MINNEAPOLIS-For months, 37 Minneapolis-area Goodyear dealers toiled to make their presence felt during the Children's Grand Prix of Minnesota, July 6-7. Long before Tom Kendall steered his Ford Mustang Cobra across the finish line erected across Second Street South they realized their participation meant more than increased business.
Because of their sponsorship, area children suffering from cancer will receive some relief in the form of a near-$10,000 donation from the Goodyear dealers to the Cancer KIDS Fund of the Children's Health Care Foundation.
Interest in sponsoring part of the event began almost as soon as the dealers learned the Sports Car Club of America planned to hold a set of races in Minneapolis. Goodyear is the tire supplier for the SCCA's Trans Am Series.
In January, the dealers began examining how best to take advantage of running promotions in conjunction with the races, according to Tim Waldschmidt, Goodyear district manager for the area.
``A lot of times you look at specific business issues-what's the biggest bang for the buck,'' he said.
That's just what the dealers set out to do. But that soon changed.
``Someone finally said, `Why do they keep calling it the Children's Grand Prix?'*'' he recalled.
There was a good reason: All of the race proceeds were to be donated to a fund created to help children in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., who have cancer or other blood-related diseases.
Dealers soon learned the idea for the charitable race was developed by Minnesota residents Mark and Claudia Cohn, who were looking for a way to make a contribution to the fund that was helping their own cancer-stricken child.
``It was really the human side of it-to give a little bit back to the community-that lit the spark (among the dealers),'' Mr. Waldschmidt said.
Weeks prior to the race, dealers raised money for the fund by selling miniature, inflatable Goodyear blimps for $2.99 in their outlets. All of the proceeds from the blimp sales were donated to the fund, Mr. Waldschmidt said. During the race, they staffed a Goodyear tent, where they sold more blimps-in fact, all the blimps they had.
``We wish we had brought more. We could have sold more,'' Mr. Waldschmidt said.
In all, the dealers sold about 5,000 little blimps.
As part of the race promotion, dealers also offered $60 coupons redeemable for race tickets or paraphernalia with purchases of four Infinitreds, Aquatreds, Eagles or Wranglers, according to Wally Francis, dealer sales manager.
But it is difficult to measure the effect the race promotions had on dealer business, he added.
Chances are good the race will be held next year, as well, according to a spokeswoman for the Cancer KIDS Fund. The group hopes to double race attendance in 1997.
More than 86,200 people attended the two-day event, according to race officials.
If the race is held next year, the Goodyear dealers most likely will be a part of it.
They already are talking about plans to have the real Goodyear blimp cover next year's event. This year's race was aired on TNN.
``We have had more positive comment from dealers during this promotion than anything we've done in the past two or three years,'' Mr. Waldschmidt said.