Ford's Quick Lane brand buys naming rights to Detroit bowl game

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The new college football bowl game at Detroit’s Ford Field will be called the Quick Lane Bowl, named after Ford Motor Co.'s  chain of more than 700 auto service outlets at Ford and Lincoln dealerships.

Members of the Ford family also own the Lions, organizers of the bowl. Financial terms of the multiyear title sponsorship were not disclosed.

The team and company officials announced the deal at a Ford Field press conference this morning, which ended a year of speculation about who the bowl’s title sponsor would be.

The game will air at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 26 on ESPN.

The Lions announced in July 2013 that they’ll host a new bowl matching Big Ten Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference teams at 64,500-seat Ford Field under six-year deals that begin this year. Rather than an automatic tie-in based on conference finish, the participating bowl teams will be selected by the conferences and the bowl staff at the end of the season.

“With a national platform to showcase the city of Detroit as well as Southeast Michigan football tradition, it was important for us to partner with an organization like Quick Lane who has a strong local and national presence,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating to institute a great bowl game tradition at Ford Field for years to come.”

The new game supplants the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which will not be played this year. That game, which leased Ford Field, had previously been called the Motor City Bowl when it launched in 1997 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Quick Lane marketing

The new bowl will be used as a marketing opportunity by Quick Lane.

“We’re hoping to continue to raise awareness among consumers for the fast service, value and convenience our Quick Lanes deliver,” said Frederiek Toney, a Ford vice president who also is president of Global Ford Customer Service Division, in a statement.

The bowl could provide up to $10 million worth of media exposure value for the Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers, one local analyst said.

“In terms of national exposure for title sponsors of a bowl game held prior to New Years Day, those brands have averaged slightly more than $5 million of in-broadcast exposure,” said Eric Wright, president of research at Joyce Julius & Associates Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The firm calculates exposure by comparing the brand’s visibility and number of mentions during the telecast to the ad rate charged for the game. He was speaking in general terms rather than specifically about the Quick Lane deal.

“Additionally, media coverage via highlight TV programs, print articles and Internet news stories, along with on-site sponsorship elements and promotions conducted by a bowl game, typically generate about another $4 million-$5 million for a bowl sponsor,” he said. “So, altogether, Christmas week bowl game title sponsors average around $10 million of exposure value.

“Generally speaking, the bulk of the media coverage, national TV highlight programming notwithstanding, occurs in the game’s local market, as well as the local markets of the participating teams.”

Expansion plans

The first Quick Lane opened in 1998, and for several years Ford has expanded the network across the country and into a few overseas markets. There are now 700 in the U.S., another 50 in Canada and a total of approximately 1,000 globally.

The automaker had 3,260 domestic Ford and Lincoln dealerships in 2013, so the Quick Lane chain has some ways to catch up.

The plan is to double the number of Quick Lane stores over the next 5 to 10 years, Toney said this morning. Ford also is creating a scalable option that will allow smaller dealers to add Quick Lane service, he said.

Dealers with Quick Lane stores are more profitable than those without, Toney said.

Quick Lane stores offer routine vehicle maintenance and light repairs such as brake repairs and tire replacements on all vehicle makes and models.

Quick Lane, along with the Motorcraft-branded line of Ford original and replacement auto parts, sponsors the No. 21 Ford Fusion owned by Wood Bros. Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Family interests

While the Ford family owns the Lions, it doesn’t own Ford Field. The football team operates it under a lease from the Detroit-Wayne County Stadium Authority.

The Lions got $50 million from Ford Motor under a deal that had the automaker pay the money in three lump sums in 2002 to put the its name on Ford Field: $30 million in February 2002, $17.5 million in March 2002 and the balance in December 2002, according to SEC documents.

The new bowl will be handled by the Lions’ in-house entertainment division, DLI Entertainment.

The Lions’ sole majority owner is Martha Ford, who took over ownership after her husband, William Clay Ford Sr., died of pneumonia March 9 at age 88. He bought the controlling interest in the team for $4.5 million in November 1963, and assumed majority ownership in January 1964.

Their son, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr., is the Lions’ chairman. He is one of the automaker’s largest individual shareholders.

The Quick Lane Bowl replaces the Pizza Bowl on the NCAA’s bowl schedule.

You can reach Bill Shea at bshea@crain.com.


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