Ford Partners With Pop Star to Sing Praises of Sync

Chris Brown Will Promote Voice-Activated Communications and Entertainment System

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DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is hoping to dial up its hip factor with young urbanites through a partnership with pop star Chris Brown, who is promoting Sync, the automaker's voice-activated, in-car communications and entertainment system.
Ford is sponsoring Chris Brown's 25-city concert tour as a way to help push its Synch system.
Ford is sponsoring Chris Brown's 25-city concert tour as a way to help push its Synch system.

While the deal was proposed and developed by Ford's African-American agency of record, UniWorld Group, New York, for the urban audience, the 18-year-old actor and Grammy Award winner resonates in the general market with young adults between 15 and 25, said Crystal Greene, marketing manager-sponsorships and alliances for Ford.

Concert tour
The deal centers on Sync's sponsorship of the star's 25-city U.S. concert tour running through February, but the effort goes well beyond name sponsorship.

UniWorld linked with a leading urban radio station in each concert market, buying ad time for two weeks before each event. Mr. Brown delivers a 60-second radio spot about Sync, while Ford provides each station with VIP tickets and a chance to meet the star for the stations' own promotions. The radio stations are doing live remotes from the concerts, and many will stream those remotes on their websites, Ms. Greene said.

Concert attendees will have a hard time missing the Sync tie-in at the venue. Ford has a 20-square-foot area with a display showing how the system works and an interactive game with small branded prizes.

Visitors to the site can also enter to win a fully loaded 2008 Ford Focus customized by Funkmaster Flex, another Ford partner. Mr. Brown will deliver the car to the winner. An onsite promotion early in the concert will tell attendees they can enter the sweepstakes via their cellphones or get a free download of the singer for their phones.

"There are numerous ways for people to come back home from the concert and interact with the brand," Ms. Greene said.

UniWorld also created three videos shown at the concerts about three girls who use Sync to play Mr. Brown's music on their way to see him perform.

Measuring success
Ms. Greene said Ford will measure the success of the partnership by the number of people asking for more information about Ford or Sync at the website and how long consumers stay on the site. Ford also hired undisclosed vendors to survey concertgoers at the venues and to measure online buzz on blogs, she said.

Mr. Brown's star has been rising since he burst onto the music scene in 2005. He was named one of People magazine's Most Beautiful People last spring. Ecast's first BarPulse survey of the most popular songs played in U.S. nightclubs and bars in November ranks Mr. Brown's "Kiss Kiss" second behind "No One" by Alicia Keys. He is on the cover of the upcoming February issue of "Dub" magazine, which reveals that he drives a 2007 Range Rover Sport from Land Rover (owned by Ford but close to being sold). He also owns a 2005 Ford Expedition SUV and Lamborghini Gallardo Roadster. The Virginia native has appeared on "The O.C." as well as in movies, including the current "This Christmas."

Ms. Greene said Ford has the opportunity to expand its relationship with Mr. Brown beyond the current deal.

Ford launched Sync this fall as a $395, factory-installed option available in 12 Ford and Mercury models and standard on Lincolns. There are no monthly service fees for the voice-activated system, which, among other things, lets owners play music on their MP3 players, order music by genre or play streaming internet radio stations from web-connected smartphones.

The automaker has pulled out all the stops for Sync, partnering with Colombian recording artist Juanes to reach Hispanic consumers in a deal brokered by William Morris. The Ford brand is airing national TV commercials from JWT Team Detroit. The marketer will wrap up a two-month guerilla-marketing street tour in California at year's end.
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