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How a partnership with 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy shows the evolution of local car dealership advertising

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In an era where the influence of social media extends far beyond the confines of the digital world, Toyota’s dealer association wants to amplify the reach and awareness of San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback, Brock Purdy, to boost its own reach and awareness.

The association, comprised of regional Toyota automobile dealerships, is using social to broaden its messaging beyond San Francisco. Traditionally, Toyota’s dealer association advertising has focused on local marketing, particularly TV ads.

“The idea is we bought every local break and then we’re aligning that social aspect of it to run at the same time,” said Dave Johnston, Toyota dealer association’s president. “So if you get up to get something to drink or go to the restroom or whatever, that social feed will be broadly and locally connected at the same time as the TV spots.”

In the automotive industry, this shift signals that the landscape is changing as marketers look to move beyond traditional channels to engage with potential customers by creating hyper-targeted and personalized campaigns. An increasing number of local car dealerships and high-value product brands are embracing TikTok such as Mercedes Benz of Atlanta Northeast, and BMW Tuscaloosa, Ala, as Digiday previously reported.

The Toyota dealer association used its social channels to tell a story, according to Johnston, as the brand and agency H/L filmed ad spots for linear TV as well as behind-the-scenes content for social to show Purdy’s rapid ascent to become the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

“Social media this year is important for the brand and the TV commercial is going to reach the masses, but what’s going to filter down from the ad spot is the social media and the behind-the-scenes stuff that was shot,” he said. “As we cultivate our connection with Purdy, our goal is to authentically introduce him to the public.”

Toyota’s dealer association intends to use its TikTok, Instagram, and X (formerly known as Twitter) platforms to utilize the brand’s social media campaigns, as well as test out the Web3 social media platform Lemonade Social. It’s unclear how much Toyota’s dealer association is spending on the effort. According to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics, Toyota spent a little over $280 million so far on advertising, down from $791 million in 2022. (Vivvix and Pathmatics did not have ad spend data from the dealer’s association.)

The association’s contract with Purdy is a year-long; the financial agreement between the parties was not disclosed.

In today’s digital landscape, the dealer association’s strategic approach to social media plays a pivotal role, serving as a cornerstone for building trust and forging personal connections with their audience. This proactive engagement not only enhances their online presence but also fosters a sense of authenticity and reliability in their interactions.

“I think an athlete playing a role marketing an auto manufacturing is a story as old as time and it’s almost a right of passage for the athlete,” said Teddy Stoecklein, executive creative director at the ad agency Via. “And with Tacoma being seen as workhorse trucks ubiquitous with blue collar careers, it makes total sense Toyota has aligned with the NFL.”

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