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Why 'genba' is at the heart of Toyota's esports strategy

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By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

October 13, 2021 | 5 min read

Toyota has entered esports after frontline learning, or 'genba', helped it understand that the virtual experience and community around driving can augment its 'real-life' activities. The Drum finds out how Toyota shows spectators and racers its passion by experiencing its vehicles in a virtual environment.

Toyota renewed its partnership with One Esports to organize the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) GT Cup Asia 2021 because its philosophy is “roads build people, and people build cars”, which has translated to the company placing value in motorsports experiences because it helps its team to build better cars.

The Japanese automaker claimed the tournament generated two million total views in 2020, crediting it to the sim racing sector, which has gained momentum in recent years, driven by professional drivers participating in eMotorsport competitions.

“Our eMotorsports vehicles are tuned by our engineers so our racers will feel like they are in the actual car. We believe spectators and racers can feel and understand our passion by experiencing our vehicles even in a virtual environment,” explains Jaja Ishibashi, the general manager of, digital marketing and public relations department at Toyota Motor Asia Pacific.

“At TGR, motorsport is a key pillar in the development of our vehicles, and to engage our advocates. We have been expanding motorsports to all audiences. This has been one area of focus that has been growing rapidly. Our collaboration with One Esports started last year and is in consideration of their audience knowledge and expertise.”

He adds: “In 2021 we chose to continue this collaboration with One Esports to further expand and ignite the thrill of motorsports to reach out to as many spectators as we can. Also, we are increasing our call for participants to find the best eMotorsports athletes in Asia.”

The format of the TGR GT Cup Asia 2021 competition was enhanced to offer every racer an opportunity to clinch the top two coveted places to progress to the global finals of the TGR GT Cup 2021. Countries are also ranked in a new award system.

The TGR GT Cup Asia 2021 began with national rounds held from August to September in participating countries. The 21 national qualifying players from India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore competed in the regional finals in October for a chance to be crowned the fastest racers in Asia.

Ishibashi says the changes to the TGR GT Cup Asia 2021 competition were made from learnings that Toyota received after getting a PS4 and Gran Turismo, quickly followed by a racing wheel.

He explains the car maker immediately learned how realistic the driving was compared with the real vehicles as one could feel the power and acceleration of the GR Supra, and the quick and nimble 4WD GR Yaris.

“At Toyota, we practice 'genba' or frontline learnings. Last year marked our first year in eMotorsports. Our most important learning through 'genba', was understanding the potential of the platform for both spectators and racers, including having a lot of fun,” he says.

“We installed professional simulators in our office for all of our Toyota members to virtually experience our vehicles. To ramp up the competitive spirit, we even had internal time trials. The most notable difference will be racing in multiple vehicles this time around and like last year, on multiple tracks. We will have our recently launched GR Yaris at Tokyo Expressway and also we recently announced GR 86 at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Spectators will be able to experience these new high-performance vehicles as they watch the e-racers go head to head for another thrilling day to remember.”

Aside from Toyota, other automotive manufacturers also increasingly want a piece of the action in esports. The likes of BMW and Nissan have been involved with global esports competitions including the European League of Legends Championship Series 2017 and Overwatch League.

In Asia Pacific, Porsche hosted its first regional esports tournament in 2020, the Porsche Asia Pacific Forza Cup, which reached more than 24.7 million people in the region.

BMW has partnered with five of the world’s top esports organizations – Cloud 9 (US), Fnatic (UK), FunPlus Phoenix (China), G2 Esports (Germany), and T1 (South Korea) – each of which comprise up to 200 players battling it out above all in League of Legends.

At Nissan, in 2019 the Japanese car marque became the first automotive maker to partner with two of the biggest teams in the space – FaZe Clan and OpTic Gaming. The partnership saw the Nissan logo appear on each’s competition jerseys and also allowed team members access to Nissan vehicles including the all-electric Nissan Leaf to integrate into social and digital content.

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