Ford, Ketel One to sponsor 'White Collar'

Character drives Ford Taurus throughout first season

USA Network has signed Ford as the exclusive automotive partner of its new original series, "White Collar," part of a presenting sponsorship that includes integration and a custom long-form spot.

Per terms of the deal, the automaker will kick start the premiere episode of "White Collar," which bows Friday, Oct. 23 at 10 p.m. Coming out of the first segment, Ford will have exclusive ownership of a 60-second commercial pod, in which it will showcase the 2010 Taurus.

In addition to the opening pod, Ford will also appear within the "White Collar" narrative, as FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) will drive a new Taurus throughout the first season. In a sense, Ford has chosen to align itself specifically with DeKay's no-nonsense federal agent. Beginning with episode four (Nov. 13), Ford will sponsor a short "character profile" of the lawman, an interstitial designed to give viewers a little more insight into Burke's back story.

"When you team up with an advertiser like this you can do some really cool stuff," said Chris McCumber, USA's executive vp of marketing, digital and brand strategy. "It's another way to let fans of the show see what makes the characters tick. It provides another entry point into the show and makes the characters relatable on a deeper level."

"White Collar" debuts with limited commercial interruption, thanks in large part to Ford's sponsorship deal. "That initial 60-second pod takes the commercial load down proportionately, and we didn't bulk up later in the hour," McCumber said. "We took great pains not to make the other pods any longer over the course of the premiere."

Meanwhile, USA has secured a second integrated sponsorship with the premium spirits brand Ketel One Vodka. In much the same way that Ford is paired with the Peter Burke character, Ketel One will ride shotgun with the rehabilitated con artist Neal Caffrey, played by Matt Bomer. In the second half of the season, Ketel on the rocks will be established as Caffrey's signature quaff.

A Ketel-sponsored character profile of Bomer will debut Nov. 20. Both profiles will continue to air through Dec. 4, and will live online at USA's "White Collar" microsite.

While Ketel's integration won't kick in until the latter portion of the season, the brand will have a presence at the tail end of Friday night's premiere. As the episode wraps, Ketel will serve as the sponsor of a 70-second preview of the upcoming season of "White Collar." Like the character profiles, the extended sneak peek will be available online.

"We created the Ketel preview in-house, and it turned out so well we may even use it as a promo across our schedule," McCumber said.

WPP's Team Detroit handles Ford's media planning/buying, while Ketel One's media account is serviced by MediaCom.