toyota spent more than 7.6 times the sponsor average on NASCAR. General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) spent 7.3 times the average and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) spent just 2.9 times the average, according to a report from IEG Research in ESP Sponsorship Report.

All that spending is apparently paying off, according to a recent survey by YouGov. The survey polled more than 30,000 people. Of that total, about 11% (around 3,200) identified themselves as having a general interest in cars (car hobbyists) and nearly 3% (about 850) identified themselves as NASCAR racing fans.

Geographically, 36% of car hobbyists live in the South with 24% in the West, 21% in the Midwest, and 19% in the Northeast. By age group, 25% of hobbyists are millennials; 32% are between 50 and 65;  19% are between 35 and 49; and 24% of the hobbyists surveyed are 65 and older.

NASCAR fans live mostly in the South (43%) and the Midwest (23%). In the Northeast, 18% identified themselves as fans and only 16% live in the West.

The survey asked hobbyists what car they would consider for their next purchase: 35% answered with Ford, 33% with Toyota, and 31% for Chevy. NASCAR fans, however, put Toyota way behind Ford and Chevy, tied at 37%, at just 23%. That sounds pretty bad after spending all that money.

But when it comes to customer switching, Toyota performs much better. Some 36% of Toyota’s current customers were former Ford customers and 33% are ex- Chevy owners. Only 23% of current Chevy owners switched from Toyota and just 20% of Ford owners abandoned Toyota.

One other issue NASCAR fans are divided over is flying the Confederate battle flag. NASCAR Chairman Brian France declared the flag an “offensive symbol” in 2015 and asked — but did not order — track officials to remove the flags according to USA Today. The flags still fly at many tracks and many fans continue to display them as well.