Universal, Toyota Join Forces

Vivendi Universal SA’s Universal Studios unit today will announce a global marketing alliance with Toyota Motor Corp. that will integrate Toyota with the promotion of Universal theme parks, movies and music, Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reported.

The deal will result in Toyota (TM) sponsoring theme-park rides, placing its cars in Universal movies and distributing, via Toyota dealerships, special promotional CDs filled with Universal music.

The three-year deal, with an option to extend for two additional years, calls for Toyota to pay a fee described by Universal as “tens of millions” of dollars for the right to link its brand to Universal’s products across the board. Toyota also will spend $50 million to $80 million on advertising to support the joint promotions.

The upshot is that Toyota will be closely linked to Universal, much the way McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS) are tied together, via a long-term marketing agreement those companies struck several years ago. Steve Sturm, vice president of marketing for the Toyota division of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said the close affiliation with Universal’s entertainment offerings will allow consumers to see the “fun and dynamic” side of Toyota.

Stephanie Sperber, Universal’s senior vice president for global alliances, said the cornerstone of the deal is promotions involving the Universal theme parks in California, Florida, Japan and Spain. Toyota will sponsor several attractions, including “Back to the Future — The Ride” at Universal Studios Hollywood and “Adventures of Spider-Man” at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla. Toyota model cars will be displayed in the parks, and the Toyota brand will be peppered throughout Universal’s “CityWalk” retail and restaurant zones in both Orlando and Universal City, Calif.

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