As befitting their product positioning, tire manufacturers refuse to loosen their grip on sponsorship.

As has been the case for several years, a growing number of tire companies are moving beyond supplier deals with auto racing entities in favor of ties to other sports and additional types of properties.

This year has been extremely active, with companies both large and small significantly expanding their sponsorship line-ups.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC this year expanded its already large portfolio with a new multiyear tie to Major League Baseball on behalf of its Firestone brand.

In addition, the company’s Bridgestone brand made its first foray into the equestrian sports space with ties to the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the latter of which it presented.

Bridgestone also renewed existing partnerships with the NFL and NHL, both of which it sponsors on behalf of the Bridgestone brand.

“Having this relationship with the NFL has already proven to be a tremendous asset in elevating the Bridgestone brand’s consumer awareness and visibility,” said John Baratta, president of BATO’s U.S. & Canada replacement tire sales division, in a statement.

In addition, Kumho Tire U.S.A., Inc. recently established new partnerships with athletic programs at The Ohio State University, University of Florida and several other schools, while Continental Tires the Americas, LLC in January announced a new partnership with Major League Soccer.

And as projected by IEG SR earlier this year, Yokohama Tire Corp. expanded its portfolio with new ties to two NFL teams—the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos.

A notable exception to the diversification trend has been The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. After embarking on a number of non-endemic deals three years ago, North America’s largest tire manufacturer—its flagship brand has 14.5 percent of the replacement tire market, its Dunlop brand two percent and Kelly brand one percent, according to Modern Tire Business—has swung deal-making back the other way in favor of NASCAR and other motorsports properties.

In that regard, Goodyear is similar to the number three U.S. tire maker, Michelin North America, Inc., which almost exclusively focuses on motorsports properties to promote its Michelin (8.5 percent share); BFGoodrich (five percent share), and Uniroyal (three percent share) brands.

The primary reasons why tire manufacturers sponsor:

Promote product positioning. Like other sponsors, tire manufacturers frequently partner with properties to showcase brand attributes such as premium positioning and high performance.

They also use sponsorship to promote product functionality. For example, Nokian Tyres, Inc. is sponsoring the U.S. tour of Meathead Films’ Work It Out skiing movie to bolster its claim to be the inventor of winter tires.

The North American subsidiary of Nokia, Finland-based Nokian Tyres plc is activating the tie by raffling off tires and other goods at each of the tour’s 60 stops.

Gain promotional platforms. Tire manufacturers typically sponsor to access tickets, merchandise and other inventory that can be used in consumer sweepstakes.

Case in point: Yokohama activates its partnerships with the Cowboys, Broncos and other pro sports teams with a promotion that dangles a replica team jersey with purchase of four tires.

The promotions have paid off. “We have seen a lift in unit sales versus prior years and markets were we have not run a promotion,” said Fred Koplin, Yokohama’s director of marketing communications. “Based on that success, we expect to continue and to expand the program.”

The promotion helps provide a point of differentiation from other tire manufacturers that rely on cash rebates, he added.

Engage distribution partners.
While Goodyear and others operate their own retail outlets, most also sell through national and regional tire stores that offer products from many companies.

As a result, tire companies frequently use tickets and other assets to build relations with retailers and their staff. That includes rewarding retailers that meet or exceed sales goals and passing through sponsorship-earned inventory to retailers for their own promotions.