1917-2017: 100 years of Ford in Ireland

Event Management & PR/Communications

PRGN Award

Case Description

In 2017, Ford celebrated 100 years in Ireland. To mark the centenary of our longest-standing client, Cullen Communications orchestrated an eight-month corporate PR campaign designed to celebrate Ford’s unique connection to its ‘home’ city of Cork, and Ireland, and demonstrate the company’s place in a changing automotive world.

Background

On April 17th 1917, Henry Ford & Son Limited opened for business on the old Marina in the port of Cork city.

It was the first Ford manufacturing plant ever to be located outside of the US; effectively a gift to the people of Cork from Henry Ford himself, whose parents had emigrated to Detroit from Ballinascarthy, Co Cork, during the Famine.

The Ford operation changed the face of Cork forever, employing thousands and paving the way for a new era of prosperity. Ireland is the only country globally for Ford to hold the name of its founder.

100 years later, Ford prepared to mark its centenary through a range of initiatives and events that encompassed the past, present and future of the brand in Ireland.

Activity extended from January to September, with the centrepiece of ‘Ford 100’ taking place during the centenary week in April with a three-day visit to Cork by the company’s global executive chairman and great-grandson of Henry, William Clay (‘Bill’) Ford Jr.

A considerable element of our ‘Ford 100’ campaign would revolve around the past – Ford’s family and corporate roots, and the legacy of a manufacturing operation that transformed the city of Cork.

The back story also includes the closure of the factory in 1984, a decision that caused shock and hurt among the people of Cork. The centenary provided an opportunity to heal those wounds and remind Corkonians of all that Ford has done for the city.

In reconnecting with the past, we moved onto the present and the future as part of the campaign strategy. Ford is part of a changing automotive landscape where traditional car manufacturers are now ‘mobility solutions suppliers’ of today and the future.

In addition to telling the story of our client’s unique Irish roots, our campaign also had to show Ford as a vibrant contemporary brand; a smart and innovative mobility provider; a great corporate citizen; an innovator and a company with a compelling future.

As Ford’s PR agency, we were part of a taskforce that included Ford’s three other creative agencies: Ogilvy, Mindshare and Verve.

Strategy

The campaign strategy included a variety of elements that targeted and highlighted each element of the campaign – past, present and future – to celebrate 100 years of Ford in Ireland. It also supported key business objectives including increased brand awareness and positive local community engagement. The objectives are summarised to cover the seven areas below:

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Raise awareness

Highlight Ford Ireland’s 100th anniversary milestone in Ireland by emphasising and celebrating the company’s unique Irish/Cork roots. Promote Ford’s attractive offers for 171 and 172 registration period vehicles.

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Local community engagement

Demonstrate Fords contribution to Cork, its community and its wider legacy in Ireland and abroad. Engage with Ford dealer network to activate campaign on a local level throughout Ireland.

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Celebrate the past

Show current employees and former employees who were part of the Ford manufacturing era in Cork how much the company appreciates them. Demonstrate the impact they have had on the company and the roles they performed.

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Highlight the American and Irish connection

Demonstrate that the Ford Motor Company in America recognises the importance of reconnecting with the Ford family homestead in Ballinascarthy, Co. Cork.

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High-profile legacy contribution

Develop a partnership that will demonstrate a positive gesture which is designed to present the future of Ford in Cork by supporting students in the years to come.

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Engage with advocates

Unearth advocates to tell their story of Ford e.g. Ford owners and vintage owners, highlight Ford milestones from the past 100 years, and communicate employee stories.

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Support marketing activity

Add value to media placements and partnerships that had been agreed, by providing stories and content.

Execution

The 100 year milestone presented an unmissable opportunity to generate primary brand awareness through a programme of activity designed to celebrate 100 years of Ford in Ireland.

Ford Ireland have always claimed and cherished Ford’s unique ‘Irishness’, and the company’s ancestry and proud heritage was one of the key themes running through the communications strategy. It was important to look back and remember the people and products that have gone into making the company what it is today and to look forward towards the next 100 years.

Activity comprised of a number of high profile events:

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JANUARY: Raise Awareness - Launch of 100 years of Ford

To kick start the campaign we issued a media release marking the Ford centenary and announcing some of the exciting activities planned for the year ahead on midnight, 31st December 2016. The release provided an overview of 100 years of Ford in Ireland, the background and history of the Cork manufacturing plant, popularity of the brand over the past century. This was accompanied by photography that showcased Ford’s past and present with the first Ford – Model T, and a new model – Mustang, to represent 100 years of the brand.

The agency worked with Ford in Ireland, Europe and America to research historical highlights and sourced a suitable vintage vehicle for the photography.  High profile coverage included the Sunday Business Post, Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent.

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MARCH: Community engagement - St Patrick’s Day Parade

Engaging with the local Cork community was vitally important for Ford and the parade was the ideal platform as a unique Irish asset and with an audience of 55,000. The agency worked with Cork City Council and a creative pageant company to activate Ford’s participation in the parade. The pageant was developed to celebrate the Cork factory and represent each decade of Corks 100 year history. Reaching out through Ford dealers and social media we identified 10 vintage Ford owners to reflect each decade of the 100 years including a 1926 Model T that was centre stage and lead the parade with the Grand Marshall (chef Rachel Allen) and the Lord Mayor.  

Part of the partnership included a large banner on the route of the parade and this presented a media opportunity to highlight Fords heritage in Cork and announce Ford’s involvement in the parade.  Photography of the Lord Mayor and Ford Ireland representative in situ at the banner was issued to media along with a media release highlighted the announcement.  A second release was issued on the day of the parade highlighting the creative concept behind the pageant and the participating vehicles.

By engagement with the St Patricks Day parade the agency secured very positive coverage including RTE Six-One news, Irish Examiner, Irish Daily Star as well as securing an in-depth interview on local radio station Red FM.

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APRIL: Centenary Week

A mammoth task of corporate PR communication, planning and execution, the centenary visit by current executive chairman William Clay Ford.  The agency engaged with partner agencies and other stakeholders including Cork City Council, Cork City Hall, the office of the Lord Mayor, the Ballinascarthy Committee, UCC and others for this week of activity.

The Ford 100 Gala Ball at Cork City Hall, encompassing all elements of the celebrations – past, present and future. Motoring media and local media were invited to the celebrations and social photography taken at event and issued to media.

During this week the agency secured extensive coverage including the front page of the Irish Times magazine and a full programme dedicated to the milestone on RTE Nationwide as well as a feature on The Last Word on Today FM and coverage in Irish Independent, Sunday Times, Irish Examiner and Newstalk 106-108FM.

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MAY: Ford 100 New Centenary Sales Event

To tie in with the sales objectives of the client the 100 year campaign was carried through to the 172 registration period with a media release highlighted the offers available and the unique Irish connection of the brand.

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JUNE: Cork Summer Show – Ford Vintage Rally

The agency engaged with a local event in Cork with a fun run to the site of the former Ford factory on the Marina.  Media coverage including local media Irish Examiner and Evening Echo.

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JULY & SEPTEMBER: Ford 100 Fest

Ford sponsored a special festival hosted by the West Cork Vintage Ploughing and Threshing Association on the ancestral Ford family farm in Ballinascarthy to mark 100 years of Ford in Ireland. Attendance in 2016 for this event was 1,500, in 2017 it rose substantially to 6,000. Coverage was extensive for this event including Irish Farmers Journal and Evening Echo.

 

Final Result

Media coverage

In total over 380 pieces of high quality coverage was secured during the duration of the campaign covering national print, online and broadcast. Each incorporated a spread of themes (past, present and future) across each element of activity and delivered a number of key outcomes in terms of awareness, consideration and general attitudes towards the Ford brand and its models in Ireland.

Brand Awareness

Research was conducted in December 2016 and again in May 2017 – before and after the Ford 100 campaign – to measure brand awareness, brand/purchase consideration and general attitudes towards Ford.

Unprompted awareness (which three car brands come to mind?)
Dec 2016 May 2017
Ford 41% 48%
Toyota 43% 45%
VW 30% 27%
Ford brand consideration (identify the brand that in your opinion is the best for each factor)

 

Dec 2016 May 2017
Brand image 6% 10%
Company reputation 10% 13%
Brand trust 11% 13%
Ford purchase consideration (I would be interested in test-driving / finding out more about)

 

Dec 2016 May 2017
Test driving a Ford 54% 58%
Finding out more about 51% 54%
Consider Ford as next car 41% 44%
General attitudes towards Ford (agree with the following statements)

 

Dec 2016 May 2017
Ford is a good quality brand 68% 73%
Ford is a safe brand 66% 69%
Ford is an appealing brand 56% 58%

Working It

Finally, none of the above really quantifies the way we as an agency ‘worked’ the campaign. Through meticulous planning, exhaustive attention to detail and sheer man hours invested, we ensured that there were no slip-ups; everything was delivered as promised.

Our PR strategy for Ford 100 did not work in isolation but was part of a wider marketing effort that included advertising (TV, radio, print, digital, outdoor) as well two high-profile media partnerships (Irish Examiner supplement, Today FM competition).

This project has been shortlisted and ultimately won first place at the international PRGN Award 2017 in Kyoto, Japan for excellence in Publicity and Events management.

Pieces of media coverage

Festival attendance

Months-long campaign

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