If you tuned in to telecasts of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, you may have noticed some TV commercials of young men and women sporting the latest technological toys-cell phones, laptops...and Bridgestone tires.
The ads, featuring taglines of ``A grip on the future'' and ``Welcome to the future,'' are the latest attempts by Bridgestone/Firestone to forget nearly two years' worth of recall mayhem and look toward the future-a future where Bridgestone is the brand of choice for the young.
The new ad campaign, plus the introduction of new Bridgestone Turanza and Firestone Affinity LH30 tires, are part of the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker's plans to reinforce the Bridgestone brand to consumers while at the same time rebuild the image of the Firestone brand, according to Phil Pacsi, BFS executive director for North American consumer tires brand marketing.
At a Feb. 6 ``Drive and Learn'' demonstration of the new Turanza and Affinity tires in Phoenix, Mr. Pacsi told tire and automotive journalists that BFS has been ``on the move,'' developing new products and an advertising campaign to push those products. The company is shifting gears, so to speak, from advertising the Bridgestone brand to the racing community to promoting the brand to a broader audience.
``Bridgestone is no longer the brand for enthusiasts,'' Mr. Pacsi said. ``We hope to get the point out that...Bridgestone has technology for consumers.''
The first phase of the new Bridgestone campaign debuted Feb. 9 and ran through the end of the Olympics. BFS is supporting the TV commercials with print ads, billboards, radio and Internet ads, as well as credit card inserts, Mr. Pacsi said. The second phase of ads, which will feature the tagline ``Elegance that endures,'' will be unveiled in March and focus exclusively on the T speed-rated Turanza LS family of luxury touring tires.
Print ad placements for the Turanza LS line will include USA Today and daily newspapers that reach more than 200 markets, BFS said.
The Turanza LS-H, LS-V and LS-Z tires will replace the Turanza Revo and will be available in a total of 30 sizes (LS-H in 18 sizes, LS-V in eight sizes and LS-Z in four sizes). The Bridgestone Turanza LS-T will replace the Turanza T and be available in 28 sizes.
The Turanza LS-T fits the Toyota Camry, Chrysler Concorde and Chrysler Town & Country, among other vehicles, and comes with an 80,000-mile limited treadwear warranty. The other Turanza LS variants will fit vehicles such as the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS430 and Acura RL. All of the Turanza LS lines have BFS's UNI-T AQII technology, which has a dual-layer tread designed for performance in wet and dry conditions, the company said.
The Turanza LS-V and LS-Z both come with 40,000-mile treadwear warranties while the LS-H has a 50,000 mile treadwear warranty.
At the Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, journalists saw firsthand the handling and cornering abilities of the Turanza LS lines and the Firestone Affinity LH30. For some of the runs, BFS officials shod the vehicles with Turanzas whose tread had been shaved by 50 percent to simulate tires with wear, according to Mr. Pacsi.
Most of the Turanza LS tires were tested against the Turanza T, the Michelin X-One or the Michelin MXV4+. The Firestone Affinity LH30 was compared with the Goodyear Aquatred 3. As part of its marketing strategy, BFS will give away Canon Elph LT cameras to consumers who purchase four Turanza LS tires between April 14 and May 25, said Sandy Cox, BFS brand promotions manager. Consumers who use a Credit First National Association credit card towards the purchase will be able to make interest-free payments for up to 12 months, she said.
Mr. Pacsi noted that though BFS is playing up the Bridgestone brand to a mass audience, the firm will continue to promote Bridgestone in racing circles-especially since the Bridgestone Potenza will replace the Firestone Firehawk in Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) competition in 2002. The switch to Bridgestone is due to the international flavor of CART racing, according to Mr. Pacsi, since Bridgestone already has an international reputation in motorsports through Formula One.
``It's a good fit for the Bridgestone brand to be featured in CART,'' he said.
Although Firestone will no longer be part of the CART circuit, it will remain the exclusive brand of the Indy Racing League (IRL). BFS will use Firestone's rich racing history to promote the brand in March, using the tagline ``This is the beginning of a new century for Firestone'' in TV commercials.
Racing legend Mario Andretti will appear in those commercials, plugging the new Firestone Affinity LH30, which BFS called the industry's first H-rated, premium mass market tire.
The Affinity LH30 comes in 20 sizes and will carry a 70,000-mile limited treadwear warranty. The tire also will have the Firestone Gold Pledge Limited Warranty, which provides replacement at no charge if the tire becomes unusable due to defects in materials or workmanship for up to three years from date of purchase or four years from date of manufacture.