Horses

Ford named official auto sponsor of WEG

Toyota's largest manufacturing plant in North America is 10 miles from the Kentucky Horse Park, but Ford Motor Co. will be the official automotive sponsor for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Ford will provide vans, trucks and cars to transport teams, officials and VIPs during the 16-day event at the Horse Park.

"We've been involved with the (Horse) Park since its inception, so it's a natural for us, especially with two Ford plants in Louisville," said Kevin Collins of Bill Collins Ford in Louisville. Collins also represents the Cincinnati South Ford Dealers Advertising Fund.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown won't be involved because of the recession.

Toyota spokesman Rick Hesterberg said the Toyota plant in Kentucky began talking several years ago with other Toyota entities, including Toyota Motor Sales, to get involved with the Games at a big sponsorship level.

"About the time it looked as though we would get involved is when the recession really hit" in 2008, Hesterberg said. "The recession has been really challenging."

Toyota's recall during the past year of millions of vehicles because of gas pedal problems didn't help, Hesterberg said. At this point, Toyota plans to buy blocks of tickets to support the Games.

"Under normal circumstances, we would have been involved at a sponsorship level," he said.

Collins called the Ford sponsorship a great fit.

"It helps local dealers, and clearly it's part of our customer base in the horse industry," he said.

As part of the sponsorship deal, Ford will have a major display of cars and trucks near the entrance to the park during the Games, and it will provide 120 vehicles to Games officials and teams.

One of Ford's plants in Louisville makes sport utility vehicles, and the other makes trucks. The company is one of Louisville's biggest employers.

Games officials would not reveal the amount of the cash sponsorship.

First lady Jane Beshear joined Collins for Thursday's announcement. Beshear said she was excited to see one of the state's "major economic drivers" get involved with the Games.

"A Kentucky-made product will be showcased," she said.

Beshear has been heavily involved with the Games and is on its organizing board. She said she was not worried by disappointing early ticket sales.

"We're seeing increased enthusiasm; the buzz is out there," she said.

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