AKRONFore! That ball is out of here! Nothing but net.
All common sports catchphrases that tire makers are cozying up to as they try to gain more traction with potential customers, many of whom are what you might call rabid sports fans. And the trend of tire manufacturers' becoming the official tire of various sporting leagues, sponsoring sport teams and even individual events has put tires in the center of the ring.
The most recent illustration of this trend is the deal Falken Tire Corp. struck to be the official tire of Major League Baseball (MLB).
Our brand has evolved a lot in the past five
to six years, and we've evolved from a high-performance company that sold mainly performance tires to a company that now offers everything from small car tires all the way up to medium truck tires, Rick Brennan, Falken's executive director of marketing, told Tire Business.
And our past activity has all been centered around motorsports, which worked great for the high-performance market, but as we go into other markets with new kinds of tires, we find that we need a little bit more of a broad message than just a motorsports message taking out to the normal consumer.
Entering into sports marketing is the next evolution of our brand to get the attention of the people Falken needs to reach with all the products it sells today, Mr. Brennan added.
When you look at the opportunities that are out there, you have to really understand the difference between the different sports series that are out there..., he said.
And then also, do you sponsor a team? Or do you sponsor a league? So the challenges with just sponsoring single teams are that you really only hit a single market. And for us, our vision was to be able to talk to the whole United States.
While Falken Tire is the official tire of MLB, other tire manufacturers still have the opportunity to sponsor individual teams in the league, Matt Bourne, MLB spokesperson, told Tire Business.
How we designate sponsorships at the league level and the team level is really the difference between national and local. So, Falken as a Major League Baseball sponsor has the right to do national promotions, national advertising, encompassing MLB logo and the collection of all 30 teams together, he explained.
Mr. Bourne added that if a company is a sponsor of a team, then you have the ability to promote your partnership with the team in that market, in that region and just using team marks....
Falken is a sponsor of the Tigers before they became a sponsor of Major League Baseball, so in that instance, there is a defined area in and around Detroit where they could do advertising, promotions and marketing activity in conjunction with the Tigers logos and...Detroit Tigers intellectual property inside that specific area.
Prior to this, Bridgestone Americas' Firestone brand was the official tire of MLB, from 2010 through 2014. John Baratta, president of consumer tire replacement sales, called that deal in 2010 a tremendous opportunity to elevate the Firestone brand to new heights of consumer awareness and visibility.
Falken's contract kicks off with this year's post season and will interface with fans directly at all of the post-season games, including the World Series, as well as at next year's All-Star Week. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based tire marketer also will have activation on-site and have Falken giveaways, including a seat giveaway at the first game of the World Series, where one attendee will win a set of Falken tires.
The company's contract runs through 2017, with plans to continue it if things go well, Mr. Brennan said. Neither Falken nor MLB disclosed the value of the contract.
Falken also recently revamped its motorsports strategy, ending a six-year engagement with the Tudor United Sports Car Challenge and moving more heavily into support of grass-roots racing venues. (See story on page 15.)
Kal Tire also recently announced that the Canadian Football League (CFL) has partnered with the company and Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich brand, which will become the official tire of the CFL. Kal and BFG will become sponsors of the CFL, the 2015 CFL playoffs and the 2015 Grey Cup game to be played in late November. Additionally, Kal Tire said the company, along with BFGoodrich Tires, will have a physical and digital advertising presence both on the sidelines at Canada's biggest celebration of football and digitally on the league's www.CFL.ca website.
The sports marketing trend is not just in the tire industry, according to Lisa Wood, brand development manager, Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C., but one across various markets. It has large impressions and a captive audience, she said.
When selecting sports marketing as an avenue, she said Conti knows where the audience is going to be every week for those campaigns, which fits a target market the company is pursuing.
Sports are in our company's DNA, said Phil Pacsi, vice president of sports/event marketing and training, Bridgestone Americas. Harvey Firestone became the first sports marketer after he went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the early 1900s.
In 2016, we will celebrate the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Fire-stone tires were on the winning car in 1911 and will be on the winning car in 2016.
Bridgestone has scaled back its motorsports involvement the past few years, moving more heavily into sports/event marketing support, both in North America and globally, Mr. Pacsi said.
Sports marketing has an active audience, which can differ from some other venues.
Sports are an arena where people are taking in the environment and soaking up the atmosphere, said Kyle Roberts, director of marketing for Nexen Tire America Inc., which has had ties with soccer, baseball and college basketball in recent years.
With sports, the marketing message may be more easily digested by consumers, as they become more predisposed to tune out messages distributed by print, radio or television, he said.
In addition to its longtime motorsports sponsorships in NASCAR and the NHRA, Goodyear has launched a season-long marketing program focused on its involvement in college football. For the second year in a row, the Akron tire maker will be the title sponsor of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, a semi-final game in the college football playoff that will be played on New Years Eve in Dallas.
For the rest of the storyincluding how companies choose the markets where they want brand exposure, and the various marketing initiatives by tire marketersgo to www.tirebusiness.com.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]ain.com; 330-865-6143; Twitter: @jenniferkarpus