Toyota Nabs ESPN's 'Monday Night Football' Halftime Show

Already Exclusive Sponsor of NBC's 'Sunday Night Football'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Halftime inventory for National Football League games is going quickly -- to Toyota. The marketer, in its second major NFL upfront buy, is the exclusive sponsor of ESPN's new "Monday Night Football" halftime show. It has also bought exclusive halftime sponsorship rights on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" program, as first reported in Ad Age.
Lexus and Toyota will be featured in ESPN's halftime show with opening and closing graphics, in spots throughout the game and in 'ESPN the Magazine', on ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and SportsCenter.
Lexus and Toyota will be featured in ESPN's halftime show with opening and closing graphics, in spots throughout the game and in 'ESPN the Magazine', on ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and SportsCenter. Credit: AP

Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, will sponsor nine of the "Monday Night Football" halftime shows and Toyota the remaining eight.

Encroaching on Detroit's space
Detroit has always dominated NFL advertising, thanks to the sports popularity among male car buyers, but while General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have struggled financially, Toyota is incredibly profitable in North America, allowing the Japanese automaker to continue to invest heavily in advertising. The NFL games become a key platform for Toyota to launch its Tundra full-size pickup.

Lexus and Toyota will be featured in halftime show's opening and closing graphics, in spots throughout the game and in ESPN the Magazine, on ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and SportsCenter. Each brand will have its own specific online promotion: "Monday Night Surround Presented by Toyota" will feature competitions for the ultimate fan; "The Lexus Perfect Play" allows viewers to vote on the top three plays from Sunday's games as determined by the ESPN analysts.

"We are selling this as a 'Monday Night Football' experience," said Ed Erhardt, president-ad sales for "Monday Night Football." "They understand that we get fans 24 hours a day, not just for three hours."

Football's 'live' nature
As agencies and networks continue to wrangle over programming that's watched live or time-shifted via DVRs when it comes to buying prime-time entertainment programming, the sports upfront market -- especially football -- has been moving thanks to its live nature. "If it aired live, it's watched live" has been one of ESPN/ABC Sports' upfront slogans.

This year marks the first time ESPN has sold "Monday Night Football." ABC Sports is also selling for the first time a Saturday prime-time college football block. "We like that ABC is the prime-time player of choice on Saturday, and ESPN is the only [football] player on Monday," Mr. Erhardt said. "CBS, NBC and Fox can have Sunday to themselves."

In addition to autos, other marketers requiring exclusivity, such as cellphone companies, have been active in the market.

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Jean Halliday contributed to this report.
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