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All Sports Tire turns sidewalls into collegiate merchandising

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Tire industry veteran Tom Kopplin is tapping into the fanaticism and buying power associated with college sports by developing specialized tires with collegiate sports team names built into the sidewalls.

"We have created another reason for a person to buy a particular tire and to feel good about the purchase," says Kopplin, chairman and CEO of All Sports Tire Co. "On the sidewall of these tires, we present an opportunity for that person to proudly show off their favorite team’s name, wherever he goes."

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. will manufacture the outlined white letter tires in the most popular SUV and pickup truck sizes. They will be produced at the tiremaker's Fayetteville, N.C., and Union City, Tenn., plants.

"We have the technology that allows us to take this to different steps, perhaps even to build the images of school mascots into the tires, along with the team names," says Jon Rich, Goodyear’s president of North American Tire operations.

The tires will be sold through distributors and tire retailers (discussions are being held to possibly sell the tires through Goodyear retail outlets). In some cases, they also will be available as new vehicle purchase "changeovers."

Kopplin, who has 25 years of sales experience in the tire industry, says fans spend nearly $3 billion annually on college-licensed merchandise.

According to All Sports Tire, market research indicates a substantial segment of fans are passionate enough to purchase the collegiate tires even if they still have useful tread remaining on their existing tires.

Major investors in All Sports Tire Co. include professional golfer Arnold Palmer, former United Airlines Chairman Richard Ferris and former LPGA Commissioner Charles Mechem. Another professional golfer, Fuzzy Zoeller, also is an investor.

All Sports Tire has received official licensing approval by the Collegiate Licensing Co., and will have tires available this month for two schools -- the University of Florida and the Florida State University.

All Sports has hired Sam Behr to pitch the new tires in Florida. Behr used to promote Florida-based Allied Discount Tires with his "tires ain't pretty" ads.

Collegiate tires for fans of the Georgia Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide will follow. The company plans to expand to specific tires for the top 30 college teams as the program grows.

"The early reaction is great. My first sales contact was Barron Tire, a large distributor in Florida, and they gave us an immediate order for 5,000 tires," says Kopplin.

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