Ford Motor Co., which has been using Bryan Cranston as its celebrity spokesman, is adding another star to its marketing mix. Actor Idris Elba will serve as "creative partner" to help launch a Mustang-inspired electric crossover Nov. 17 and appear in a global marketing campaign for the vehicle.
Ford is leveraging the fact that Elba in the 1980s worked at a Ford factory in England before his acting career took off. "My dad also worked at Ford. It's practically in my blood. So working on this project and getting behind the wheel of a car that takes us all towards the future feels like things are coming full circle, but with more exhilaration and tech," he said in a statement supplied by Ford.
Ford's comments about the partnership suggest that the ads will pull from Elba's history with Ford. Andy Georgescu, a Ford product marketing manager, called him an "authentic partner" when "you match his celebrity with his personal biography." He noted Elba's interest in street racing as well as "passion for reducing emissions around the world" — two traits that make him a match for promoting a vehicle that seeks to blend performance with environmentalism.
The actor is known for playing Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom as well as starring in the critically acclaimed TV series "The Wire." This year he starred in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and he is set to appear in the forthcoming Cats movie based on the Broadway musical.
In media interviews, Elba has frequently talked about his experiences working the night shift at a Ford plant in Dagenham, England. In a speech in 2016 in which he criticized the entertainment industry for its lack of diversity, he said, "Ford Dagenham turned out to have more opportunity and more diversity than the TV industry I was trying to break into," according to an account in a London-area news publication.
In 2013, the Irish Examiner reported how logging time in the blue-collar job motivated Elba to pursue a more glamorous acting career. "I was doing a night shift at the Ford factory in Dagenham with my dad and I knew that if I stayed there, I'd be a lifer. I took the moment to say, 'Stop. Go for it,' " the newspaper reported him saying.