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The sports marketing trend

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The sports marketing trend

Sports marketing is a numbers game. Hits on a webpage ad are more important than hits during a baseball or football game. Impressions and views count for more than outcome.

Looking back at the recently completed Major League Baseball season, four tire brands were featured in field-level, behind home plate signage, depending on which stadium you were in. As the “official tire of Major League Baseball,” Firestone could be seen in all 30 major league stadiums in some capacity.

“That board behind home plate can be sold by a local team, but if a game becomes a national broadcast, that becomes a national element that’s sold,” explains Phil Pacsi, vice president of consumer tire marketing in North America for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC.

Hankook signage appeared in 22 of the 30 stadiums, including Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Yokohama could be seen in Angel Stadium of Anaheim, home of the Los Angeles Angels, while Maxxis partnered with the New York Yankees.

The key to impressions is television coverage, not the head count. “Sports reach a lot of people, but it also reaches a lot of eyeballs,” says Bill Barbera, senior vice president of sales for Van Wagner Sports Group. “And it’s global.”

Barbera has worked with Hankook for 10 years. He says home plate signage puts advertising into the telecast, and helps the brand “become part of the game.”

Calvin Pak, general manager of Hankook’s marketing team, says the company has used sports marketing to increase brand awareness and build brand image. It tied this year’s involvement in baseball to two major consumer rebate and car giveaway promotions: “Great Catch” in the spring and “Great Hit” in the fall.

“Especially this year, I think we’ve received a lot of compliments from customers and dealers. One of the things we’re doing differently from previous years is leveraging and creating synergy.”

Maxxis International, based in Taiwan, and its United States subsidiary also have sponsored the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers in the past. “There’s talk about sponsoring the Yankees again next year,” says John Wu, assistant product manager for the Maxxis International—USA’s Automotive Tire Division. “They also are popular back home.”

Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. has been a Los Angeles Angels sponsor for two years. As part of that sponsorship, the brand appears in the Angels’ magazine and on the scoreboard behind home plate. This season, fans received plenty of swag: Nitto handed out commemorative T-shirts on opening day; “Eco Bags” filled with recycled products in May; and a drawstring backpack in July.

Baseball is one of many television-driven, non-racing sports with which tire manufacturers are aligned.

• Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.: National Football League (NFL).

• Yokohama Tire Corp., Kumho: National Basketball Association (NBA).

• Continental Tire the Americas LLC, Kumho: Major League Soccer (MLS).

• Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., Kumho, Continental: collegiate athletics.

• Bridgestone: National Hockey League (NHL), Professional Golfers Association (PGA).

• Toyo: Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Not everyone thinks sports marketing is an effective use of advertising dollars from tire manufacturers. “I still don’t see the value in what everyone’s calling sports marketing,” says Richard Smallwood, CEO and president of Falken Tire Corp.

“When we see the signage in the stadiums, it shows the brand, but not what the brand stands for. There is no emotional attachment or meaning assigned to the brand. The average American consumer is exposed to upwards of 3,000 brand messages a day. How does that static sign set your brand apart from all of the other brand messages bombarding the consumer?

“What does it mean? What is the brand value? That’s where we struggle with it,” he says. “We don’t see the value in it.”

Smallwood prefers motorsports, especially when his tire brand is competing against “the best in the world. Tires represent an interaction with the car, so there’s a lot of affiliation with them.”

In the American Le Mans Series GT Class, for example, Falken competes against Michelin, Dunlop and Yokohama.

Motorsports involvement certainly counts as sports marketing, although it’s a whole different animal. There’s Goodyear with NASCAR and Pirelli with Formula One. BFGoodrich and General are associated closely with Baja racing. And many other brands are known at the grassroots level.

Signage is one thing. What about advertising on uniforms? Soccer teams in Europe already sell it. Hats and shirts in golf have logos. Some NFL and NHL practice jerseys feature advertising.Barbera thinks within 10 years, baseball will allow advertising on uniforms, although perhaps not to NASCAR specifications.

“It’s become more and more commonplace around the world. It would be a tremendous revenue boon for the team.”

Bottom line, does it sell more tires for the company? Tires are sold, not purchased. Independent tire dealers directly affect the sale 85% of the time, so they have to be convinced more often than the tire buyer.

Ultimately, it’s all about making money, and perhaps raising market share in the process. The 2011 financial statements will be telling.

Here’s a recap of how tire manufacturers used different sports to promote their brands this year, as they appeared on our website, For a look at how retailers such as Belle Tire Distributors (check out the scoreboard on our cover) are involved in sports marketing, read “Play ball! Sports marketing and America’s pastime are no strangers to independent tire dealers” on the MTD  website under the “Articles” channel and “Features” listing.



“Kumho Tire U.S.A. has seen a very positive and dynamic impact come from our sports marketing endeavors,” says Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing. “Our brand awareness, enthusiasm and excitement have grown immensely amongst our employees, consumers and dealers by not only our prominent presence in various stadiums and arenas, but by the special focus and attention we pay to actually connecting with the fans and teams.”

June 30: Kumho adds Bills to sports marketing push

Kumho is the official tire of the Buffalo Bills NFL team. Kumho recently announced the new partnership for the 2011-2012 season, which includes promotions with Dunn Tire LLC.

As part of the agreement, Kumho will receive branding on the back of Buffalo Bills season tickets, season suite tickets, individual game tickets and online downloadable tickets.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Dunn Tire will offer ticket holders $75 off any four Kumho brand tires as a special “ticket back” offer redeemable at any Dunn Tire location.

(On Aug. 31, Kumho announced another NFL sponsorship, this one with the New York Jets for the next two seasons.)

June 2: Kumho prepares to kick off soccer promotions

Kumho is teaming up with Sullivan Tire Co. Inc. and former United States Men’s National Soccer Team player Alexi Lalas to promote “America SCORES New England.”

The tie to Lalas is appropriate for Kumho, because it also showcases its partnership with the U.S. men’s soccer team. Kumho is not only the official tire of the men’s and women’s soccer teams, but also a sponsor of Major League Soccer.

SullivanTire, based in Norwell, Mass., runs 53 Sullivan Tire & Auto Service retail locations throughout New England. Lalas will meet and greet soccer fans on Friday, June 3, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Brockton, Mass., store.

On June 4, Kumho will launch its philanthropic social media campaign supporting America SCORES New England, a non-profit organization that empowers youth through the unique combination of athletics, creative writing and service-learning.

April 29: Kumho advances to the second round

So far, so good for the NBA teams sponsored by Kumho. Both the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat advanced to the second round of the 2011 playoffs.

In Los Angeles on April 20th, nearly 19,000 fans showed up at the Staples Center to watch the home team defeat the New Orleans Hornets in game two of the series. Fans received a purple Lakers — and Kumho-branded — rally towel with a “Let’s Go” rally cry.

In addition to Kumho signage on the Jumbotron and the lower ring section of the stadium, there was a PA announcement during the game thanking Kumho Tire for providing the rally towels to the fans, and promoting a $100 rebate offer on a set of Ecsta LE Sport high performance tires.

Even the Laker Girls wore red, fitted Kumho branded shirts during a second-quarter routine.


“For us, sports marketing is an integrated approach, not just a branding approach,” says Dan King, senior vice president of sales and marketing. He adds that Yokohama focuses on regional promotions in order to get its dealers involved.

Oct. 3: Yokohama partners with the New England Patriots

The New England Patriots NFL team is now part of Yokohama’s roster of sports marketing partnerships. The company announced it is sponsoring the NFL’s three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots for the 2011 season. (Yokohama also sponsors the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens.)

According to Shawn Denlein, Yokohama director of consumer product sales, the Patriots’ sponsorship includes Yokohama’s “Home Team Pride” program, Oct. 9-Nov. 6. Consumers can receive a free $85 gift card to the Patriot Pro Shop with the purchase of four Yokohama tires from participating local dealers.

As the Official Tire of the New England Patriots, Yokohama will receive media exposure including weekly in-game and post-game television spots, features and billboards on the weekly telecast, as well as tickets and hospitality.

“The Patriots have a huge, passionate fan base which, along with the ‘Home Team Pride’ gift card promotion, will help generate foot traffic in our dealers’ stores,” says Denlein.

May 16: Yokohama becomes a Phillie phanatic

Yokohama has added the Philadelphia Phillies to its lineup in 2011 (in April, the company announced it was helping the Los Angeles Angels celebrate their 50th anniversary).

The sponsorship agreement includes:

• a combination of signage behind home plate and on the first and third base lines;

• pre-game, post-game and in-game spots on the Phillies flagship radio station throughout the season; and

• in-stadium displays and in-game announcements on the public address system and LED scoreboard.

One of the promotions is the “Home Team Pride” program, which runs through June 12. During the promotional period, consumers can receive a free official replica Phillies jersey with the purchase of four Yokohama tires from participating dealers.

Yokohama also partnered with two NBA teams, the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, during the 2010-2011 season.



In 2010, Hankook signed marketing agreements with 11 Major League Baseball stadiums to show its name and logo on signage behind home plate. That number jumped to 22 stadiums this year.

Hankook hasn’t made a final decision on its sports marketing plans for 2012. “We will probably build on the momentum,” says Pak.

Sept.  6:  Hankook awards Ford Explorer to contest winner

Teresa Holder of Jonesboro, Ind., is the winner of Hankook Tire America’s Great Catch 2011 Ford Explorer Limited Giveaway. The Great Catch giveaway had more than 44,000 entries submitted.

Soo II Lee, president of Hankook Tire America Corp., presented Holder with the key to her new vehicle on-field before the first pitch of the Detroit Tigers’ game versus the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park in Detroit, Mich, on Aug. 30, 2011.

No purchase was necessary to enter the contest. Holder, 56, said she entered online and had never purchased Hankook tires. “I definitely know what kind of tires I’ll be buying from now on!” she said, adding she buys her tires from Tire Barn Warehouse in Marion, Ind.

Following the pre-game presentation ceremony, Holder and her husband, Roger, joined Lee in a VIP suite to watch the game. She also received a signed baseball from Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez.

The Great Catch Mail-in Rebate program was available to consumers who purchased four select tires of any size between April 1 and June 30 from an authorized Hankook retailer. Hankook launched its Great Hit promotion Sept. 1. Consumers who purchase four select tires through Nov. 30 with be eligible for a mail-in rebate of up to $80.


“Cooper Tire understands that the typical sports fan provides a high visibility target for Cooper’s brand messages,” says Hal Gardner, vice president of marketing communications and market intelligence. “For example, our consumer research suggests that over half of all sports broadcast viewers are directly linked to replacement tire purchases, so it makes sense for Cooper to sponsor events such as the ABC/ESPN College Football Halftime Show to effectively reach this valuable consumer audience.

“Sports marketing also has potential to reach the enthusiast consumer demographic that typically is a strong supporter of Cooper’s light truck, SUV and UHP products, so the fit is a good one with respect to overall audience participation with our brand.”

Aug. 26: Cooper continues with halftime show

Cooper Tire is staying active with the ABC College Football Halftime Show. For the fifth consecutive year, Cooper will sponsor the show’s “Saturday Afternoon Halftime Reports” on ABC. The show is a premier broadcast that brings viewers the latest collegiate scores, game previews and expert game analysis.

“This relationship brings together two iconic brands that stand for tradition, performance and the pursuit of excellence,” says Julie Smalstig, Cooper Tire’s consumer and channel marketing director. “This sponsorship also offers a meaningful opportunity for Cooper to continue enhancing its marketing support for our dealer network.”

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), college football set a record for the number of people attending games last season. Close to 50 million fans turned out to watch NCAA football games. This represents an increase of more than 1.3 million fans, or nearly 3%, from the prior year. Cooper also will launch its consumer-driven Take the Money and Ride national rebate event (Aug. 25-Nov. 7, 2011) during the start of college football.


“At Toyo Tires, we continually evaluate all of our marketing initiatives to ensure we are creating a positive ROI for the company and our dealers,” says Amy Coleman, senior director of marketing. “This includes our sponsorships and event support. “Whether it’s a motorsports event, a college sports team, UFC or even an individual athlete, all of our sponsorships must align with our overall company goals and objectives. Our goals include growing consumer awareness, reinforcing our reputation as a premium tire brand and driving traffic to our dealers’ stores.”

May 10: Toyo sponsors Pac-10 Championships

Building on a five-year relationship with the Pacific-10, or Pac-10, Conference, Toyo Tire U.S.A. is the presenting television sponsor of the 2011 Pac-10 Track & Field Championships.

In addition to the 2011 Pac-10 Track & Field Championships, Toyo sponsors Pac-10 basketball and football, and also the Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year. “The dedicated student-athletes of college sports exemplify the Toyo Tires mantra: ‘Driven to Perform,’” says Marty Furman, Toyo’s chief operating officer.

Jan. 18: Toyo to sponsor Ultimate Fighting Championship

Toyo Tire U.S.A. is returning as a sponsor and official tire of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for 2011.

The “Toyo Tires” name will once again adorn sides of “The Octagon” during six live UFC Pay-Per-View events. In addition, the Toyo Tires logo will be included on the canvas for select UFC Fight Night events broadcast on VERSUS and Spike TV. Toyo was the official tire of the UFC from 2006 to 2008. UFC programming is broadcast in more than 145 countries and territories, reaching 354 million homes worldwide in 19 different languages.


At the Continental dealer meeting earlier this year, Director of Marketing Travis Roffler told attendees the company was utilizing Major League Soccer and Grand-Am road racing to grow the Continental brand in the U.S.

“A little over four million people attended Major League Soccer games last year, creating just over 68 million impressions with an on-site value of just over $10 million for the brand.

“If you just call up some consumer and say, ‘Name a tire brand,’ the average American consumer answers Continental tire only 5% of the time. The average MLS fan answers Continental tire more than three times that number. And among Grand-Am fans, 46% are aware of the Continental tire brand.”


Reinforcing brand awareness -- Bridgestone promotes tires in major ways

Being the “official tire” of a major sport is not enough, according to Phil Pacsi, vice president of consumer tire marketing in North America for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC.

His sports marketing philosophy is to promote from within. “You should promote within that particular sport. We don’t cover the entire season, but pick selected times during the season.”

Bridgestone is heavily involved in the NFL, NHL and PGA with its Bridgestone brand. In Major League Baseball and the IZOD IndyCar Series, Bridgestone promotes the Firestone brand.

“A lot of our spend is at the end of the year leading up to the Super Bowl and the Bridgestone Halftime Show, which is our crown jewel event,” says Pacsi. In addition to print, online and television advertising, the company gets its dealers involved as much as possible.

For Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, Texas, in 2011, Bridgestone dealers in the New Orleans, La., area got together and collectively promoted the brand. Pomp’s Tire Service in Green Bay, Wis., also took advantage of the “pass-through rights” negotiated by Bridgestone, allowing the dealership to use the Super Bowl logo.

Close to 111 million people tuned into the game, making Super Bowl XLV the most watched program in television history. Also, there were 103,219 people in attendance in Dallas — not counting the 5,000 people who paid $200 each to stand outside the stadium and watch the game on a giant TV screen.

To put that number in perspective, the population of the United States is 308.7 million people, based on the 2010 Census.

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