An obviously excited Oscar Jennings, age 3, recently asked his daddy if he could watch the goats over and over and over again. He curled up in front of the computer at home in Brooklyn and couldn’t get enough of the happy creatures he was seeing in the rough cut TV commercial.
The 60-second spot depicts the story of an abandoned colt found by goats who adopt it and teach it how to navigate rough terrain in a way that makes the little horse more rugged and capable than an average horse.
Toward the end of the story, the horse runs into a cave and then out comes the Bronco Sport SUV, sort of like Clark Kent running into a telephone booth and coming out as Superman.
The rest of the world gets to see the unique new Ford Bronco Sport spot filmed near a snowy Mount Baker outside Seattle this weekend during the NFL wild card playoffs. The commercial will play again during the Ohio State-Alabama national championship game Monday.
This is the story of the smallest Bronco in the Ford stable.
The shoot behind the TV commercial is one filled with challenges and adventure, not to mention animal wranglers, an unexpected snowstorm and relief that a young goat named Barney was so darn cooperative on the film set.
But the team at Wieden+Kennedy in New York also revealed a strategy designed to define a product that many feared might be overshadowed by its big brother Bronco, the popular two- and four-door SUV scheduled for delivery in mid-2021 that already has a reservation list of 190,000 fans.
Meanwhile, the Bronco Sport is available now and getting snapped up as fast as it can be unloaded from delivery trucks.
So this new Bronco Sport campaign, which launches with the first of a trio of ads, is meant to spotlight its personality and make sure people don’t dismiss it as a scrappy-do lesser Bronco.
“It’s a very capable vehicle and we wanted to showcase that capability,” said Stuart Jennings, creative director at the agency behind the campaign for Ford Motor Co.’s hot new franchise.
The team is not just spotlighting the climbing skill for a vehicle that comes with standard four-wheel-drive but also the Bronco Sport’s actual driving modes that give it the ability to Go Over Any type of Terrain (GOAT) — mud, snow, ice, rocks. The internal project code name at Ford for the 1966 Bronco was actually G.O.A.T.
Sisters in Seattle
Half a dozen live Cashmere and Nigerian goats. Oh, and goat wranglers.
The goat with the shorter gray hair is Maggie. Her sister, Hattie, is the goat with a longer coat and is dark gray. Hattie is a bit of a star in the ad.
The small gray goat with horns is Barney.
“We were believing the stereotype that goats are super stubborn and terrible and unable to do anything with them. But, as it turns out, they were pretty good. They did everything we needed them to do. I mean, we weren’t asking a ton of the goats other than a scene where they were poking around the colt laying down. We wanted the spot to have a naturalistic feel,” Jennings said.
Most of the commercial is a composite of individual shots with different animals.
“It was definitely a challenging production,” Jennings said. “There’s tons of different goats. We wanted a mountain goat and they said mountain goats aren’t domesticated. You just can’t. We can’t get wild goats. So we had to get a domesticated breed that looked like mountain goats.”
And then they had to sort of interview the goats to decide which had personalities that might work for the project. “We had to have a number of goats on standby in case some were not performing,” Jennings said. “And we had to have different horses to play different ages,” Jennings said.
Horses grow quickly and the time between casting a colt and shooting the ad, well, colts grow quickly. And the producers needed to work quickly. They wanted an adolescent horse to show it growing in confidence and agility. Then a fully grown horse that represents strength.
The little colt came up from the Los Angeles area.
Horse wranglers, they were needed, too.
It took several days to shoot the goat spot in cold and rain and snow.
“It was Seattle in October. We were like, man, we thought it would be a flurry and it really snowed,” Jennings said. “We just shot through it.”
As for horses, well, Lucas is cast as the colt and Hummer plays the older Bronco.
And so the first big Bronco campaign is called Built Wild, an umbrella campaign for the Bronco family of three vehicles. This new ad, “Raised by Goats,” focuses on capabilities, the second spot called “Go There” shows adventure-ready use and the third is “Find Your Wild,” which highlights the interior features of the vehicle as well as potential use as a mobile base camp, and trail action shots in mud, rain, snow and rocks.
The video shows how much gear the small SUV can hold, for example, easing concerns for people who may own $4,000 or $5,000 bikes and want to store them inside safely, or pack before work to hit the mountains and trails at 5 o’clock sharp.
Bronco, F-150 together
On top of freezing temperatures, social distancing during COVID-19 meant boxed lunches alone in individual cars during the ad shoot, and everybody driving up to the film site alone in separate cars. Even touching the animals was discouraged to keep everyone safe from the contagious coronavirus.
In the end, this was all about how to create a special identity for the smaller SUV in the Bronco family released months before the bigger Bronco.
Ford revealed all sorts of wonderful little morsels about the “Raised by Goats” shoot:
- It took about four days, not counting casting and training prep time, and was part of a larger shoot for the 2021 Ford F-150 in the Pacific Northwest.
- All goats in the shoot are Cashmeres except for Vinnie, the one without horns, who is a Nigerian Dwarf.
- The most cooperative goat was actually the youngest, Barney. That ended up leading the narrative very well, because you had this young goat showing the young horse the ropes.
Super Bowl caliber
Nature cooperated with the production shoot, giving them a beautiful snowstorm that you can see in the backdrop of the ad. Very Hollywood. No snow machines.
Ford isn’t running the spot during the Super Bowl, but the Ford team wanted it to be so special and so unique, to break through the noise in a way that a Super Bowl ad is designed to do, said Matt Van Dyke, Ford director of marketing.
Robert Davidman, a partner at The Fearless Agency on Madison Avenue in New York, said everyone tries to avoid working with children and animals.
“They’re very hard and unpredictable,” he said. “But what are the videos that people watch the most when they’re watching YouTube or Instagram? Animals. People can relate and connect. It’s an emotional thing. There’s so much crap going on in the world. Everyone is sick and tired. Goats are goats.”
They make people smile, Davidman said.
Aside from sheer entertainment value, the theme of the new ad is spot on, said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, a car-listing and data site. “We knew that the vehicle, at some point, started with the same platform as a Ford Escape. If you want to be jaded, you’d say you’ve got the ‘Escape-o’ or a ‘Bron-scape.’ You really wonder how good it can be with its off-road prowess.”
But automotive experts who have driven the vehicle have been astonished, he said.
“This is nothing like the Escape, despite somewhere in its gestation period starting with the same platform, and it has clearly evolved and changed into a Bronco Sport,” Brauer said. “This is its own vehicle and it’s reflected in its capabilities. Ford needs to make sure people understand that. It’s good to hear a compelling ad is coming out.”
Bronco vs. Jeep
The Bronco Sport SUV is designed to compete with the Jeep Cherokee, which sold about 191,000 in 2019, and the Jeep Compass, which sold about 144,000 that year.
The bigger Bronco has dominated the headlines with its upcoming return to the market after a quarter-century absence. Bronco Nation has clubs and a legacy that includes a famous police chase through Los Angeles. Fans cheered the vehicle’s unveiling in mid-July.
The base Bronco Sport starts at $28,155 including $1,495 in destination fees. A top-of-the-line Badlands edition can climb to $41,000 with fees.
Bronco Sport is built at the Ford plant in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Its big brother Bronco is built at Michigan Assembly in Wayne.