Lifeguards might soon be driving Toyotas

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

Sponsorship agreements between the city of San Diego and two private companies, that could be worth up to $1.6 million combined, received unanimous backing today from the City Council’s Budget Committee.

The city has made sponsorships, like those with Toyota and Sprint Solutions, a priority in its search for increased revenues and cost savings.

It’s been a long time coming,’' Councilwoman Marti Emerald said of the deals.

The two-year agreement with Toyota will provide lifeguards with 34 vehicles and could be worth as much as $1.1 million if it is renewed for an additional two years, said Natasha Collura, the city’s director of strategic partnerships.

Toyota would be known as the official vehicle’’ of San Diego’s lifeguards if the full City Council approves the agreement at an upcoming meeting, and area auto dealers could use the phrase in advertising and other promotional material.

The auto company would also be able to conduct promotional events at city facilities, take part in lifeguard events, display its logo on the city’s website, and be allowed to directly market to municipal employees, retirees and owners of businesses licensed by the city.

Since the city would not have to pay for new vehicles, about $245,000 would be saved annually, according to Collura.

Under terms of the proposed contract, lifeguards would receive the following 2012 model-year vehicles:

• three Toyota Sequoia 4WD SUVs;

• four Toyota 4Runner 4x4 SUVs;

• 15 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 trucks (short bed)’

• 11 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 4x4 trucks; and

• one Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4x4 truck.

The city previously entered into partnerships with General Motors and McCune Chrysler-Jeep.

When city officials have discussed sponsorship opportunities in the past, they have generally talked about signs at the area’s popular beaches.

“We are continuing to explore the viability of that opportunity,’' Collura said.

The city has budgeted $800,000 of sponsorship revenue for the current fiscal year, so more deals will be necessary to meet the goal, according to Emerald.

Collura said the deal with Sprint would be worth $100,000 annually for two years, with three one-year renewal options. Additional money could flow into city coffers from a cell phone recycling program, but she was unable to estimate how much.

Sprint would be known as the official wireless partner’’ of the city of San Diego, have a logo on the municipal website, and be able to market its products to employees, she said.

A companion item, in which Sprint would be the sole wireless provider to the city, also passed unanimously. The city currently uses three cellular companies.

Like the sponsorship deals, the wireless contract requires passage by the full City Council at a future meeting.