Ford, AOL Launch Portal for Latino Entrepreneurs

Hoping to capitalize on the growth of the U.S. Hispanic audience online, Ford Motor Company has launched a Spanish-language portal for Latino entrepreneurs called Mi Negocio, which translates to “my business.” Partner America Online is providing content, community features, and substantial promotion across its sites and service.

The site features business-oriented content from AOL’s Time Warner family, including articles from Fortune Magazine, Business 2.0, and Fortune Small Business, which will be updated every two weeks. AOL will also provide community functions such as chats, message boards, and an “ask the expert” feature. The community features, however, will only be available for AOL members. Users can access the site either through the AOL service, or through the Ford Web site, at www.ford.com/go/minegocio.

Ford is hoping the new site helps build its brand image among Hispanics, which are now the largest minority group in the United States. The company paints the focus on entrepreneurship as an effort to help the Hispanic community build a stronger economic base.

“For us, it’s an opportunity to help that economic growth and be a part of that economic growth,” said Nick Scheele, president of Ford Motor Company, announcing the launch at a Manhattan Ford dealership.

Not only is the U.S. Hispanic population growing, but it’s also young, with an average age of 26, and increasingly online, according to an America Online Roper ASW study.

“Of great interest to Ford were data from the same study that showed a definite link between the Hispanic community, the Internet and automotive sales,” said Scheele. “Clearly, an online connection between Ford and the Hispanic community is important to our future.”

So important, apparently, that Scheele, along with AOL core service president Ted Leonsis, presided over a splashy press conference announcing the site’s launch. Though neither company would place a value on the site or on the effort, the appearance of such bigwigs signaled a significant commitment by both parties.

Both Ford and AOL are letting the potential audience know about the new site through various media. AOL will show banner ads through its Spanish-language AOL Latino service, and visitors to business-oriented parts of the English-language service may see ads, too. Those ads will be geo-targeted to areas where the Hispanic population is high.

Ford will supplement the online effort with a print campaign in Spanish-language community newspapers, along with their accompanying Web sites. The campaign is also running in Hispanic-oriented magazines. Personalities on CNN in Español and Fox in Español cable channels will mention the site on the air.

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