Mazda is putting the sponsorship pedal to the metal to reach new audiences, build favorability and drive sales.

The automaker plans to build on its long-running involvement in motorsports (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, etc.) with platforms that provide access to its target customer: active, social consumers.     

Mazda is increasing its investment in sponsorship after seeing positive results. The company has seen lifts in familiarity, opinion and hand-raisers that exceed industry averages by other OEMs, said Ron Miks, Mazda group manager of brand experience.

“We have an amazing vehicle lineup that can’t be fully articulated in pictures. Getting vehicles in front of people and having them take them for a spin is paying great dividends for us,” said Miks, who took the reins of Mazda’s brand experience department in 2013.

“Mazda has a renewed focus on sponsorship, and we’re investing more in this space.”

Going forward, Mazda is focusing on long-term platforms that provide repeat access to its target customer.  

“We want to create long-term engagements. We’re not going to build true relationships if we flip flop on properties every year.”  

One potential platform: music. Mazda in March will kick off the first year of a multiyear partnership with the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conference.  The sponsorship provides exposure in front of young adults, a key target. Mazda has the youngest customer base of any full-line auto manufacturer, said Miks.

Mazda is still developing activation plans for SXSW, he added, noting that the company plans to engage consumers who attend the event’s music, gaming, film and interactive conferences as well as those who visit Austin as a vacation outing.

“Our goal is to engage consumers in meaningful ways so their positive feelings of attending SXSW will rub off on Mazda.”

The company plans to launch the new platforms within the next year or two, he said.

Mazda and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series
Mazda uses its two-year-old sponsorship of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series to gain multiple consumer engagement opportunities. That includes races and race expos that take place as part of the series’ multiday festivals.  

“People spend hours looking at products and talking to dieticians, running coaches and other runners. It’s a good place to engage folks.”

Mazda’s race-day presence includes vehicle display, T-shirt stations and a green-screen photo op where consumers can have their picture taken with wind-blown hair to appear like they are driving a convertible.

The on-site display also includes an eight-foot high by 15-foot wide wall where participants can post an index card that explains why they run.

“The stories are so compelling—you see the true emotion and dedication for each individual,” said Miks. “It started as a small idea, and it became the centerpiece of our on-site activation.”

Mazda in 2014 expanded the sponsorship to include all 24 North American Rock ‘n’ Roll Series events and status as the series’ official auto manufacturer. Mazda began the relationship in 2013 with a four-race deal.  

“It worked so well that we increased scope and engagement.”

Mazda does not plan to broaden its involvement in endurance sports to create a larger consumer engagement platform, said Miks.

“What we get from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is an energetic, participatory and social group of people that participate in a very well-run activity.”