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Ford Skips the Super Bowl to Launch Focus Rally Before the Game

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

Ford Motor Co. is one of the few major automakers NOT advertising during the Super Bowl this year. Instead, the carmaker’s Ford brand has bought a trio of four, 30-second slots in the pre-game show along with name sponsor of the “Focus Rally: America Pre-Kick” at 6 p.m. (EST) on Fox just before the big game starts.

The Focus Rally is a key part of Ford’s launch for the new 2012 model, which will be Ford’s biggest car launch this year in terms of advertising dollars. Like the Ford Fiesta Movement that successfully tapped into social media to build awareness and consideration for that car last year, the automaker is pushing its latest social media gambit in a minute-long commercial and a 30-second spot during the pre-game broadcast.

“Raising consumer awareness about the new 2012 Focus via the Focus Rally: America is our
top priority right now,” said Matt VanDyke, Ford’s director of marketing communications in the U.S. “That is why we jumped at the opportunity get Focus Rally into the Super Bowl Pre-Kick show.”

The commercials introduce the six, two-person teams driving the Focus cross country from Miami in a five-week road rally that people can follow online and participate via social media.

Viewers are urged to visit www.focusrally.com to register, back one of the teams, and help it compete on challenges using social media. These registered team members can earn points via the web site, have the chance to be invited to personally participate in the rally, and vie for the chance to win one of eight new Focuses.

Fans of the teams can follow the Rally live on the site and interact with the teams as they drive. Skiing great Jonny Moseley is hosting the show. Video webisodes of the rally will also be broadcast nightly on Hulu.com, offering highlights of the day.

Ford said 10,000 people have already registered to support a team. Early data on the registrants indicates they are diverse in both age and geographic location. The top three markets generating followers so far are California, Illinois and New York

The automaker teamed up with two creators of CBS TV’s “The Amazing Race” to develop the rally, which will show off the cool, high-tech features of the Focus via the challenges.

Ford is hoping to repeat the success it had with the Fiesta Movement, a viral pre-launch blitz that started a year before the car went on sale in spring 2010. Ford gave the new Fiesta to 100 social media mavens, who tweeted, blogged, wrote about the car on Facebook and uploaded videos for the first six months before the second round with 20 teams of two people.

The results were eye-popping: 6.2-million views on YouTube.com; 132,000 handraisers – 83% of whom were new to Ford and 30% under 25 years old; and a 14% conversion rate of handraisers to purchase agreements, well above the typical rate of between 1 and 2%.

Ford unveiled the 2012 Focus at the Paris auto show last fall and it will arrive in U.S. showrooms around the time the five-week rally ends, said Van Dyke.

Meanwhile, Ford will use its other 30-second, pre-game spot to tout the Ford F-150 pickup with the new EcoBoost engine.

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Ford Skips the Super Bowl to Launch Focus Rally Before the Game - Autotrader