Ford interview - Jamie Allison 2010-09-29

When Ford Motor Company chose to launch the Ford Fiesta into the North American marketplace, a different path to launch was selected. The Fiesta is a fun-to-drive, small car that exceeds expectations and is targeted at twenty something's (aka: ...

When Ford Motor Company chose to launch the Ford Fiesta into the North American marketplace, a different path to launch was selected. The Fiesta is a fun-to-drive, small car that exceeds expectations and is targeted at twenty something's (aka: Millennials), many of who are living in an urban environment. Ford decided to reach this audience through social media and action sports - or in this case, the action sport of motorsport- rally racing.

As Fiesta approaches 1-million units sold worldwide and is appearing in showrooms across North America, Jamie Allison, director of Ford North America Motorsport, reflects on Ford Racing's involvement in the Fiesta launch and looks ahead at where the Fiesta and rally program are headed.

JAMIE ALLISON - director, Ford North America Motorsports - A YEAR AGO, FORD WAS LOOKING TO BUILD AWARNESS OF FIESTA IN THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKETPLACE. THE FIESTA MOVEMENT WAS THE SOCIAL MEDIA OUTREACH AND A FIESTA RALLY PROGRAM AT PIKES PEAK AND X GAMES WAS THE MOTORSPORTS OUTREACH. "We were charged with a significant opportunity, which was to promote the arrival of Fiesta into the continent of the Americas, to an audience who predominately doesn't know what the Fiesta is, or that even considers a Ford when they go to buy a car. Consequently, the approach was developed of using social media and motorsports as a means to reach that audience. We all know what happened with the Fiesta Movement and the social media outreach, but specifically on motorsports, we looked to the heritage of Fiesta in Europe in rally and touring car and two opportunities came before us. One was Pikes Peak and the other was X Games. The X games is the culmination of the Rally America [RallyCar] season where the stars come in and they create a fun format where AWD and Subaru had reigned supreme, and in comes Fiesta and captures the gold in its first X Games. That was a perfect demonstration of the credibility and agility of Fiesta reaching the very audience we were targeting. Just the month before was the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Pikes Peak is on the radar screens of many rally athletes around the world. Sure enough, we prepared to assault the mountain with the Swedish Olsbergs MSE team with two-time WRC champ Marcus Gronholm driving, and while it was a valiant effort, we didn't capture the record it really did enable us to present the Fiesta to media and to the generation of enthusiasts."

THE SUCCESS OF THE FIESTA PROGRAM AT X GAMES AND PIKES PEAK LED TO A PARTNERSHIP WITH KEN BLOCK AND THE MONSTER WORLD RALLY TEAM. BLOCK'S INVOLEVMENT HAS TAKEN THE FIESTA PROGRAM TO AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT LEVEL AS YOU HAVE AN ACTION SPORTS ICON RUNNING A TRULY GLOBAL RALLY PROGRAM IN RALLYCAR AND WRC. "I first met Ken Block on YouTube when I received his Gymkhana ONE video. Anybody who has ever seen it can attest to the fact that it is love and infatuation and amazement at first sight. When the opportunity came to introduce Fiesta in North America, Ken Block was in our sight in terms of trying to reach out to Ken and seeing if we could endear him to come and run with Ford. Ken had his own goals and he wanted to run in the highest level of rally. In addition to RallyCar, he wanted to run in WRC. So fortunately for us, Ford was the only company that offered Ken the opportunity to run in WRC as well as RallyCar. So the opportunity presented itself and we shared with Ken our interest in what he needs to do. He has certainly met all of our expectations. This year, we had the unveiling of the Fiesta Rally America entry where Ken garnered Fiesta's first stage rally win in North America at the 100 Acre Woods and he had his inaugural season in WRC. All that is wrapped in a very effective campaign of trying to convey to the action sports fans -- to those who follow Ken, who follow X Games, to those who follow rally - to see Fiesta as a car that is fun to drive, agile and powered by small displacement turbo charged application that makes the car just fun to drive. Ken is able to communicate all of that by his sheer driving of the car, as well as Gymkhana THREE, which passed 11 million YouTube views in two weeks and is on pace to exceed previous Gymkhana's. Ken is a critical element of our outreach to a generation of consumers who haven't considered a Ford, and now by the fact that he is driving a Fiesta, are aware of Fiesta and might consider one of our small cars."

FIESTA IS BECOMING THE GLOBAL RALLY PLATFORM FOR FORD AS THE WRC CAR WILL BE UNVIELED LATER THIS WEEK AT THE PARIS AUTO SHOW. "Ford Motor Company has a 'One Ford' mantra and 'One Ford' is about making sure that all the elements of the company, be it in product development or marketing or motorsports, are all working together towards a single common goal. Alan Mulally likes to say "One Team, One Goal, One Plan, One Ford." That is no different here in motorsports. Fiesta is the car that is going to lead Ford's future in rally as in WRC we are switching over from a Focus to a Fiesta, and we have entered Fiesta in RallyCar so truly we have a global presence of rally since WRC goes around the globe and RallyCar is in the United States. We have an alignment of a global car, available across all the continents not only as a product offering, but also aligned with a motorsport activity that happens around the globe. This is truly 'One Ford' in action."

EUROPEAN STYLE RALLYCROSS MADE ITS NORTH AMERICAN DEBUT AT X GAMES THIS SUMMER AND WILL PLAY A LARGER ROLE IN RALLYCAR'S SCHEDULE GOING FORWARD. ARE YOU BULLISH ON THE FUTURE OF RALLY IN THE US? "We have learned a few things having been involved with all forms of motorsports. You can see that in America there is a lot of interest in various forms of motorsports. There are those who enjoying driving. There are those who enjoy watching enthusiasts drive cars and those who enjoy just watching professionals drive. Different formats lends to different audiences. Stage Rally, as we all know, lends itself to individual enthusiasts as well as professionals who go out and put cars to their limits. There is a slice of America consumers and enthusiasts who prefer to take in the excitement of rally in a stadium style environment where by you can watch all of the action. I think that is one of the successes of the X Games that you can actually take in a slice of rally along with a slice of action sports all packaged into one exciting format. X games works for certain individuals, stage rally works for certain individuals and I think RallyCross, given its success in Europe, blends both of those. I believe it holds great promise in the United States and time will tell and there may be a few evolutions [of the format], but certainly in terms of watching it and taking it in it blends a little bit of touring car, little bit of road racing, little bit of rally and a little bit of X Games and all in an environment where you can take all the action in. We find that in general fans like to see the action in a contained environment. I am bullish on the prospect of RallyCross and we at Ford plan to be part of the formation of the sport."

FORD RACING'S INITATIVE FOR A FIESTA RALLY PROGRAM ISN'T JUST LIMITED TO THE PROFESSIONAL RANKS. FORD RACING HAS PARTNERED WITH TEAM O'NEIL DRIVING SCHOOL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE TO CREATE THE FIESTA RALLY EXPERIENCE AND FORD RACING PERFORMANCE PARTS IS WORKING ON A RALLY KIT. "Here at Ford Racing we pride ourselves on being in touch with all forms of enthusiasts and fans or even causal drivers who just like to feel they are going fast. We offer performance modifications to street cars that allow people to enjoy their cars. We also offer race modifications to our cars, in this case Mustang, so as we want to expand to Fiesta, working with companies like M Sport who have pioneered and has been Ford's main rally team over the last 20 years. We will be offering a rally kit that allows a front wheel drive Fiesta to compete in a front wheel drive class in RallyCar in the stage rally format. I have been to a few rallies myself and you see that there is a long field of classes who have taken some old cars and go out and enjoy the thrill of rally. Now from Ford, you will be able to buy an affordable Fiesta under $20,000 and spend not much beyond that to be able to compete in a stage rally in a new fun to drive Fiesta. That is one level of reaching out to enthusiasts who want to enjoy their Ford. Another level is our affiliation with Team O'Neil. Ken Block himself and Travis Pastrana [Subaru's lead driver] learned to drive at Team O'Neil's, the preeminent driving school for aspiring rally drivers. We are so thrilled that going forward any young and aspiring rally drivers will learn their craft in a Fiesta. Our prospects are exciting because the cars are fun, agile, and nimble and they are used in the one and two day schools at Team O'Neil. We initiated this program for two reasons. One we are introducing young individuals into the car for the first time and we are getting feedback from Team O'Neil on the cycle and durability as the Fiesta and the rally kits are put through this harsh environment. This is very similar to what we do with Mustang where we have a driving school in Utah (Miller Motorsports Park). The parallel there works and if affords individuals to enjoy Fiesta in rally conditions and to get some feedback."

FINALLY YOU HAVE TAKEN THE FIESTA OUTREACH ONE STEP FURTHER LAUNCHING A NATIONAL PROMOTION, 43 FIESTAS, THAT FEATURES KEN BLOCK, RICHARD PETTY AND AJ ALLMENDINGER AND IS TARGETED NOT ONLY AT BLOCK'S ACTION SPORTS FAN BASE BUT AT THE TRADITIONAL NASCAR AUDIENCE. "It is widely known and we are proud of the fact that NASCAR fans are long-time Ford fans. Based on our research we see that NASCAR fans have a higher propensity to buy a truck and or Mustang. They also buy cars and to date the consideration of Ford products, other than truck and Mustang, has not been high among our NASCAR fan base and thus we have an opportunity to endear ourselves and make them aware of the fact we have cars that they can consider. So we took on the daunting task of trying to introduce Fiesta to the loyal NASCAR fans. It had to be right and it had to be contextual. The way we decided to go about it was to reach out to 'The King' of the sport, Richard Petty, who has legions of followers and through his collaboration connect him to 'The King' of another sport, Ken Block. It just so happens they both run the No. 43 which served as the bridge for us to introduce Ken Block and Fiesta into the world of NASCAR. We have a fun digital program at www.43Fiestas.com that allows you to go on line check out the webisodes with 'The King', Ken Block and AJ Allmendinger and sign up to win a Fiesta and a trip to Ford Championship Weekend. Behind the videos and fun is a real marketing program intended to cross over and take the car that was intended for a specific slice of consumers here in America and not ignore the opportunity before 75 million NASCAR fans who need to know that Ford has a exciting, fun to drive, fuel efficient, high quality small car that they can consider when they want to purchase a car beyond their Ford truck. We are excited and the initial feedback shows a lot of interest and intrigue between Ken Block and The King. I think we have broken through and that was a challenge facing us in terms of how do we break through in NASCAR? Ultimately, we will measure the program on awareness of Fiesta among the NASCAR fan base and are we driving sales. "

-source: ford racing

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About this article
Series Other rally , WRC
Drivers Richard Petty , Marcus Gronholm , Travis Pastrana , Ken Block