AKRON—”Fore!” “That ball is out of here!” “Nothing but net.”
These common sports catchphrases are becoming common to tire makers. The trend of tire manufacturers becoming the “official tire” of sports leagues, sponsoring teams and even individual events has grown rapidly.
This trend is not just in the tire industry, according to Lisa Wood, brand development manager, Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C., but is one that touches various markets.
“It has large impressions and a captive audience,” she added.
When selecting sports marketing as an avenue, Conti knows where the audience is going to be every week for those campaigns, which fits a target market.
“Sports are in our company’s DNA,” said Phil Pacsi, vice president of sports/-event marketing and training, Bridgestone Americas.
“Harvey Firestone became the first sports marketer after he went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the early 1900s. In 2016, we will celebrate the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Firestone tires were on the winning car in 1911 and will be on the winning car in 2016.”
Sports marketing has an active audience, setting it apart from other avenues. “Sports are an arena where people are taking in the environment and soaking up the atmosphere,” said Kyle Roberts, director of marketing for Nexen Tire America Inc.
With sports, consumers may digest the marketing message more easily as they become predisposed to tune out messages distributed by print, radio or television, he said.
Fred Koplin, Yokohama Tire Corp. senior director of marketing and motorsports, said the company’s longstanding sports marketing program has been a success, including positive dealer feedback.
“From football to baseball to women’s golf—and now English Premier League soccer champion Chelsea—sports marketing has been a perfect way for Yokohama to partner with our dealers to raise brand awareness with consumers and influence brand consideration,” he said.
While it seems many tire manufacturers are jumping on the sports marketing bandwagon, different manufacturers select different sporting opportunities.
“We look for higher level things that have a 360-approach,” said Wood, explaining that Conti looks for the “richest branding package we can achieve.”
For instance, Conti typically does national campaigns that can be good for the company, its dealers and consumers. Conti has several sports marketing opportunities such as soccer, which is something the company can participate on a global scale.
“We do what’s right by market,” Woods said.
Some efforts by tire manufacturers are on a global scale, while others may be national or regional.
“Nexen targets a geographical region that we want more brand awareness in and in markets where we feel there is exponential growth available to us,” Roberts said.
Bridgestone sets up its North American sport partnerships domestically, but some may have international extensions, Pacsi said. Its National Hockey League sponsorship works as a “cross-border” sponsorship that includes both the U.S. and Canada. The company also partners with several of the Canadian teams. With the Firestone Racing program, the company also will participate in international races when scheduled by the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“Our business spans international borders, and we are seeing sports leagues trending toward larger international presences as well,” he said.
“In the U.S., we will continue to focus on partnerships that best serve our domestic market, but we are encouraged by, excited about and supportive of the continuing globalization of sport. Across Latin America there are a number of other exciting partnerships as well, including the Copa Bridgestone Libertadores soccer series and the Bridgestone Americas Golf Cup, among others. In Europe, Bridgestone is involved with alpine skiing.”
Koplin said Yokohama seeks to leverage Chelsea’s strong fan base and reach for a new audience. “As we all know, sports fans are extremely loyal and passionate about their teams. That’s why Yokohama produces a detailed, strategic sports marketing program that connects enthusiastic sports fans with our dealers,” he said.
“This will help us achieve the same strong results we have enjoyed since 2007 with our American stick and ball sponsorships.”
Ultimately, tire manufacturers are selecting sports as a way to reach target demographics, as its availability for impressions is significant.
Here are just a few of the ongoing sports marketing initiatives in the industry:
American Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd.:
• Three-year deals with four college athletic programs: University of Georgia, University of Mississippi, Vanderbilt University and Elon University, in addition to its sponsorship of Ohio State University athletics the past several years.
• Extended a special thank you to America’s armed forces during the 2015 NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
• Official tire of NHL and the NHLPA.
• A sponsor of the Olympics, both summer and winter, through 2024.
• MLS players, legends and celebrities drive for its “What’Cha Got” short feature.
• Multi-year deal to be oficial tire of the American Youth Soccer Organization.
• Official tire of 23 college basketball teams and several tournaments.
Falken Tire Corp.
• Official brand sponsor of “FC Ingolstadt 04”, A soccer club based in Ingolstadt, Bavaria.
• “Great Hit” mail-in rebate program for consumers.
• Signage for Hankook Tire Europe GmbH on display at the 2015 UEFA Europa League final soccer match.
Kumho Tire USA Inc.:
• Official tire of the NBA and NBA Development League, including Canada.
• Official partner of the Manchester City soccer club.
• Extended partnership with four Major League Baseball teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels.
• Hosted College Hoops Challenge, tied in with NCAA college basketball tournament.
Maxxis International USA:
• Sponsor of the Atlanta Braves during 2015 season
• Exclusive tire sponsor for the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2014-15 season.
• Green Monster experience at a Boston Red Sox-Detroit Tigers game.
• Official tire of Tough Mudder Inc.
• Official sponsor of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
• Title sponsor for the inaugural Yokohama Tire Ladies Professional Golf Association Classic.
• Chelsea soccer club’s shirt sponsor for the next five years, recently unveiling its uniform design for the 2015-16 season featuring the Yokohama logo.