May 26, 2011 at 08:51 PM
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10 Seasons Ago, Ford Had "Gut Instinct" About American Idol Sponsorship

As Ford enters the finale of its 10th season of American Idol sponsorship, Crystal Worthem, Ford Brand Content and Alliances manager recently had the opportunity to reflect on partnering with one of the most powerful reality tv shows of all time. The partnership has paid big dividends for the automaker translating into increased vehicle sales, enhanced ad performance, and greater consumer awareness and affinity for the brand.

The relationship began like most sponsorships – with a pitch. Crystal Worthem, Ford Brand Content and Alliances manager, says the Ford Marketing team had a “gut instinct” about American Idol when they first met with the show’s producers before it ever launched.

“Reality shows are so common now that it is hard to comprehend how unique the property was at the time. Nothing like it existed,” she explained. “However, the names behind the show had a lot of strength, and the concept itself sounded riveting and new. That’s why Ford was willing to take a risk.”

It was a risk that paid off, according to Worthem.

“American Idol enables us to showcase the contemporary nature of new Ford products and technologies, and it is the perfect avenue to launch new products with custom content that can live in all media channels – branded content, product placement and social content as well as digital, mobile, broadcast and print advertising,” said Worthem, noting that Ford involvement with American Idol over the past 10 seasons alone has resulted in more than 1 million consumers opting in for more information about Ford vehicles.

“The reason it works so well,” explained Worthem, “is that we do it in a way that is really relevant to the context of the show.”

Ford achieves that relevance through the creation of original branded content like the Ford Music Videos – which air weekly during the American Idol season and are posted on

"Ford has been a great partner for us on the show, and worked with us to keep their integration fresh and relevant," said Keith Hindle, CEO Americas for FremantleMedia Enterprises. "The concept of having the first music videos of the contestants car themed is a great asset for Ford, and has led to some beautiful and really fun TV moments".

And as technology has evolved over the years, Ford has broadened its activation.

“Our involvement with American Idol has extended beyond the weekly music videos to a digital platform using social media and gaming to connect viewers with our vehicles,” said Worthem. “One of the most interesting things about American Idol is that even after all these years, the show is still as strong as it was when it debuted. It is one of the biggest platforms on television, and it’s very difficult to find something that can compete with it in the entertainment space.”