Under the tutelage of Torrey Galida, Ford Motor Co. is zeroing in on a new motorsports target: hardcore racing fans around the world.
Nine months ago, Galida began a new job as Ford's first global motorsports marketing manager. His aim: to help Ford capture the attention and goodwill of racing enthusiasts worldwide.
'Racing is an opportunity for us to present a consistent image around the world,' Galida says.
'Ford is unique in that we sell Ford product lines around the world. General Motors uses several different brands such as Vauxhall and Opel in Europe, so they are not able to leverage one brand name worldwide. And luxury manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari don't have the breadth of product line and reach that we do.'
Ford's motorsports budget remains unchanged; the company refuses to reveal what it spends. But Galida expects a better return on investment as the company rolls out its global motorsports strategy.
'We intend to spend the money more effectively,' Galida says. 'One of the keys for us is to be more focused in the activities we support.'
For example, Ford will begin building a special NASCAR edition of the F-150 pickup this month.
'The purpose of a vehicle like that is not to sell 300,000 more F-series trucks. We're at capacity anyway,' Galida says. 'The point of it is to use that vehicle as a centerpiece for regional promotions that allow our dealers to build a racing theme or performance theme or NASCAR theme promotion. It helps us sell our entire product lineup.'
Ford dealers have created motorsports promotions in the past. The difference today is that more events are being held and special products such as the NASCAR F-150 are being created, Galida says.
Galida would not discuss details of the future motorsports strategy.
But Ford began racing a Taurus on the NASCAR circuit this year, and a NASCAR special-edition Taurus sedan would likely appeal to racing fans.
Ford is targeting racing fans because they are opinion leaders who can help build a consistent brand image, Galida says.
'Our focus is on that core motorsports enthusiast, who then helps us attract a much broader audience,' he says.
'Two to 5 percent of people are really hardcore race fans. Our goal is to establish a dialogue with that person and create the kind of program they are very interested in being a part of. That is the type of person who is an opinion leader, the kind of person you go to in the neighborhood to ask about a car.'
Ford research indicates 45 percent of the general population claims to have some interest in racing. Ford says the percentage is even higher among those who buy Ford Motor Co. products.
'We're going to be developing more promotionally based ways to reach these consumers,' Galida says. 'The focus at that level is getting people into the dealership.'
What works in NASCAR may not work in Formula One or CART. So Galida is fine-tuning the strategy for each of the racing series in which Ford is involved.
He also is mining the similarities among race fans worldwide.
'We have found through our research that at their core, the emotional needs of race fans are very similar around the world. A race fan is a race fan for the same basic reasons whether in the United States or Australia or Germany,' he says.
'We want to do some things that will begin next year to change the look and feel of Ford racing in the United States and Europe. Those are our largest markets and where the majority of our expenditures are,' Galida says.
TV and print advertising is changing, although ad spending has not increased. The advertising tagline remains: 'We race. You win.' But more emotion is being infused into the advertising through the use of drivers.
Galida wants to tap into the passion that fans feel toward racing. The emotional connection can translate into increased sales for racing sponsors.
'We have significantly higher market share among race fans. And our market share is even higher among NASCAR fans,' he says. 'NASCAR fans buy a significantly greater number of our pickup trucks than do non-NASCAR fans.'
Nor do those buyers stray from the Ford fold.
'We've got research that race fans are more loyal to our products. There also is conquest potential among race fans,' Galida says.
A former U.S. naval intelligence officer, Galida is drawing on a background in motorsports and marketing developed during his six-year tenure at Ford. In 1992, he worked in Ford Special Vehicle Operations to create a long-range strategy for motorsports. He then ran the 1994 Ford Mustang Indianapolis 500 pace car program for Ford Division. He also was product manager for the Ford Taurus, Windstar and Crown Victoria. h
Mary Connelly is an Automotive News staff reporter based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.