For 2004 Bridgestone/Firestone is reinforcing to motoring consumers of all ages that its products are all about lifestyle-and critical to their personal lifestyles.
Bridgestone/Firestone's media presence in 2004 can be characterized as diverse and aggressive: a TV commercial shows harvest combines rolling on Firestone tires; an ad in USA Today promotes Bridgestone tires in Formula One racing; and an aftermarket custom shop recommends Fuzion tires to a 20-year-old tuner on MTV's ``Pimp My Ride'' show.
The Nashville-based tire maker believes 2004 is the right time to trumpet the Firestone brand's comeback, build and promote its new Fuzion brand as a fun tire and at the same time reinforce the Bridgestone brand's image of quality.
For its Firestone advertising alone, BFS more than quadrupled its budget this year, according to Michael Fluck, advertising and Internet manager for Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire L.L.C. The tire maker declined to comment on how much it is spending on Firestone advertising, but USA Today reported that BFS had raised its 2004 ad budget for Firestone to about $18 million, a figure BFS would neither confirm nor deny.
The company brought back and updated its ``Wherever Wheels are Rolling'' jingle from decades ago to get the message out that Firestone is back and it's the tire that keeps America rolling. Besides local TV/radio spots featuring the new commercials, BFS bought spots for Firestone on many cable networks: VH-1, Spike TV, TNN, TBS, E!, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, FX, WGN, USA, MTV, Comedy Central, Court TV, The History Channel, TLC and HGTV. And people are noticing.
``We're getting calls from dealers, e-mails, comments from consumers, from the media, who just can't believe we're back with this message and that it's worked...,'' Mr. Fluck said. ``We feel that it's definitely being received very well from all of the people we're trying to reach with the message.''
Though the emphasis with Firestone is a heavy TV campaign, BFS also is placing full-page, Firestone print ads in USA Today following every Indy-car race this year, Mr. Fluck said, adding that Firestone's message lends itself better to TV than print. He said bringing back the ``Wherever Wheels Are Rolling'' jingle and advertising the Firestone brand instead of a tire line helps boost the brand's image in consumers' minds.
``We've stopped focusing on `America's tire since 1900,''' Mr. Fluck explained. ``We're focusing on this message, the song and the jingle, but we're not using it in the environment of a tagline because we felt now was the time to be back with a very strong Firestone image. We wanted to tie in with the nostalgia, with Americana and all of those things.''
Although Firestone is receiving the lion's share of BFS' ad budget, Mr. Fluck emphasized the company didn't ``sacrifice the Bridgestone brand'' in the process. Since January, Bridgestone commercials-using the same format as in 2003-have aired mostly on cable staions: ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sportsnet, MTV, VH-1, FX, Comedy Central, TBS, Discovery, TLC, Sci-Fi, USA and TNN. The ad buys for the Bridgestone brand are targeted specifically to an 18- to 49-year-old demographic that values technology, according to Phil Pacsi, executive director of North American consumer tire brand marketing.
Print ads featuring a new, global tagline, ``Bridgestone-a Passion for Excellence,'' are running in publications as diverse as USA Today, AutoMundo, African Americans On Wheels, Jet, Ebony and Motor Trend. The company also is advertising Bridgestone in Hispanic newspapers and on Internet sites such as Yahoo!, AOL, Univision and overboost.com, a tuner site, according to Mr. Fluck.
And, continuing last year's initiatives, BFS again is advertising both Bridgestone and Firestone brands with updated logos on billboards in New York's Times Square for the entire year.
Mr. Fluck emphasized that Bridgestone-brand TV advertising is more image-focused, while the print ads focus more on tire lines. In minority publications, for example, BFS is advertising the Turanza touring line in May and June, and when fall comes and ``we have promotions going on with light truck, we'll talk about the Bridgestone Dueler line for SUVs,'' he said.
``So we're not product-focused, but we are product-family-focused to some extent, especially in the print environment,'' Mr. Fluck said.
He noted that the Bridgestone brand over the past three years has been up by 8 million units and that Firestone-brand sales in 2004 have risen 15 percent in passenger products and 27.8 percent in light truck. Mr. Pacsi told Tire Business major brand sales in the industry overall are up and represent increased consumer awareness of major brands vs. associate or private brands. In reference to Bridgestone and Firestone sales, Mr. Fluck credited the company's dealer family channel as the core reason for that, and not advertising.
``Advertising helps get people in the door and craft the message and the image, but our dealers are absolutely the key to our success, and they come before any advertising, marketing or public relations activities we do,'' Mr. Fluck said.
BFS is backing up its ad campaigns for Bridgestone and Firestone brands with five retail campaigns. From April 25-May 22, the tire maker is offering a $50 mail-in rebate on its Turanza, Potenza and Dueler lines in its All-Out Rebate Rollout sale, both in the U.S. and Canada. BFS then will launch its ``Drive Like a Pro'' promotion from May 23-June 12 to coincide with the Indy 500 race. That campaign will offer a buy three, get one free deal on sets of Firehawk Indy 500, Affinity LH30 and Destination LE tires and feature Mario Andretti in point-of-purchase materials and ads.
In Canada, retailers will offer a $10 instant rebate per tire on the Firehawk Indy 500, Affinity LH30 and Destination LE tires during the ``Drive Like a Pro'' promotion.
The firm also will roll out a ``National Road Trip'' sale from July 4-31 and two campaigns in the fall that are yet to be determined, according to Mark Johnson, manager of product marketing. The ``Road Trip'' sale will be a retailer-led event with dealers selecting the products, Mr. Pacsi said.
While BFS targets mass audiences with media and retail campaigns for Bridgestone and Firestone brands, the company is taking a grassroots approach with its new Fuzion brand for the tuner crowd, ages 18-24. The tire maker will be present at more than a dozen sport-compact car events with a Honda Civic Si shod with Fuzion tires.
The company has targeted tuner publications and Web sites for print ads, but has no TV ad campaign planned for the Fuzion ZRi tire this year, according to Mr. Fluck. However, Fuzion ZRi did get a product placement mention on MTV's ``Pimp My Ride''-a show that features an aftermarket shop rebuilding and customizing cars.
``We have people already coming in to dealers asking for the Fuzion tire that they saw on MTV,'' he said.
To coincide with its Fuzion ZRi launch this spring, BFS created a Web site-www.thefuzionzone.com-with a link to an interactive racing game that allows players to compete against each other. The site includes product and size information on the Fuzion ZRi tire and information on BFS' project vehicles, the Civic Si and a Subaru WRX STi.
Through its family channel of dealers, BFS also is doing local Fuzion ads and promotions and supporting local grassroots events, such as allowing dealers to use the Fuzion logo on cars they rebuild to draw in the tuner crowd.
``For Bridgestone or Firestone, we have complete lines, complete families,'' Mr. Fluck said. ``For Fuzion, it's a new brand. Right now it's just one tire.... This product is going faster than we had hoped. It's going crazy. We're trying to figure out every chance we get how to get more product.''
Fuzion's theme-``Serious Art''-uses what looks like a canvas but in the form of a tread pattern. BFS has begun using ``The Serious Art of Hugging Curves'' as a theme and is working on other themes using Serious Art for future promotions.
``We wanted to find ways to be sexy, fun and playful and be able to be edgy and aggressive without necessarily using models or cars, and that's where (Serious Art) originally came from,'' Mr. Fluck said. ``We wanted to go in and play on the image of art since art is so diverse and you can do a lot with it.''