Bridgestone/Firestone, seeking a catalyst to recharge its beleaguered Firestone brand, has secured the use of the Indy 500 name and its winged wheel logo for its redesigned entry-level Firehawk performance tire range.
Using opening-day festivities May 5 for the 2002 Indy 500 race as a backdrop, Bridgestone/Firestone and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced a four-year partnership that capitalizes on Firestone's role as the sole racing tire supplier to the Indy 500 and the Indy Racing League, which sanctions the racing series that includes the Indy 500. This is the first time in IMS's 90-year history that the speedway has licensed the Indy 500 name to any product.
``When you have the privilege to launch and promote the only tire ever authorized by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to wear the Indy 500 name and logo, you really want to do it up right,'' said Phil Pacsi, executive director of consumer tire marketing for BFS.
``We're very proud to see a new street tire that celebrates the world's greatest race, produced by a company we respect and trust,'' said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
``We've seen the technological capabilities of Firestone tires in many Indianapolis 500 and Indy Racing League events,'' Mr. George said. ``Knowing the strength and capabilities of Firehawk tires on the racetrack, we're proud there is now a Firehawk tire for street use wearing the Indy 500 name and logo.''
John Lampe, president and CEO of Bridgestone/Firestone Americas Holding Inc., said the co-branding is important to ``strengthening the Firestone brand and building market share.''
The Firehawk Indy 500 went on sale May 5 at stores across the country. It will be supported by a multifaceted promotion campaign that includes television and print advertising and consumer premiums, Mr. Pacsi said.
The S-rated Firehawk Indy 500 is available initially in 17 predominantly raised white letter sizes, from P175/70R13 to P295/50R15; it replaces the SS-20 in the Firehawk lineup. Black letter versions are being prepared for launch later this summer, Mr. Pacsi said. Both versions feature IMS's distinctive winged tire logo molded into the sidewall.
BFS executives declined to offer any sales projections for the new line, but Mr. Pacsi said the company was satisfied by orders received from dealers since they were notified in February the product was being prepared. The retail selling price will be in a range from $50 to $110, depending on size, Mr. Pacsi said.
The length of the agreement coincides with Firestone's role as the official tire supplier of IMS and the IRL through 2005, and hooks into Firestone's history with IMS-52 of the race's winners have run on Firestone tires. BFS is paying IMS an undisclosed royalty for the use of the Indy 500 name and logo.
BFS will conduct no-purchase-necessary consumer contests to promote the launch throughout the month of May. Racers practice and qualify for the 500-mile race for three weeks leading up to the Memorial Day weekend race on May 26.
The prizes include limited edition Indy 500 watches from Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watches-valued from $1,390 to $5,825 each-a trip for two to the 2003 Indy 500, a set of the new tires, an Indy 500 leather and twill jacket, or Olympus binoculars.
Firestone said every driver who qualifies for this year's Indy 500 would receive a set of the new tires for his or her personal vehicle. BFS has created a separate Web site-www.Indy500tire.com-to support the launch.
The co-branding is reminiscent of Goodyear's use of the NASCAR name on an S-rated version of its Eagle #1 line. Launched in 1999-ironically also at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, during that year's Brickyard 400 stock car race-that tire features raised gold lettering. Goodyear is the exclusive supplier of race tires to NASCAR's top racing series.