Ford taps golfer Mickelson for new ad campaign
Automaker hopes PGA star connects with vehicle buyers
By Vartan Kupelian / The Detroit News
Ford spokesman Phil Mickelson awaits a special delivery from Wayne Gretzky. The two appear in a Ford ad that spotlights Mickelson's new role.
MIAMI — Ford Motor Co. is counting on a new series of commercials and promotions to elevate pro golf star Phil Mickelson from a logo-sporting pitchman into a personality who appeals to car buyers.
Ford Division will show off the first promotion today on the eve of the company’s signature event, the Ford Championship at Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami.
The theme is “Phil’s on the Phone” and a lucky fan will complete a foursome with Mickelson, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and auto racer Dale Jarrett. Mickelson and the fan will partner against Gretzky and Jarrett in an alternate-shot match on Doral’s famous Blue Monster course.
Auto companies are increasingly looking to capitalize on golf’s growing popularity. The world’s No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, endorses General Motors Corp.’s Buick brand.
Mickelson, a sweet-swinging lefty with 22 PGA wins (but no major championships), has represented Ford for 15 months. So far, the prominent blue oval affixed to his golf shirt is what most fans may have noticed.
In 30-second TV ads airing Thursday and Friday on USA network and Saturday and Sunday on NBC, Mickelson will be featured in a variety of non-golf settings.
The ads are titled “Slapshot,” “Soundcheck” and “Phil’s on the Phone.” “Slapshot” features Gretzky with Mickelson, in full goalie gear, trying to keep pucks out of the net.
“It was me for a lot of it,” Mickelson said of his work in the goaltending sequence. “Some of the shots where (the goalie) is getting hit weren’t always me. ... I loved it. I had so much fun. Gretzky tried to get a few past me. He couldn’t.”
On second thought, Mickelson said, maybe Gretzky did beat him once or twice.
In “Soundcheck,” Mickelson and country music entertainer Toby Keith are featured — with a surprising result.
“I don’t think there was any plan for me to sing, for good reason,” Mickelson said.
Steve Lyons, president of the Ford Division, said the campaign is “kind of fun — and different.”
“One of the traps advertisers fall into is trying to use people in their own element and not realizing people like Phil are well-known,” Lyons said. “Everybody knows he’s a golfer. You don’t have to show him hitting golf balls all the time.”