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Will The Penguin Drive A Ford? Fox Signs Automaker to Sponsor ‘Gotham’

Ford Motor is revving its engines over the prospect of hanging out with Catwoman, The Riddler and maybe even The Joker.

The automaker has aligned itself with the first season of Fox’s freshman drama “Gotham,” which depicts the fictional DC Comics metropolis of Gotham City in the days leading up to the debut of Batman. In doing so, the car giant takes part in what looks to be the first major announcement of a larger alliance between an advertiser and a scripted TV program for the new fall season, which is just getting underway.

At an event held in New York Monday evening to screen the drama’s first episode, Ford’s trademark appeared prominently on everything from wall designs to lounge pillows, and the automaker was thanked noticeably by Dana Walden and Gary Newman, co-chairman and co-CEOs of the Fox Television Group. At the entrance to the event, held at the New York Public Library, visitors could not help but encounter a vintage Ford four-door sedan made to look like part of the Gotham City Police Department fleet.

Ford has a longstanding relationship with Fox. Ford has been one of the three main sponsors of the network’s “American Idol,” though it has in recent seasons reduced its support of that aging juggernaut.

The team-up is not unusual. Automakers often craft deals that give their vehicles prominent placement in one series or another. General Motors’ Chevrolet, for example, has struck deals that make its cars hard to miss in CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” and ABC’s “Nashville,” while Toyota has been involved in the last two seasons of CBS’ “Under the Dome.” Fiat’s Chrysler Group proved instrumental in the recent revival of Fox’s “24,” and, much as Ford is doing with “Gotham,” also sponsored an opening event.

What looks different about placing a car in “Gotham” is the show’s “retro” look. The city portrayed in the series looks little like the New York City or Chicago of today. Instead, the drama opts for a more stylized portrayal of the urban environment, keeping, perhaps, with the original vision of Gotham City as a place that serves as home for the ultra-rich as well as the extremely poor and down-and-out. As the replica of the Gotham police cruiser suggests, the Ford vehicles in the show may not always be the most current.

But one suspects that new Ford autos will make an appearance at some point in the program. Automakers are always looking to move their most current metal and have used TV series to do just that – sometimes in less-than-obvious ways. In 2007, Nissan was able to have its new Rogue inserted into the plotline and script of NBC’s “Heroes”; cheerleader character Claire, played by Hayden Panettiere, receives the car for her birthday, only to have it stolen.

Only future episodes of “Gotham” will reveal whether Ford vehicles remain in the background or become fodder for some nefarious plan by city crime boss Carmine Falcone.

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