There are few relationships stronger than the one between Ford and country singer-songwriter Toby Keith. This pairing looks likely to go down as one of the strongest in the pickup truck marketing world, along with the likes of Chevrolet and rocker Bob Seger ("Like a Rock"), and actor Sam Elliott as the voice of Ram.
One of the first things Keith wants us to understand is that he wasn't looking for deep pockets to sponsor his concerts. According to Keith, as he gained popularity as a country singer, Ford approached him because employees heard he'd been talking about his own Ford trucks on stage. Negotiations ensued, and the rest is history. Keith first partnered with Ford in 2002; he has since made several appearances with now-CEO (then the new president of the Americas) Mark Fields to introduce both the new F-150 and Super Duty pickups.
Keith said his family has deep Ford roots. He still remembers when his dad, who was an oil company fleet buyer at the time, always purchased Ford trucks because they seemed to hold up to the abuse. Unfortunately, Keith continued, after his dad got a promotion the guy who took over vehicle purchasing didn't think the same way and moved to another brand that ended up causing the company all sorts of problems with extra downtime and costly repairs. His dad had a good laugh and got to say, "I told you so."
We recently had the chance to see the country star at work, filming a short video for an upcoming concert tour. The nondescript ranch-house setting had plenty of young actors, cameras, playback speakers, computer monitors and Ford trucks spread out all over the place. We saw a modified Ford Raptor, a new 2015 F-150 Platinum and even the Mighty Tonka F-750, ready for Keith to use.
In between video takes we with talked with Keith about his interest and background with Ford trucks. Here are some sound bites from our conversations:
* "My first truck was a '73 F-100 with the I-6 and a three-on-the-tree, but I've owned a lot of Ford trucks since then. The truck I get the most comments and questions about is the [Mighty] Tonka F-350 we used in our 'Who's Your Daddy' video. … They want to know if I still have that truck but it was never mine, that was Ford's — they just loaned it to us for the shoot."
* "We're using a bunch of Ford trucks for this video shoot that we'll play at the beginning of our concerts this year, but the most fun today will be when I get to jump into the Tonka dump truck and drive around in the dirt. We've got a few new F-150s here too, but the F-750 is the bad boy."
* "I've known Mark Fields for a long time and I can only imagine what it's like to run company as big as Ford, but he seems like he likes the tough job. I'm not sure I could do that; I'd be afraid of screwing something up."
* "I just got my new Platinum F-150 and I have to say it's amazing … my favorite feature of the new truck has to be the back massager. I've had some great trucks and cars in my day — I've had a Mach 1 Mustang, Ford GT and a '34 Ford — but I've never had anything that gives me a massage."
Keith's latest CD, "35 MPH Town," is likely to come out later this summer or fall, but the first single, also called "35 MPH Town," is available now on iTunes and other music download platforms.
Cars.com photos by Mark Williams