LOS ANGELESBridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C. (BATO) will continue to invest in marketing and advertising its brands in 2017.
These plans include major sponsorships with the National Football League, National Hockey League and Professional Golfers' Association, said Philip Dobbs, BATO's chief marketing officer, during the company's recent Consumer Tire Business Meeting in Los Angeles.
This follows a milestone year in which Bridgestone became a major sponsor of the Olympic Games, starting with the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Firestone also was the spec tire for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May
These and other marketing activities delivered 2.2 billion impressions for the Bridge-stone brand and more than 2 billion impressions for the Firestone brand, Mr. Dobbs said.
In 2017, television will remain an important part of Bridgestone's marketing plans, but the company also will increase the use of digital throughout its efforts, said Amber Holm, vice president of brand marketing, U.S. and Canada, for consumer replacement tire.
But that does not mean simply adding more digital marketing, she said. Instead, we are shifting our mindset to be marketers in a digital world, where digital programs are core to how we interact with consumers, because it's time to ensure that we match evolving consumer behavior with all of our marketing efforts.
In 2017, she anticipates the consumer tire unit will reach more than 7 million visitors on its website and more than 1.5 million followers on social media. In addition, the company expects to drive more than 100,000 calls from the Bridgestone website to its dealers' stores through its dealer locator.
Bridgestone's DriveGuard run-flat tire will continue to be a focus in 2017, Ms. Holm said.
DriveGuard continues to add a significant halo to the Bridgestone brand, she said, as people who see DriveGuard advertising are more likely to say that Bridgestone is innovative, is a leading brand and is a premium tire worth paying for.
For the Firestone brand, the company expects to drive more than 14 million visits to its website, will engage with 1.5 million users on social media and drive more than 300,000 calls from the company's Firestone website to dealers' stores, Ms. Holm said.
In addition, the company will continue to build on its Drive with Firestone campaign with more Truck Stuff, a program launched in 2016 to drive growth in the Firestone Destination and Transforce light truck tire lines.
Next year we will take Truck Stuff to the next level with new product launches, new television advertising and increased social activation and in-store presence, Ms. Holm said.
To help drive sales of Firestone and Bridgestone tires, the company will offer four store promotions covering 24 weeks in 2017 to drive consumers to dealers' outlets: for Bridgestone in the spring and fall, for Firestone in the summer and a new Firestone Truck Stuff promotion in October. The latter promotion drew spontaneous applause from dealers at the meeting.
To help dealers sell more tires, BATO is offering several selling tools. These include:
c Tire Navigator, a proprietary big data tool launched in 2015 that helps predict tire demand in the U.S. down to a micro market level. Through it Bridgestone can make individual inventory recommendations to tire dealers based on that demand, said Chris Tavares, director of sales operations.
Tire Navigator links millions of data points in one tool, including the OE information for car manufacturers selling vehicles in the U.S. and the registrations for 259 million registered vehicles since 1961.
Tire Navigator is different from competitors' versions in three ways, Mr. Tavares said. Recommendations generated by it are based on the actual local demand and not historical sales. The system provides actual customer addresses. It also uses OE shares and car parc data to become more responsive to changes affecting the market and to actually start predicting first replacement sales.
c Tire Connect, an online selling solution Bridgestone purchased last year that allows dealers to get full credit for the tire sale, not just the mandated commission.
Online tire selling is growing, said Michael Fluck, senior director, digital marketing and strategy for BATO, noting that 9 percent of recent tire purchasers bought online. More importantly, he said, 56 percent of consumers said they may or definitely will buy tires online in the future.
BATO conducted a successful beta pilot of Tire Connect last year and is rolling the program out nationally. It is currently live with 35 dealers representing 66 points of sale and has garnered more than 1 million tire searches resulting in more than 40,000 tire quotes, Mr. Fluck said.
c Tire Connect Side by Side Selling Tool, a counter design that allows the consumer and salesperson to stand side by side, look at the screen and go through the purchasing journey together. The Tire Connect Side by Side tool is powered by the same data as the online Tire Connect Tool.
In pilots we found that when the salesperson steps out in front of that counter, giving the consumer first-hand access to all that information, the level of trust goes up, Mr. Seidel said.
And when that level of trust goes up, it's easier to make that sale, not only in tires, but the other services, as well.