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cobrabitn
04-29-2007, 01:53 AM
Ford Connects to Loyal Customers through NASCAR


by Robert Musial

Ford's market share among race fans is 46 percent higher than its share among non-race fans. (Photo credit: Autostock) For more information on racing, go to Fordracing.com.
DEARBORN, April 16, 2007 - Sponsoring sports events like NASCAR is one more way Ford Motor Company is reaching consumers in a mood to buy vehicles.

Ford's affiliation with NASCAR goes back to 1949 when the first Grand National race at Charlotte Speedway was won by Jim Roper -- in a Lincoln.

Since then, Ford brands have crossed NASCAR's finish lines first nearly 600 times. Even Plymouth racing legend Richard Petty earned nine checkered flags in a Ford in 1969 while Dale Earnhardt drove a Ford into victory lane three times between 1982 and 1983 before switching to Chevy.

The publicity from such racing victories and the sales that result from them are incalculable.

That's why supporting NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup is a no-brainer, said Kevin Kennedy, public affairs manager, Ford Racing.

It seems the old axiom, "Race on Sunday, sell on Monday," still works when it comes to NASCAR. Each week, their races attract 75 million fans, second only in the U.S. to the audience reach of the National Football League.

"Studies show that 56 percent of the Ford owner base classifies themselves as race fans, so it's a very good place to market," said Kennedy.

Furthermore, the purchase consideration of Ford brands is 72 percent higher among race fans than non-race fans. And the market share among race fans is 46 percent higher for Ford products than the share among non-race fans, Kennedy said.

"It's simple: race fans consider Fords and buy Fords more often than non-race fans," he said.

As a sponsor, Ford Trucks are even listed as the "official truck of NASCAR," which makes business sense since so many race fans are also truck owners -- and buyers.

That's the same reason Ford Trucks has been the title sponsor of the Professional Bull Riders' (PBR) Built Ford Tough series since 2003. Fans attracted to this rough-riding event are more likely to be truck owners than the general population, said a PBR spokesman.

A check of the parking lot of The Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.), where the touring PBR stops tonight and Saturday, will prove the connection between "Built Ford Tough" and "The Toughest Sport on Dirt."

Such sponsorships aren't merely limited to racing and rodeo in North America. Ford of Europe is a longtime partner of the UEFA Champions League for European football (soccer) while Ford Brazil helped sponsor the broadcast of the 2006 World Cup championship in that country.

But sponsoring car racing is a natural fit for Ford, noted Kennedy.

"We're not just out there because it's something 'cool' to do. We're out there because the Ford Motor Company doesn't make tennis rackets -- they make cars. And racing gives us a chance to go head-to-head with our competitors every week in front of a large customer base," he said.

Fusion marketing manager Killol Bhuta agrees.

"NASCAR is so popular and since Fusion as our entry now, it's a very natural tie-in to promote our cars and increase their awareness among race fans," said Bhuta.

"When our drivers do well, that's positive brand equity for Fusion as well as for Ford, and it translates to the showroom," he said.

But Ford receives other benefits from its association with NASCAR as well, said Kennedy.

"A lot of technology in racing these days goes back and forth to and from the companies but the real development is in computer-aided design and the development of engineers," he said.

For instance, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's director of Advanced Product Creation and the Special Vehicle Team, spent two years with the Champ Car series. Kerry Baldori, SVT's chief vehicle engineer, also spent two years as a racing engineer.

"If you're an engineer working in racing, you're faced with instantaneous challenges every day. If you have a problem on Friday, you have to have it figured out by Sunday," said Kennedy.