Elliott Sadler and his #38 M&M's Ford Taurus edge out competitors while preparing for the 2004 Daytona 500. Sadler qualified second for the race, while teammate Greg Biffle qualified first. For the latest racing news, visit the Ford Racing Web site.
DEARBORN -- Why do automobile manufacturers race?
For years, many automobile manufacturers believed the slogan, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” in terms of on-track racing success turning into immediate sales in dealer showrooms.
Ford Motor Company no longer believes in that old adage. Instead, the company believes that a multi-faceted approach to racing – using racing to develop and highlight technology, and marketing the success of the program – is the key to getting the best return on investment in terms of racing expenditures.
Ford uses racing as a marketing platform to achieve a number of objectives, including building credibility for Ford-branded vehicles. Racing is a way for Ford to connect with fans on a rational level, and internal research shows that race fans rate Ford significantly higher on key brand attributes such as durability and innovative products versus non-fans. Ford engineers strive to instill every product that rolls off the assembly line with these attributes and racing is an important way to communicate that to the consumer.
Greg Biffle hugs team owner Jack Roush after winning the 2004 Daytona 500 pole.
Racing provides an opportunity to reinforce existing relationships with hard core racing fans that are also Ford loyalists. Racing fans are typically among the most brand loyal consumers when it comes to automotive brands and they are more willing to consider a Ford for their next vehicle purchase. Ford research shows that 52 percent of all Ford customers identify themselves as race fans, and Ford race fans are 35 percent more likely to consider purchasing a Ford vehicle versus non-fans.
“Ford race fans are some of our best product ambassadors,” said Burt Diamond, Global Marketing Manager for Ford Racing Technology. “They are very knowledgeable about Ford and its products and services, and there are few resources as effective as our racing program in reaching our core customers with the exciting news about our great new products.”
Mark Martin pits for service on his way to a 4th place finish in the 2004 Budweiser Shootout at Daytone International Speedway.
As its popularity continues to grow, racing also provides opportunity to positively expose the Ford brand to the consumer marketplace, which helps sell more products and services. For instance, NASCAR has grown from a sport based primarily in the Southeastern United States to the largest spectator sport in the country, second only to the National Football League in television audience. Boasting a “hard core” fan base of 41 million people, with another 34 million describing themselves as “casual fans,” these people buy more Ford products and a greater volume of trucks and SUVs than non-fans do.
And those Ford race fans are responding to the excitement at Ford. The company’s unique “Team Ford Racing” insider fan club welcomed its 200,000th member in January 2004, continuing its run as the largest auto-manufacturer racing club of its type.
And these TFR members are certainly Ford brand advocates. Ninety percent of them intend to make a Ford product their next purchase, and they’ll recommend Ford products to their friends and family 83 percent of the time. In addition, 81 percent of them say they are sought out in their neighborhoods for vehicle advice.
Jeff Burton prepares to practice the NBA All Star Ford Taurus at Daytona International Speedway.
How much do they enjoy racing? Well, a whopping 87 percent of TFR members say they are “very interested” in NASCAR racing and 91 percent attend one or more races per year.
Their interest in the sport has driven the www.fordracing.com web Site, with unique content for TFR members, to a prominent position among the top 20 sports websites in America.
With the customer in mind, TFR will host events at nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events this year, including a special two-day program at the 2004 Daytona 500 for 200 members lucky enough to score a ticket.
“Team Ford Racing is a great way for Ford to communicate directly with fans of Ford Racing,” added Diamond. “Fans have access to insider information on their favorite team or driver, the opportunity to purchase exclusive merchandise and enter to win tickets to special events at the racetrack.”
The fact that racing is a way to help sell vehicles shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Ford engineers have learned valuable lessons gained through their triumphs and failures at the racetrack and have implemented that knowledge into the development of Ford cars and trucks. Ford’s relationship with the Champ Car World Series and the Blue Box impact sensor program has allowed its engineers to gather invaluable knowledge about the effects of high-g impacts on the human body. Gathering actual crash data through sensors mounted to each car allows engineers to re-construct every crash using advanced computer modeling to learn about what the driver endured during each incident.
The racetrack has also served as a valuable proving ground for Ford to learn how to improve its work on engine and chassis development. Powertrain and vehicle dynamics engineers work with Ford racing teams to improve the performance of their cars on the track, often times in fast-paced and high-pressure situations. The engineers then apply the knowledge and experience gained in this environment to the cars and trucks designed and engineered by Ford.
“Racing is an excellent environment for Ford’s engineers to prove their ideas and theories in a pressure-packed environment where deadlines are short,” said Greg Specht, North American Operations Manager for Ford Racing Technology. “We have learned a great deal about designing and building our cars and trucks through our involvement in racing. Many Ford products, including the highly acclaimed 2005 Ford Mustang and the new Ford GT, have been designed by engineers with racing experience or with tools developed for racing applications, like ride-modeling software.”
Ford Motor Company and Ford Racing support racing programs with several North American sanctioning bodies, including NASCAR’s NEXTEL Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series, the Champ Car World Series, NHRA PowerAde Series and USAC Ford Focus Midget Series. Internationally, Ford Motor Company competes in Formula One, World Rally Championship and Australian V8 Supercars.