Magazine article Marketing

Bridgestone

Magazine article Marketing

Bridgestone

Article excerpt

The tyre company has dropped its 'strategic' F1 tie and must find a new road to sales.

According to Hiroshi Yasukawa, director of Bridgestone Motorsport, the world's biggest tyre manufacturer, its relationship with Formula One was of 'strategic importance'.

He cited the role the tie had played in 'developing its technologies, raising the company's brand awareness and providing its strategic business units around the globe'.

If this is the case, it begs the question as to why Bridgestone, having secured exclusive rights to the series only in 2008, decided to end its association with the most glamorous of all motorsports.

In the nine months to September 2009, Bridgestone's net sales amounted to pounds 12.6bn, just three-quarters of the figure for the same period in 2008. For the full year, it is forecasting net sales of pounds 17.3bn, a 20% drop year on year.

Of course, Bridgestone is not only associated with motoring. It sponsors the Bridgestone International, part of the 2009 World Golf Championships; it also has an association with American football's NFL The brand was a headline sponsor of the NFL's first match at Wembley Stadium in 2007, and sponsors its Super Bowl half-time show. However, as a tyre brand, F1 stood out as its principal sponsorship opportunity.

We asked Jane Asscher, managing partner and chairman at sports marketing agency 23red, which works in Formula One with Bacardi, and Angus McGougan, business director at sports marketing agency Fast Track, how the tyre company can get a grip.

DIAGNOSIS - Two industry experts discuss how Bridgestone can get rolling once more

JANE ASSCHER, managing partner and chairman, 23red

Bridgestone has invested heavily in Formula One, so corporate awareness is probably high. However, one look at its website, a trip to the tyre dealer's, or a conversation with a potential customer reveals it has failed to leverage its costly F1 tie and activate the brand at a trade or consumer level.

Competitors Michelin and Goodyear have a much stronger presence. I'm surprised Bridgestone hasn't yet tapped into the potential of the consumer market; it seems short-sighted, especially with its comprehensive portfolio of products. More worrying is that it is on a Greenpeace shortlist of companies it claims have held back emissions information, which underscores how out of step it is with consumer concerns.

The fact Bridgestone says it will 'redirect resources toward further intensive development of innovative technologies' is positive, but rather vague. It should be careful not to over-invest in developing technological advancements building on the F1 association, and focus on building consumer penetration. …

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