Ford, Nissan Create Reality Shows For Millennials


This summer Ford brought racing, Millennials, and the Fiesta, Mustang and Ranger vehicles together via a marketing partnership with the X-Games around several racing categories.

Nissan is doing a similar program, but the reward is different and the vehicle for getting there begins in the virtual world. The company's GT Academy USA program gave top players of Polyphony Digital's "Gran Turismo 5" console game a chance to be one of 16 finalists in a national challenge.

The Ford effort spotlighted several X-Games Ford racers: Rally Cross Ford Fiesta racer Tanner Foust; Stage Rally racer and Ken Block, who also drives a Fiesta; Mustang drift-racer Vaughn Gittin, Jr., and off-road truck racer Brian Deegan, who drives a Ranger.

It also introduced a social and experiential program, Octane Academy, which gives consumers a chance to learn the basics of racing by the pros. But to get that experience, one has to create a video on why he or she should get an opportunity to participate in the program. Those who are chosen from their submissions will do four four-day training programs that are also kind of an auto-racing version of "Survivor," where the best contestant wins.



The effort has been getting digital and TV support, with creative featuring the four racers who will teach and run the camps, each of which will have eight contestants doing various challenges over one weekend. The overall winner of each camp will be awarded a new Ford vehicle of their choice.

All of it will be on an eponymous reality television series on Fuel TV. The 13-episode show, the first such show on Fuel, will follow the Octane Academy contestants at each of the racing camps. The show, which launches early next year, will have three episodes for each of the camps.

The Academy is staggered so that the first starts in November, with Brian Deegan overseeing an off-road truck-racing program. Ford says that since the July launch of the digital effort, some 6,000 people have applied and there have been 850 video submissions. The company says early interest has been greater than that of the Fiesta Movement, where people had to apply to become "Fiesta Agents." The company says the Octane Academy is the most applied-to Ford program to date.

"We created Octane Academy to reach a younger, more diverse generation of action sports and race enthusiast," said Crystal Worthem, Ford Brand Content and Alliance manager. "The response rate, creative video submissions and passion to be part of Octane Academy have exceeded our expectations."

Ford is not alone in bringing younger consumers into its brand through the kinds of activities Millennials are into. As in Ford's program, the Nissan reality show profiles the 16 finalists as they vie against each other at the Silverstone Circuit in the U.K. They did not compete for a car, however, but for a chance to become a real Nissan professional racer. Nissan racers Danny Sullivan, Tommy Kendall and Liz Halliday oversaw and judged. Nissan's reality show begins airing on Speed Channel this week.

Said Jon Brancheau, VP marketing for Nissan North America, "GT Academy USA is a mesh of gaming, branded entertainment, and social media -- all designed to entertain, engage, and reward the audience across multiple platforms from gaming consoles to social networks and prime time."

The company says some 54,000 people registered to compete and tried to make it to the National Finals in Orlando, Fla., where they raced on Gran Turismo 5 in March. The show follows the 16 players at the seven-day racing academy at Silverstone as they go through elimination rounds and are subjected to Navy SEAL-type mental and physical abuse. The winner will become a Nissan-sponsored professional race car driver and part of a four-person team that will race the 24-hour race in Dubai.


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