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
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 www.fordroadtrip.com, 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.