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Old 04-13-2004, 07:53   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Ford wins big with Mickelson

His high-profile Masters Tournament victory gives top visibility to Blue Oval sponsorship

By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News


David J. Phillip / Associated Press
Phil Mickelson celebrates a 16th-hole birdie in the final round of the Masters on his way to winning the big one.

Ford Motor Co. hopes the old auto racing adage — “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” — translates to golf following Phil Mickelson’s stirring Masters victory.

The Ford brand signed the 33-year-old to a multimillion-dollar deal in 2002 when he was known as a talented golfer who couldn’t win the big one.

It turned out to be a marketing coup for Ford as the rather prominent Blue Oval affixed to Mickelson’s golf shirt got hours of air time during the four-day event in Augusta, Ga.

It’s the kind of exposure that even big money can’t always buy.

Considering Mickelson’s growing popularity and rivalry with Tiger Woods, the deal offers Ford a rare chance to connect with golfing fans, an affluent set that may have overlooked the brand in the past.

While terms of Ford’s agreement with Mickelson remain under wraps, the company certainly paid millions to sign Mickelson, a telegenic left-hander with a strong following.

The automaker has no regrets, said Steve Lyons, president of Ford division.

“From our viewpoint, we always knew we had our wagon hitched to the right guy,” he said. “You could see it in his remarks ... the way he talked about family, and his grandfather and his wife and his children.”

When Mickelson accepted his trophy Sunday and the traditional green jacket given to Masters winners, he suggested his late grandfather nudged in the winning putt.

Last year, Mickelson withdrew from his sponsor’s marquee event — the Ford Championship at Doral — to be with his expectant wife.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when he makes choices like that, that’s the reason we like to be associated with Phil Mickelson,” Lyons said. “And we certainly expect to be for a long time.”

Still, the impact of Mickelson’s Masters win will be hard to discern when this month’s sales totals are posted.

“I don’t think you can exactly calculate these kinds of things,” Lyons said.

“I certainly think we’ve raised our profile with golfers in general, which is a huge, important buyer base. Just drive past the parking lot of any country club and look at all the SUVs.”

Tiger Woods has had an endorsement deal with General Motors Corp.’s Buick division since 1999.

Sports marketing con******ts believe the link between sales and endorsement is strong.

“People definitely want to have what their heroes have,” said Jeff Cable, president of California-based Pro Sport Marketing.

So does the Mickelson family own a Ford? No, said Arizona-based Gaylord Sports Management, which represents the athlete. They have two — a pair of Expedition SUVs.
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