CAMPAIGNS: Community Relations - Ford drives home community spirit

Client: Ford/Urban Sports Group (Charlotte, NC)

PR Team: Richard French & Associates (Raleigh, NC)

Campaign: Ford "No Boundaries" Ultimate Black College Football Road Trip

Time Frame: September 1 - November 24

Budget: $30,000

When you think of Ford, you think of dependable, US-made cars. What you

might not think of is Ford's long-standing relationship with

African-Americans, both in terms of sales and social outreach.

Ford has financially supported black college sports for over two

decades, specifically Historically Black College and University (HBCU)


But Ford was looking to reach out on a grassroots level. "We sought an

opportunity to give back to a community that has welcomed us with open

arms," says Drew Cook, Ford's truck marketing communications


If attention could be drawn to a product as part of the deal, so much

the better. So with the help of Richard French & Associates, the Ford

"No Boundaries" Ultimate Black College Football Road Trip hit the



"This couldn't be just about football and promoting cars," says


"Public service had to be a big part of it."

A massive search, mainly internet-conducted, produced two individuals to

whom Ford gave a brand-new Explorer and a video camera to record their

road trip, which would cover 11 HBCU football games along the East


The chosen duo had to meet certain criteria. They had to be proud HBCU

graduates. Some radio promotion experience would also be an asset, as a

big part of the PR push would be radio appearances. They also had to be

enthusiastic about community involvement, as they'd perform such

services as part of each week's activities.

Enter Rasheed Leak, star golfer, and Steve Joyner, star basketball

player, graduates of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. The

two were planning a trip anyway, hoping to travel the US before entering

the "real world." Free wheels, free football, a chance to help others,

and promote HBCU schools - Ford didn't have to twist their arms.


Beginning with the September 1 Virginia State-Norfolk State game in

Norfolk, VA, and culminating on November 24 with the annual

Grambling-Southern clash at the Superdome in New Orleans, Leak and

Joyner hit each town with a set purpose. They spent a day each week

doing community work, mostly with kids, promoting the importance of

staying in school.

Their HBCU pride made this an easy sell. Part of the hook was to give

away 10 pairs of tickets to each week's game. Some tickets were shared

with local radio stations for giveaways. Others were provided to

community service leaders to give to kids they felt deserving of a

reward. The duo also visited a local Ford dealership in each market -

there were still cars to plug - where more free tickets were


As far as publicizing the trip, Leek and Joyner appeared on radio shows

in each market to promote both HBCU schools and Ford. Thousands could

also see them at the football games, singing the praises of the Ford

Explorer and cheering on their fellow HBCU students. All the while,

footage of their road trip could be seen on Major Black College Sports

Weekly, a syndicated cable program, and on, a

continuously updated website devoted solely to the campaign.


Local TV stations in all markets visited by the duo covered the


Inasmuch as this was not just a sports story, but one of social outreach

(and, of course, business), media coverage so far has ranged from the

Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Indianapolis Recorder, and The

Times-Picayune of New Orleans to Advertising Age and BrandWeek.

The website has also proven to be a major source of attention, having

received 30,000 hits since September 1.


The trip still has two more games to go: The November 10 CIAA

Championship Game in Winston-Salem, NC, and the Florida Classic between

Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M in Orlando, FL on November 17.

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