Following new non-endemic deals signed over the past several months by Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., at least two other tire companies plan to expand their sponsorship portfolios in ’08.

Yokohama Tire Corp. plans to sign new deals following a successful foray into sponsorship this year, while Hankook Tire America Corp. is scouting ties with music tours and other types of niche properties.

For its part, Yokohama this fall signed first-time deals with three NFL teams and two college athletic programs as a platform to drive retail traffic. The company leveraged the ties through promotions offering replica jerseys with the purchase of four tires at independent retailers.

“We were happy with the results, and we plan to expand the program beyond its original scope,” said Mark Chung, Yokohama’s director of strategic marketing, who noted the company had to purchase additional jerseys to meet demand.

Yokohama ran the Home Team Pride promotions around partnerships with the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, as well as the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. The company chose the teams based on their markets having a large number of dealers, Chung said.

The subsidiary of Tokyo’s Yokohama Rubber Co. signed the deals after testing the sponsorship waters earlier this year with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and Double-A Reading Phillies minor league baseball teams. The company leveraged both deals with retail promotions.

“They had a tremendous impact on our business,” Chung said.

Meanwhile, Hankook plans to partner with music tours and other types of niche properties not typically associated with tire companies.

“Our company is open to ideas that haven’t been done 50 times before,” said Keven McDonald, brand communication manager for the high-performance tire maker. “We want to break new ground and be positioned as a leader.”

Hankook kick-started that effort this fall with a partnership with Eyeball Records, Inc. The company supplies tires for vehicles driven by the label’s touring bands in exchange for exposure on the company’s Web site and bands’ Myspace pages.

Hankook has already received exposure on more than 100 Web sites as a result of the partnership, said McDonald, who notes the tie may expand to include sponsorship of band tours.

In addition to scouting niche sponsorship opportunities, Hankook is placing more emphasis on activating its sports sponsorships. The company last year took a mobile marketing rig to six MLB venues and next year plans to leverage the ties with retail promotions.

“Four or five years ago it was all about signage and brand awareness. Now we’re activating our sponsorships through local advertising and ticket giveaways,” McDonald said.

The subsidiary of Seoul-based Hankook Tire Co. next year will partner with seven or eight MLB teams, including the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets and Texas Rangers.

McDonald reviews ties; Bill Bainbridge, director of brand communication, signs off.