Ford Division pursues black future buyers

Ford Division hopes to build a relationship with black college students by taking its show on the road.

The division's "No Boundaries Ultimate Black College Football Road Trip" promotion began Sept. 1 and runs through Nov. 17. It involves two young black men, a 2002 Ford Explorer XLT and a road trip that will take them to 10 football games between black colleges and universities stretching from New Jersey to Florida.

Drew Cook, Ford truck marketing communications manager, said the two men, Rasheed Leak, 25, and Stephen Wayne Joyner, 22, do more than just hang out at the games. They promote Ford Division and its products. They also visit youth-oriented community groups and preach the value of education and the virtues of attending black colleges.

Leak and Joyner are graduates of Johnson C. Smith University, a black school in Charlotte, N.C.

While acknowledging that the Explorer's price is out of reach for most college students, Cook said the promotion is Ford Division's way of positioning the Explorer as an "aspirational" vehicle.

The base price of the Explorer XLT two-wheel drive is $28,510; the four-wheel drive is $30,475. Both prices include $600 destination charges.

Showing off the Explorer

"It's important to get the Explorer out front and center," Cook said.

"We've been sponsors of historically black college athletics in the past; we've stepped it up with the road trip.

"These kids are going to school, and one day, they will be able to afford a vehicle. We want to make sure that Ford and the Explorer are on their short list."

Cook declined to say how much Ford is spending on the promotion.

Gregory Smith, account director for Ford Regional advertising at UniWorld Group in New York, which handles black advertising for Ford, said Ford research indicates the Explorer is the most popular sport-utility among black consumers.

On game day, the pair set up shop at a Ford booth near the stadium entrance to show off the Explorer and mingle with the students. After each game, Leak and Joyner record their impressions of the game and post pictures on their Worldwide Web site,

During each game, Ford representatives conduct short interviews with students and other fans to measure their impression of Ford and its vehicles. Also, local Ford dealers display a full line of Ford sport-utilities during the game.

Numbers count

Smith said it is too early to gauge the promotion's results, but Ford is monitoring the number of test drives generated by the event as well as the number of people who visit the event's Web site and link to

To generate interest, Ford alerts local media that the "roadies" will be in town and are available for local TV and radio interviews.

Every Friday and Monday morning, Leak and Joyner call in to "The Doug Banks Show," a black-oriented, nationally syndicated radio show in Dallas, to discuss the weekend game and their impressions of each city they visit.

They also participate in youth-oriented community activities in every market. During their stint in Memphis, Tenn., the pair spent a day at a school talking with 10th and 11th graders and encouraging them to stay in school.

Cook said the football games, with expected draws of 50,000 to 60,000 fans per game, also give dealers an opportunity to do local tie-in promotions.

For example, during the first stop for the Sept. 1 "Labor Day Classic" game between Norfolk State University and Virginia State in Norfolk, Va., Leak and Joyner helped Kimnach Ford, also in Norfolk, give away 10 pairs of tickets to the game.

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at

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