BIRMINGHAM, MI – Ford wants to generate some early buzz around its upcoming ’13 Ford Fusion midsize sedan with a new marketing campaign dubbed “Random Acts of Fusion.”

The campaign, which ends in October, already is under way and features celebrities interacting with consumers on a dedicated website, test drives and opportunities for the public to check out the new Fusion up close and personal in their own community.

Ford is leveraging the star power of “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, comedian Joel McHale and actress Kate Micucci, who will appear in various online segments, such as Seacrest challenging McHale to give 100 Fusions to consumers for test drives, ranging from a day to a weekend.

Scott Kelly, marketing communications manager, says the celebrities were added to create some excitement. “We wanted a balance between celebrities and real people. If you have too many real people, then it’s not as interesting to watch. And if you have too many celebrities, it doesn’t feel authentic.”

Although the all-new Fusion doesn’t launch until later this year, the auto maker is aware of just how competitive the segment is becoming in the U.S. with a slew of new and updated models entering the fray, including the Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu and Toyota Camry.

The segment “is going to be crowded and that’s one of the reasons we’re pre-launching (the Fusion),” Kelly, tells WardsAuto at a media event here to introduce the new campaign. “Some of our competitors are launching now, so we wanted to make sure we had our name in the game even though (the Fusion) won’t be out until December.”

The recently launched marketing campaign also will feature a Ford team that makes daily stops at locations around the country, such as coffee shops, where consumers can look over the ’13 Fusion. The public’s interaction with the new car will be videotaped for use in a planned documentary, Ford says.

To qualify for a test drive, participants must submit stories based on various themes presented on the campaign’s website.

The current theme asks online visitors to describe their worst vacation experience. Winners are eligible to take a test drive and qualify for other prizes, including tickets to the World Series or a vacation in a dream home, the auto maker says.

Along with spreading the word that a new Fusion is coming, Kelly says getting the cars in the hands of consumers helps change misconceptions many still have about Ford.

“A lot of people know Ford, but there’s a lot who haven’t sat in a Ford in 10 years and they have an impression of the brand that is completely unlike what it is today,” he says. “Sometimes the impression is that we have poor quality or don’t make cars they are interested in. We’re still fighting that perception.”

Most people who view Ford in a negative light own foreign cars and are reluctant to switch allegiances, Kelly says, noting the key to converting those consumers is to get them in a Ford vehicle.

“We’re just telling people to get in the cars and drive them,” he says. “They will be blown away.”

bpope@wardsauto.com