Ford Is Off to College

Ford Motor Co. last week kicked off an effort to promote its Escape compact sport utility vehicle and Focus sedan to the college market.

The car maker, along with J. Walter Thompson in Los Angeles, launched a college tour called “Californopia.” It is aimed at positioning the Escape and Focus as affordable, dependable, stylish vehicles, and features prize giveaways and performances by bands such as Save Ferris. The budget for the effort was undisclosed.

“The college campaign is an ideal venue to connect with youth in a way that isn’t product-only but fits into their lifestyle,” said Stu Smith, California marketing manager for Ford. The two vehicles have “an appeal to youth,” he said, adding that more than one-third of the people who buy them are under 35.

To promote the campus visits, JWT created print ads to run in college newspapers at the five tour stops, which are Sacramento State, Fresno State, Berkeley, Cal State Northridge and University of the Pacific. Additional outreach includes awareness e-mails, flyers and banners. The tour concludes Nov. 3.

“We’re trying to build awareness and consideration of the Ford product,” said JWT senior regional marketing manager Mike McCarthy. “The rationale is if you get people at a young age and they have a good experience with Ford, they will become repeat buyers.”

This is the third year of the tour but the first time Ford has included the Escape, which was added to “keep it fresh,” McCarthy said.