Ford Gives Road Map To Reaching Fans

Kevin Schebil of FordWhat do Toby Keith, the Professional Bull Riders Association and Monster Jam have in common? Fans and trucks. Ford has made reaching those fans central to marketing its F-150 pickup for years. Whether by giving fans a chance to be roadies for a Toby Keith concert for a weekend or win tickets to a bull-riding show, the company has activated its associations with those events, and similar ones in complementary categories with promotions dangling new trucks and experiences.

In the latest, Toby Keith fans have until March 31 to enter the Built Ford Tough Biggest & Baddest Sweepstakes at for a chance to win the prize package, as well as a new 2009 Ford F-150 truck. Keith just wrapped up the 2009 tour at the Houston livestock show, and is in the final stages of preparing for the 2010 tour.



Overseeing the program and others with which Ford promotes its pickup is Kevin Schebil, manager, Ford Truck Communications, who says event sponsorships reach a core target.

Q: What does the tour do for Ford?

A: It gives us an opportunity to target a lifestyle category that aligns with the brand. We reach out to partners who are No. 1 in their categories. The purpose is to provide an experience nobody else can offer: The winners get a private tour bus, an all-access pass; they eat, work and play with the band and crew from setup to everything between. If they want to have the full experience, they can get involved and work with the crew.

Q: What did Ford do in terms of promotions last year with Toby Keith?

A: Last year we ran a promotion where we rented out Smith's old bar in Atlanta, a historical venue with a private room upstairs, where the winner and 125 friends got a private Toby Keith concert before the tour launched in September. Then they were all caravanned over to the first tour concert, and the winner won a Ford Superduty pickup. This year the winner gets a 2009 F-150.

Q: Do you do similar activities for other events?

A: We are also series promoter for The Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) and we have a contest running right now, "Invasion of the Bulls," where three winners and guests are invited to Las Vegas for the PBR finals--all expenses paid. They receive behind-the-scenes passes, and each of the three winners receive keys to the 2009 F-150 pickups. One of the three keys fits the ignition, and that winner gets the truck.

Similarly, with Monster Jam--with whom we are tour sponsors--we held a contest that just ended called "Monsters on Main Street" where three winners attend the Monster Jam World Finals on March 27 in Las Vegas. They get backstage passes, autograph and interview sessions with drivers, sponsor dinner invitations, and again, a turn-of-the-key grand prize.

Q: How effective are these programs and sponsorships in reaching your target buyer?

A: When we talk to these consumers, we are reaching over 95% of the full-size pickup segment with programs [including those we have around] fishing, camping, hunting, and boating. When you look at our metrics, you know 58% of pickup truck owners watch NASCAR; about the same are involved in country music; 46% of full-sized pickup truck owners attend PBR and 34% are Monster Truck fans. So we are touching each lifestyle and involved with core consumers.

Q: But how many people who pass through these promotions are interested in shopping the trucks?

A: We know that a huge percentage are hand-raisers or opt-in; it varies throughout our programs, but Toby Keith has been the highest as far as consumer registrations--from 100,000 to 125,000 people registering for the program and somewhere between 9% and 10% looking for more information on Ford full-sized pickups.

Q: What is Ford's media activity around these events?

A: It is mostly Web-based; in this past year for PBR we did have TV. It is mostly viral, and we also rely a little on partners to promote it, so we are promoting it on the Web both on our site and our partners' site and in stadium at venues, both through the Jumbotron giant screen--and for Toby Keith, for example, we shoot Toby bucks into the crowd, which is a pamphlet driving consumers to our Web site. We also hand them out at Monster Jam and PBR.

Q: What are you doing for F-150 with regard to motorcycle riders, which are a likely area of the market for activation, since bikers frequently carry their bikes in back of a truck?

A: We are very big into Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis [S.D.]--we have a presence at both--we activate with the "Drive One" tour, which travels to about 35 different events throughout the year.

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