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Volume 23 No. 13
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Going further: Raptors, Ford add digital content to deal

Raptors Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan and a Ford Focus appear in an “Ultimate Skills Challenge” video.
Photo by: VMG
Ford is a founding sponsor of the Toronto Raptors with the partnership spanning more than two decades. When it came time to renew the deal in 2015, both sides realized a need to refresh the relationship. Out of the renewal came the team’s current Ford Fans Go Further activation that includes a player video content series, a skills and drills fan program, and an open practice event. The activation has evolved into one of the team’s most successful. Last year, the program won the NBA’s activation of the year award, and this year the Raptors are looking to deepen fan engagement with another player video content series aimed at bringing Ford a more millennial-focused audience.

Who did the deal? Team negotiations were led by Dave Hopkinson, chief commercial officer of Raptors parent Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment; Chris Shewfelt, MLSE senior director of global partnerships; and Jeff Deline, MLSE vice president of corporate partnerships. Ford sponsorship manager Sarah Rae led the company’s negotiations. Ford uses the Bond Brand Loyalty agency to help with activation.

How did the discussions get started? The activation was a direct result of the renewal, which allowed both sides to address ways to create a more innovative marketing program.

How did the activation work? The creation of the player video series allows fans to engage with Ford while driving interest in the brand through social and digital media. The videos emphasize the players’ personalities as they engage with the brand in a variety of creative ways. The goal is to showcase the players’ interaction while positioning Ford as a sporty and stylish brand in order to reach a millennial target audience. The activation is heavily focused on the player video content. Last season, the digital views generated more than 2.7 million social media views. Having a drills and skills challenge for young fans allows Ford to engage in the community, and offering tickets through Ford for the team’s annual open practice in October also brings additional touch points to the team.

Why is it unique? The Raptors and Ford moved away from a mass engagement effort through traditional avenues such as in-arena signage and instead focused on player interaction with the brand through digital and social media. The shift to a more targeted activation brought more meaningful engagement.

Why do we like it? The Ford Fans Go Further activation is fresh and creative video content and allows fans to see the personalities of star players like Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as they interact with Ford products. The targeted activation also delivers a more personal engagement with the brand. For the Raptors open practice, Ford distributed 3,250 tickets. The Raptors distributed the remaining 7,750, out of the 11,000 available, through the Raptors’ newsletter and social channels. Last year, the Raptors had 300 hockey teams and 150 basketball teams sign up for drills and skills. From that pool, 16 teams were selected to participate in a half-day training camp at Air Canada Centre.

— John Lombardo