This year, Toyota remains the title sponsor of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, the headline event Saturday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Next year, Toyota will remain the title sponsor of the overall event, and it will continue to be called the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, as has been the case since 1980. But the Pro/Celebrity Race is looking for a new title sponsor beginning in 2014.
The changing relationship was part of negotiations for renewing sponsorship of the Long Beach race as a whole, according to Jim Mchaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. Toyota has sponsored the Pro/Celebrity race since its inception in 1977, and will continue to provide the cars, crews and technical assistance for the race next year.
“We are grateful to Toyota for their continued relationship, which has so far spanned 37 years as title sponsor of the Pro/Celebrity Race and 39 years with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,” Michaelian said in announcement Wednesday. “We are now creating an opportunity for another company to align itself with the most prominent celebrity race in the country and be a part of the excitement and fun that surrounds it every year.”
Support from Toyota and the proximity of Long Beach and Hollywood have combined to make the Pro/Celebrity Race here the most prestigious of all celebrity car races. It has launched several racing careers and brought out movie and television stars including Keanu Reeves, Ashley Judd, Adrien Brody, Cameron Diaz, George Lucas, Queen Latifah, Paul Williams and Jay Leno.
It also has been a popular venue for stars from other sports, including NFL legend John Elway, NBA All-Star Karl Malone, X-Games Champion Tony Hawk, Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton and Long Beach’s own Misty May-Treanor. It has hosted luminaries up to and including astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
All of the entertainment is for a good cause, with more than $2 million donated since 1991 by Toyota to the Racing for Kids organization (which supports children’s hospitals, including Long Beach’s Miller Children’s Hospital) on behalf of the Pro/Celebrity Race and its participants.
Michaelian said the new sponsorship opportunity is particularly valuable in the sense that it will start with the 40th anniversary of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, expected to spark even more interest than usual. The sponsorship also includes, among other things, an opportunity to name a driver to compete in one of the cars in the race, as well as prominent branding on the cars and driver uniforms. In addition, the title sponsor will be a major sponsor of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, and be able to entertain clients in one the Grand Prix’s Pit Row Suites.
The 2013 Pro/Celebrity lineup has been announced, and includes Michelle Rodriguez of “Avatar” and “Fast and Furious” fame, Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer and Long Beach’s own Olympian Jessica Hardy.
The new Scion FR-S cars will debut this year. The 2014 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be April 11-13.
“This is a rare, prestigious sponsorship opportunity,” Michaelian said. “Toyota and the GPALB look forward to partnering with a great new company for an exciting 2014 Pro/Celebrity Race.”