In recent years, Ford has sat out Super Bowl advertising in order to focus its marketing spend in a different direction. This year, that direction is towards NBC and its wall-to-wall coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics as a springboard for the all-new Expedition and EcoSport.
Both vehicles appeal to demographic shifts in the U.S. population and evolving consumer needs. “SUVs are hot, and we’ve brought two new ones to the fold that cater to two completely different sets of people,” said Michael O’Brien, Ford SUV marketing manager. “Whether you’re downsizing but still want SUV capability, or looking for more space for your growing family, the Ford lineup has you covered.”
Ford’s 2018 EcoSport, for example, hits the sweet spot of the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. auto industry—subcompact SUVs—just as many Baby Boomers are looking to downsize. In the past three years, the segment has more than tripled U.S. sales, from 9,000 vehicles in 2010 to 425,000 in 2017. Last year, while the U.S. auto industry dipped 1.8 percent overall, subcompact SUVs grew 7 percent.
That makes it a great time to introduce the 2018 Ford EcoSport, which boasts features such as an 8-inch touchscreen, a Wi-Fi hotspot that connects up to 10 devices and two smart-charging USB ports, making it a fun, capable and connected vehicle that’s begging for skis (or surfboards) on the roof and enthusiastic owners to take it on adventures.
It’s also excited about the all-new Expedition. With SUV sales on the rise—up 28% in the last six years—Ford is pitching its three-row 2018 Expedition, which accommodates eight passengers comfortably, to millennials who have begun buying big utility vehicles to accommodate growing families.
The refreshed Expedition offers best in class 2nd and 3rd row maximum leg room and more Driver Assist Tech than any vehicle in its class including Ford+Alexa (which Amazon has been highlighting in its post-Super Bowl campaign). It also offers Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices.
Brands from Volkswagen to Subaru has been investing into the three-row bigger-SUV segment, but Ford is confident in its offering. “Our momentum is strong and we’re (looking) to increase that momentum in parts of the industry that have been underserved by competition or are just growing so fast,” says Lew Echlin, Ford’s U.S. marketing communications lead.
Two new ad campaigns that debut on Friday, February 9th during NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics highlight these new vehicles.
“We The People” celebrates the dreams of everyday Americans while highlighting the new Expedition. The campaign celebrates the togetherness of friends, couples and groups living their best lives together. Groups featured include Cowgirls of Color (above), a team of African American rodeo riders; the Townview High School marching band in Dallas; the Utah Junior Grizzlies hockey team; and the Bridge Lacrosse team.
“First Ever: Night Ski” shows a real-life mother-daughter bonding experience (perfect for running during the Winter Olympics) that Ford was able to make happen:
EcoSport’s “First-Ever” theme includes more stories of real people who get to experience something for the first time with Ford’s assistance.
For more insights, we spoke with Lew Echlin (right) about “the everyday heroes” theme Ford is taking into its Olympics marketing for these two models as the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang get underway.
Lew, where does Ford see growth in the domestic SUV category?
We’re coming off of one of our biggest years in SUVs. We had an all-time record set for Escape [in 2017 U.S. sales], an all-time record set for Edge, and Explorer saw its best sales performance since 2005. We’ve been talking with dealers and other stakeholders and looking at EcoSport and Expedition to be largely incremental business for us. Expedition has been completely redesigned and redone and EcoSport being the first one there.
We believe there will be a large degree of incrementality [in sales]. Eighty percent of the [SUV] segment is made up of products from [GM] and that’s the non-luxury segment. We think these customers are largely underserved. They have third-row seats you can’t sit in perfectly; we have third-row seats you can cross your legs in. We have technologies that are light years in front of the competition and light years in front of where the past Expedition has been.
How are you targeting the primary audience cohort for Expedition?
We’ve had an incredible surge in the marketing tools that we have and being able to target customers digitally for them, and we know that this customer in this segment are two times more likely to research their products online than for the overall industry, than the average customer.
It’s a pretty high-involvement product. It’s not a small investment. And many of them are picking this out in much the way they’d select a home. It’s a venue where they’re the ultimate host. Expeditiion will be in their mind.
We look at this as unlocking a lot of pent-up demand for choice in the marketplace. In pre-launch and other campaigning we’ve done, it’s important that we clearly and unequivocally win research for this.
Wdhat demographic shifts does EcoSport tap into?
The product is clear, and we’re not being shy about it, that this is really an upgrade for people. As they’re downsizing they’re actually upgrading. If you’re in a five-year-old Focus or Civic this product will be a substantial upgrade, not just because of real SUV capability but because of the stuff in it.
We’re looking at the segment as an opportunity for people buying a new vehicle for the first time or empty-nesters who have time on their hands. They have a huge opportunity for an upgrade and to treat themselves to something rather than just saying they’re downsizing. The EcoSport SE package includes a moonroof, a swing gate, a tremendous amount of content.
Why does buying ads in the Olympics make more sense for Ford than buying in the Super Bowl?
It’s the ultimate uniter. With the Super Bowl, you had Patriots fans and Eagles fans. And if you look at almost any sporting event, it’s beautifully polarizing. But the Olympics are absolutely unifying. And especially if we look at Expedition where our customers are the ultimate hosts, we thought it was an incredibly uniting human platform with an incredibly uniting message [for the Expedition with] “We Are the People.”
Because we have new media tools we’re working at three different things: winning research; advocating third-party accolades; and establishing a clear emotional bond with consumers. The Olympics was a natural for us. While hearts and minds are united, we give them a very emotional and human story about how Expedition and EcoSport are for everyday heroes that want to be unstoppable.
How does this theme tap into the mood in America these days?
Whenever anyone has a common goal they’re unified. It tends to build bonds. Something that we can all agree on is that everyone wants the USA to do extremely well in the Olympics, and even with our increasingly diverse customer base, the Olympics is something that everyone is unified around watching.
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