DETROIT Ford's Lincoln-Mercury unit has signed basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson as its new pitchman, according to the client.
Terms of a multi-year deal signed this month were not disclosed.
Johnson will appear in national broadcast and print ads for 2004 model vehicles starting later this year.
WPP Group's Young & Rubicam, Dearborn, Mich., the client's lead agency, will be overseeing the partnership, but sister shop Uniworld, New York, the client's African American agency, will create the first advertising featuring Johnson, which will support Lincoln vehicles.
Ford spent more than $145 million on ads for Lincoln-Mercury last year, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.
Johnson was chosen because "He's an icon of American culture. He appeals to a wide range of people," said Darryl Hazel, president of Lincoln-Mercury.
The client views Johnson as more than just a promotional image. "It's a true partnership," Hazel said, adding that Johnson has expressed interest in buying into some dealerships as well. "It's being explored," said Hazel. Special Magic Johnson editions of vehicles are also a possibility, he added. Johnson currently drives both a Navigator and an Aviator.
Lincoln Mercury's other celebrity endorser, actress Salma Hayek, has appeared in Aviator ads fashioned by Bravo Group in New York.
HIV-positive for more than a decade, Johnson is also currently an endorser for Starbucks.