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Blue Oval kicks off footy website to broaden its true-blue Aussie brand message


FORD Australia is increasing its internet exposure – and making a move on Toyota’s dominant position in AFL football marketing – in an attempt to broaden its brand message away from more conventional advertising outlets.

Although the company will maintain its traditional television and print campaigns, general marketing manager Rebecca Martin said the new internet site – theoval.com.au – offers another avenue for the brand and an ability to better leverage its sponsorships.

The relatively low cost of set-up for the site, plus its ability to reach a broader buyer base, is one of several similar strategies Ford has pursued in recent years. The company has successfully targeted associations with specific television shows, surfing, youth cricket and breast cancer.

Theoval.com.au will utilise Ford’s association with AFL, and specifically its ties with the Geelong Football Club and the Sydney Swans.

The site will be up and running from May 1 and feature an unofficial look at football history, written by AFL author Jim Main. It will also have an on-line handball and football tipping competition and trivia quiz each week.

Ms Martin expects the handball competition to generate buyer leads and data on prospective customers but said it would not have a hard-sell focus. She said it was also possible to specifically measure the success of the site and its impact.

"Over 60 per cent of Australian homes have broadband and they’re spending up to 17 hours a month on-line, which is up from three years ago," she said. "People are using the internet a lot more to source information."

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman said that Ford had to target marketing points of difference that focused on "impact over frequency".

"We don’t have the frequency that our competitors have," he said. "We can’t buy the Commonwealth Games, we can’t buy the AFL. So what we’re trying to do as a team is to leverage and get the maximum amount of impact over frequency."

"We do a lot on sponsorship as well – obviously V8 Supercars is the biggest single thing we do. But if you think about rugby, cricket, AFL and we’re one of the sponsors of the Rip Curl Pro down at Bells Beach."

Ford center imageLeft: AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou (left) and Toyota Australia executive chairman John Conomos.

Mr Gorman said the company’s association with breast cancer research was not only good corporate citizenship but "it also ties in very well to what we’re trying to do with family cars".

"What we have to be better at is that we have to leverage the assets we have because we’re not going to get more assets," he said.

In terms of automotive ad spend in Australia, Ford is number three behind Toyota and Holden.

Mr Gorman admitted that some of the new associations Ford had undertaken were "a little edgy". These included a hook-up with the clearly male-oriented television program Blokesworld, an ad campaign around the successful television series Sex and the City and an internet dial-in service where customers could talk to Ford engineers, including product development vice-president Trevor Worthington.

"Sometimes you go down directions that maybe don’t suit my taste but I’m not the consumer here," said Mr Gorman. "What we’re trying to do is attract younger buyers, more females, more families, and we’ve tried a lot of different things while not losing some of the strengths that we have."

One of those strengths was the general impression of Ford utes, which Mr Gorman said remained strong among male buyers.

"With utes we are seen as blokey, and that’s a good thing," he said. "So how do we remain blokey with utes but attract families with Territory and young women to the Focus?"

Mr Gorman acknowledged that Ford’s traditional way of marketing thinking was changing as the car-maker endeavoured to get better bang for its bucks.

"We continue to try different things," he said.






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