Ford to Star in Films Aimed at African-Americans

Automaker Partners With BET Founder Robert Johnson and Weinstein Co.

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DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is aligning with African-American entrepreneur Robert Johnson and movie studio the Weinstein Co. in a multiyear deal with what the automaker called "the black Walt Disney."

Marc Perry (center) Ford's multicultural marketing manager, shares a moment with Our Stories Films President-COO Tracey Edmonds and actor Eddie Murphy at a recent Los Angeles premiere of Our Stories' first film, "Who's Your Caddy," starring Big Boi.

Ford will be the exclusive auto partner of Our Stories Film, the production and distribution venture hatched in 2006 by Mr. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, and movie veterans Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

Three to five films
Our Stories aims to create three to five African-American family films annually, Marc Perry, multicultural marketing manager at Ford, told Advertising Age. The automaker signed a letter of intent with the venture 10 days ago and is hammering out the contract, he said.

All Ford brands are part of the alliance, which will include vehicle placement, script integration, sponsorships and promotions around select films. The automaker could do sweepstakes, offer tickets at dealerships or sponsor soundtracks, Mr. Perry said.

Ford's diversity agency, UniWorld Group, New York, brought Mr. Johnson to the table with its auto client and is managing the partnership.

Mr. Perry declined to reveal costs but said Ford's goal for the pact is to build awareness, buyer consideration and showroom traffic for its vehicles. He said the movies will feature African-American actors and directors.

'Historic partnership'
"Our historic partnership with Ford represents a new day in the marketing of filmed entertainment to urban audiences," Mr. Johnson said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to featuring Ford brands in our films and activating Ford's extensive marketing resources to reach urban moviegoers throughout the country."

Our Stories' first project "Who's Your Caddy?" starring rapper Big Boi, which had its premiere in Los Angeles on July 23. It features Land Rover's Range Rover SUV (Ford owns Land Rover). Even though the movie was finished before Ford joined the venture, the automaker sponsored the premiere, putting Ford, Lincoln and Land Rover models on display outside the ArcLight theater and an after-party.

Lincoln has been Ford's most active brand for film product integrations targeting African-Americans. In 2004, Lincoln's Navigator SUV played prominent roles in Revolution Studios' "Are We There Yet?" starring Ice Cube and Fox Searchlight's comedy "Johnson Family Vacation," with Cedric the Entertainer and Vanessa Williams.
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