What do tires have to do with baseball? Hockey? Soccer? Bull-riding?...or even competitive fishing?
At first glance, the answer appears to be not a lot, but look a little deeper and the tire industry's fascination with tie-ins to sports, sports marketing and national exposure becomes clear.
Tire companies want to focus their advertising dollars in areas that offer BIG potentialwhere they can reach as many prospective customers as possible while promoting their brands and, ultimately, generating sales.
And there is nothing bigger than professional and collegiate sports, which are followed religiously by millions of rabid fans.
For many tire makers and mar- keters, having a presence at major sporting venues and/or sponsoring professional or collegiate sports teams has become one of the most effective ways of connecting their company and product offerings to powerful and popular sports brands, thereby hopefully elevating the status of the company in the eyes of the consumer.
This is especially important when it comes to tires, which are a need-basednot electivepurchase for most customers.
A front-page story in this issue of Tire Business illustrates how popular the use of sports marketing has become with tire makers and marketersespecially for those firms looking to break out of the pack and raise their profile among consumers.
The latest tire company to step up its sports marketing game is Falken Tire Corp., which recently signed a multi-year marketing agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB), gaining the brand exposure nationwide with its designation as the official tire of MLB.
This is a huge move for the tire marketer, a subsidiary of Japan's Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. For one thing, it signals that Falken no longer is singularly focused on high-performance tires but rather is now broadening its marketing efforts to heighten awareness of its brand. It also means Falken now offers products for all consumer vehicles and not just those tailored to the enthusiast market.
With this change in focus and expanded product offerings, Fal-ken wants and needs to growand to do so it must extend its reach to a larger, wider audience.
In linking with MLB, it has tied into one of the most popular sports in North America as well as one with global appeal.
This link to baseball should help the company expand its name recognition among consumerssomething it believes will lead to increased tire sales.
As to how soon it will take before Falken sees positive results, we'll likely have to wait a few years to find out. But you can bet that the company is looking to hit a home run.