Toyota to Drive New Car Sales with eBay Sponsorship

Toyota drove away with a one-year exclusive automaker sponsorship on eBay Thursday, as part of a marketing pact between the two firms designed to sell new cars.

The deal was struck between the e-commerce giant and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., the Japanese carmaker’s American unit. It marks the first exclusive advertising sponsorship by an automobile manufacturer on eBay. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

The agreement calls for Toyota to launch a micro-site at ebay.Toyota.com, where it will showcase its new vehicles, link to items listed on eBay, and display promotional offers. Toyota will also donate vehicles to be auctioned on eBay, with proceeds to benefit charitable organizations. The first of the charity auctions will take place at the end of March.

To drive visitors to the micro-site, Toyota will run banners, rich media, and text link ads on both eBay.com and eBay Motors.

Interestingly, the deal is aimed at selling new, and not used (or even certified-pre-owned) cars.

“Many of the people there listing automobiles to sell are also looking for new vehicles to buy,” said Nancy Hubbell, a spokesperson for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. “It’s not just who we reach, but when we reach them.”

The deal is another example of how eBay is transforming itself from a simple e-commerce site to a platform for marketers to reach the eBay audience. The company in October 2003 set up a strategic partnerships unit designed to court brand marketers, and it has been seeing results.

Toyota is following in the footsteps of high-end brand Lexus, which last year launched a micro-site with MSN called “Luxury for Living.” The company is still working out how to determine whether the partnership is successful, and hopes to be able to track actual sales back to the eBay relationship.

Interactive agency Jumpstart Digital Marketing and Saatchi & Saatchi, Toyota’s ad agency, helped structure the agreement between Toyota and eBay.

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