Ford Returns as ‘White Collar’ Sponsor

USA Network has reupped Ford as the exclusive automobile sponsor of its original drama series White Collar, crafting a multiplatform partnership that includes significant brand integration and a number of customized interactive features.
Beginning Tuesday, August 17, USA’s dedicated White Collar site will host a series of exclusive videos featuring actress Marsha Thomason behind the wheel of a Ford Fusion Hybrid. (Thomason’s role as special agent Diana Barrigan was expanded for season two of White Collar; she is perhaps best known for playing Naomi on ABC’s Lost from 2007-10.)
The online vignettes offer White Collar fans a virtual tour of some of the iconic New York locations that serve as the backdrop of the crime drama. Thomason will motor her way from the FBI’s Park Avenue digs to the wilds of Brooklyn, where she’ll make a pit stop at the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower in Fort Greene.
“New York is as much of a character in the show as are Neal and Peter and Diana,” said Alexandra Shapiro, USA’s svp, brand marketing and digital. “These guys are filming on-location in the city almost 50 percent of the time and so New York is a constant presence. It lends a certain kind of intrigue to the series, which is what we wanted to draw on in the vignettes.”
Last season, the 2010 Ford Taurus was integrated within the narrative of the series. The car was also featured in an online game, “Chasing the Shadow.”  “We’re excited to be back for another season,” said Ford experiential marketing manager Jeff Eggen. “The Fusion Hybrid is a perfect fit for this ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the city.”  

Each vignette will be baked into an interactive map of the city loaded with images and detailed information about each location. The network will promote the video clips and guide via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. At present, USA’s White Collar Facebook page has 267,906 fans, while the show’s Twitter feed is followed by 12,835 devotees.
The digital execution will lead to a linear integration in the series’ Sept. 7 summer-season finale. In addition to garnering screen time as Thomason’s vehicle of choice, the Fusion Hybrid will also be featured in a 90-second scripted vignette that will borrow certain visual elements from the online clips.
Thomason’s journey around New York will play out in an exclusive 120-second “powerpod” takeover. Immediately following the customized clip, USA will air a standard 30-second Fusion commercial that will lead viewers right back into the episode.
The collaboration is designed to create an organic association with the Diana Barrigan character and the Ford Fusion, Shapiro said. “She adds a strong female presence to the show, along with Tiffani Thiessen,” Shapiro said. “And Diana’s a good match for the Fusion, which is designed with the environmentally conscious consumer in mind. It’s green, but still sleek, sexy and modern.”
Mindshare’s Detroit office handles all national media planning and buying for Ford.
After the first half of season two wraps in September, White Collar will be on hiatus until winter 2011. USA has not announced a precise date for the premiere of season 2.5.
Through the first five episodes of season two, White Collar is averaging 4.01 million viewers in its Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot. As of August 3, the sophomore run is drawing 1.68 million adults 25-54 and 1.57 million viewers 18-49.