In the last 10 years, Continental Tire the Americas LLC has increased its consumer tire market share dramatically. The result is tangible: Nearly 6 million more Continental and General tires were sold in the U.S. last year than in 2006.
Continental’s Elite Gold dealers had a lot to do with that growth. And on the 2017 Continental Tire Gold Dealer Cruise, company executives thanked them in the best way possible. They gave them the tools to sell even more tires.
“Everything we’re doing... is all about driving the consumers to (our) websites so they can come find you,” said Director of Marketing Travis Roffler. First, consumers are directed to either Continentaltire.com or Generaltire.com with help from the company’s sponsorships and promotional activities. Ultimately, they are taken to each website’s dealer locator page.
“We want to drive them to your store, so they can buy tires at your facility,” said Roffler.
More than 300 Elite Gold dealers plus 12 Gold distributors listened to what Roffler and National Sales Manager Sean McDermaid had to say about the company’s marketing strategy and the Gold program. Roffler highlighted the company’s sports and motorsports sponsorships.
1. NCAA men’s basketball. During the 2015-2016 college basketball season, Continental partnered with 28 schools in the Big 10, Big East, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac 12 and AAC (University of Connecticut) “in geographic areas that make sense to you.” The schools, including eventual champion Villanova, all have a “propensity for their programs to be put on national television.” The Continental name was on courtside signage in all 28 arenas. The company also leveraged its sponsorships with 31 activation dates, which engaged 4,700 fans.Nearly 7 billion impressions were generated by the sponsorships, said Roffler.
Continental partnered with four additional universities during the 2016-2017 season: Michigan State, Virginia, Florida State and the University of Miami in Florida. Local tire dealers were able to participate in close to 40 activation dates.
The company is looking at adding teams for the upcoming season. Roffler said 23% of the people in the U.S. “consider themselves avid fans of college basketball.” That’s close to 75 million people. Continental also benefited from television commercials featuring NBC sports talk show host Dan Patrick as a spokesperson, and will do more with Patrick in 2017-2018.
2. Soccer. Continental is the official tire of the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams and Major League Soccer (MLS), and Roffler said the agreement has been renewed through 2022. That will take Continental through the 2019 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Women’s World Cup, and 2018 and 2022 Men’s World Cups.
Activation cities for 2017 are Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York (Red Bulls), Orlando, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Continental will get more impressions as the MLS expands from 22 teams this year to a planned 28 teams. Roffler said four of the cities vying to join the MLS include Charlotte, Tampa/St. Petersburg and St. Louis.
The Continental brand received 3.1 billion impressions from U.S. soccer and more than 5.8 billion from the MLS last year. Continental promoted its participation in the MLS with TV commercials featuring former professional soccer player Alexi Lalas.3. Motorsports. Continental is the official tire of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), while General is the official tire of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (and the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in 2018). Once again, the Le Mans Prototype 3, Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will run exclusively on Continental tires in 2017. So will a new class: the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda.
IMSA generated nearly 850 million impressions last season, said Roffler.
In stock car racing, General is the official tire and lone supplier of the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) racing series. Continental will leverage the brand at seven ARCA races this year, including Pocono June 9 and July 28.
Roffler said the Hoosier brand will make its presence felt “in the motorsports arena going forward.” Continental purchased Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. in October 2016.
The company, which sponsors a number of anglers in Major League Fishing (MLF), will be the title sponsor of the new MLF General Tire World Championship, presented by Bass Pro Shops. The six days of competition will be broadcast on CBS and the CBS Sports Network beginning June 24. “It’s going to be the next level of fishing,” said Roffler. “This is like the NFL meets fishing.”
“We’re going to add an additional $4 million to your program in 2017,” McDermaid told attendees. It was one of the changes made “to reward and hopefully assure your loyalty in the future.”
Last year, a Gold dealer purchasing 3,000 units would have received a $12,000 volume bonus ($4 per tire). By increasing that to 3,500 this year, the volume bonus will be $24,500. Here’s how it works.
Tiers Bronze Silver Gold
Units 800-1,999 2,000-3,499 3,500+
Reward $4 $5 $7
The Engage 360.com online product and sales training also has evolved. Training is now completely mobile, said McDermaid. Employees will have the opportunity to train whenever and wherever it is convenient for them.Three new tires
Fresh off the launch of the Continental ExtremeContact Sport in February, Continental introduced three General tires to its Elite Gold dealers.
The Grabber HD, the company’s first entry in the all-season heavy-duty tire for the commercial segment, features DuraGen construction technology plus a sidewall curb guard. It has “confident traction, especially when you are off the pavement,” said Product Manager Bob Liu. It is available in eight LT sizes and three euro-metric van sizes, and is backed by a 45-day trial period. Its main competitor is the Firestone Transforce HT.
The G-Max AS-05 UHP all-season tire will replace the AS-03 in May. It features an asymmetric tread pattern — a direct result of dealer feedback — and a 50,000-mile limited tread wear warranty. In addition, Continental’s Visual Alignment Indicators and Replacement Tire Monitor alert drivers when to check alignment or replace the tire.
Roffler said the new G-Max AS-05 is a perfect example of how the company focuses on balance rather than compromise when designing tires. “We’re not willing to sell our soul to gain in one category and give up someplace else.”
It will be launched in 54 sizes that cover more than 90% of its market. Competitors include the BFG g-Force Comp-2 A/S, Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2, Cooper Zeon RS3-G1, Falken Ziex ZE950 A/S and Goodyear Eagle Sport A/S.
The studdable Altimax Arctic12 not only has superior snow and ice traction versus the tire it will replace, the Altimax Arctic, but also 18% more mileage, said Liu. Designed for cars, mini-vans, CUVs and compact SUVs, it completes the General winter tire “power family,” which includes the Grabber Arctic (large SUVs and pickup trucks) and Grabber Arctic LT (work trucks). ■