Client: Ford Motor Co.
PR Team: Campbell & Co. (Dearborn, MI)
Campaign: Ford Racing Fan Appreciation Day
Time Frame: February-June 2001
Before any major auto race, Ford, a leading sponsor of NASCAR, holds a
Fan Appreciation Day near the event venue, usually on the Thursday night
before the race. Typically, the event is covered solely by local media;
but when planning began for the 2001 event in Detroit, Campbell & Co.,
which handles public relations for Ford Fan Appreciation Days, saw an
opportunity to gain broader visibility for Ford, beyond Detroit's racing
Ford has long known that its association with auto racing contributes to
overall brand image, and also drives traffic to Ford showrooms. Sam
Scott, Ford racing division manager, says research has found that more
than 50% of Ford customers have an interest in auto racing.
"Dimensionally, it draws attention to our products. (Racing) basically
tells them what we want to tell them" about Ford quality and
engineering, he says. Ford fan days also give racing enthusiasts the
opportunity to meet famous drivers.
"It gives fans access to their heroes," says Greg Shea, a VP with
Campbell who oversees the Ford racing account.
Scott claims that as many as 10,000-15,000 people usually attend fan
days, and that because event attendees must visit Ford showrooms to
obtain tickets, the events also help drive traffic to Ford dealers.
So with a strong showing and local interest in Ford assured, Shea's team
decided that the Detroit fan day in June would be a perfect opportunity
to try gaining national media attention. And they knew that while a
strong local showing would carry them down the stretch, allies in the
press could fuel their drive for the checkered flag. "We really wanted
to enhance the credibility of the Ford racing team," Shea says.
In addition to local media contacts, the Campbell team contacted ESPN
and New York Times auto columnist Robert Lipsyte. Lipsyte was working on
a series of articles about NASCAR racing, so Shea pitched him the idea
of coming to the Detroit fan day to see how an automaker uses racing in
its overall marketing mix. After making initial contact in February,
Shea kept in touch with Lipsyte until he agreed in May to cover the June
ESPN, left idling in the pit since a new TV deal saw major NASCAR races
go to NBC and Fox, needed to fill airtime with racing-related events to
hold onto its audience, Shea reasoned. "ESPN had broadcast many races in
the past. Now, they were going to need more programming," he says.
Shea offered to split satellite truck costs with ESPN if it would
broadcast from Ford's fan day. Shea's team also arranged interviews for
ESPN that included talkbacks from the event with ESPN studio talent.
Local TV outlets were also pitched for live shots, as well as taped
The Detroit fan day received extensive media coverage. ESPN did live
shots and interviews with drivers, and ESPN2's RPM2Night aired live from
the event. Five Detroit radio stations also did broadcasts from the
Lipsyte wrote a New York Times column on Ford's racing heritage, and how
it's used to market cars to consumers.
Post-event research found that 12% of people attending Ford fan days buy
a Ford within a year of the event they attend.
Campbell & Co. went on to work on other Ford fan days in Chicago and
Indianapolis. PR for the Chicago event included a parade touting Ford
racing. Ford's Scott is now investigating other PR opportunities for
future years that could attract crowds in the 30,000-40,000 range. He's
considering adding music or entertainment events to reach that larger