COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - Looking towards 2020, Toyota Motor North America announced on Wednesday [LINK] a partnership going forward with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
Already a global partner of the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee since 2015 and running through 2024, Toyota is also a partner of Team USA's Olympic and Paralympic teams and has been developing direct relationships with various sport’s national governing bodies (NGB's) over the past three years. This will be the most significant commercial relationship to date for world's oldest adaptive sport organization.
"The platform of the Paralympics and aligning with their values is important,” said Toyota’s Dedra DeLilli, group manager for Olympic and Paralympic marketing, in an interview with frntofficesports.com, [LINK]. "As an organization, we take time to get to know the Paralympic athletes and provide them with tools and resources to make their journey as great as possible. We align our brand, but it’s personal too. We’re passionate about it. We have relationships with them."
NWBA Board Member and two-time Paralympian Will Waller lauds what this can mean, not just in support of the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams who will both be defending gold medals from Rio 2016 but also on the broader grassroots level of the organization.
Waller told frntofficesports.com, "When we get our local programs involved with Toyota dealerships and build those connections, it will mean that we are exponentially increasing the chances that more people with disabilities will learn about our sport and get involved."
"I am incredibly thankful that Toyota wanted to sponsor the Dr. Timothy J. Nugent Academic All-American honors for 10th through 12th graders," said Chris Rathje, president of NWBA Junior Division. "Toyota has invested significantly in the Paralympic movement and continues to do so with this wonderful partnership. This is an amazing opportunity to honor Dr. Nugent’s memory and promote future leaders of the NWBA".
"This partnership will inspire the next generation of adaptive sports athletes to dream bigger than ever before," said Steve Serio, Paralympic gold medalist and men's team captain at Rio 2016.
It takes significant investment by the country's best players to represent on the national teams and the support of Toyota will help make that easier. Waller said that Toyota will provide vehicles to transport athletes and staff on the road to Tokyo as well as for the NWBA's major events, including what will now be titled the 2019 Toyota National Championship Series.
"We could not be more excited to begin this amazing relationship with Toyota," noted Serio. "Their brand activation, which includes the “Start Your Impossible” campaign, aligns directly with the goals and priorities that we as Team USA Paralympians strive for each and every day."
Dr. Darlene Hunter, president of the NWBA Women's Division, also a gold medalist from Rio, already has first-hand experience with Toyota's commitment. She was named a Toyota Everyday Hero at the 2017 espnW: Women + Sports Summit for her work with the Lady Mavericks wheelchair basketball team and the annual women's wheelchair development camp run at of the University of Texas-Arlington. [LINK]
"Toyota is invested in the athletes and want to see each person reach their personal goals through their "mobility for all” initiative, stated Hunter. “I am so excited to see what this new partnership will bring for our athletes at the grassroots level."
Along with the NWBA, Toyota also announced partnerships with five Olympic NGB's: USA Skateboarding, USA Surfing, USA Swimming, USA Track & Field, and USA Triathlon.
"As we look toward the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Toyota’s partnership with these six summer NGBs allows us to reinforce our mobility message to new audiences,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president, Toyota Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “By working with traditional Olympic and Paralympic sports, as well as new and exciting additions to the Olympic Games, we can expand our reach in key markets and tap into the passionate fanbase that can be found within each of these NGBs."
"In the NWBA’s first 70 years, wheelchair basketball has been the vehicle for many impossible journeys," Waller concluded, "and the support of Toyota will enable future members to 'start their impossible'.