We are constantly looking for best practices or case studies to learn from. In the field of sports sponsorship, there is currently none better than Bridgestone – Americas Tire Operations.
Recently Bridgestone Americas was selected by Sports Business Journal as the 2012 Sports Sponsor of the Year. The company’s Bridgestone brand is the Official Tire of the NFL, the NHL and the PGA Tour. Its Firestone brand enjoys the same status with the Izod Indy Car Series and Major League Baseball. And as a Nashville headquartered company, they have been the naming rights for Bridgestone Arena since 2010.
What Sets Bridgestone Apart From The Competition?
As we can see from the list above, Bridgestone has made a major commitment to sports marketing. But so have many other companies; what sets Bridgestone apart and establishes them as the best? To find out, I asked Chris Parker, Executive Vice President, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for Bridgestone Arena and Nashville Predators, for his perspective.
To begin with, Chris pointed to the continuity of Bridgestone’s sports portfolio as being a major strength. Continuity suggests that the properties were good fits right from the start. This is because Bridgestone understands their consumers and was determined to effectively align with properties that best addressed those consumers. Then, after identifying the best properties, they made significant investments and long-term commitments. This allowed Bridgestone to “own” the tire category within those properties and to refine and improve their programs over time.
NHL & NFL “Big Events”
For example, Chris talked about Bridgestone becoming the presenting sponsor for the NHL Winter Classic. This was not part of the company’s original league-wide partnership, but was added after Bridgestone saw how well this event could succeed in “addressing their consumers” on multiple levels. As an NHL “jewel” event, the branding opportunity was significant, while the outdoor aspect of the game is perfect for showcasing snow tires, a major revenue segment for Bridgestone. Plus the event was perfect for retail promotion and high level hospitality.
The same scenario occurred with the NFL partnership. Five years ago, Bridgestone became the title sponsor for the Super Bowl halftime show. In February, the Bridgestone Halftime Show featuring Madonna averaged 114 million viewers, the most watched halftime show ever and slightly higher than the game itself! And Bridgestone used that platform to launch its latest brand campaign, aptly titled “Time to Perform”.
Targeted Creative for the Sponsor of the Year
And speaking of campaigns, Chris mentioned the effectiveness of the company’s new sports-focused creative that underscores the relationship with their sports properties while using star players to humorously demonstrate how Bridgestone is bringing its “tire technology to the world of sports”. (And it doesn’t hurt that players you feature like Drew Doughty and Tim Duncan are on teams enjoying great post-season success.) Check out the Bridgestone – Performance Puck video!
The company has also become adept at using their creative to reinforce the connection between a sports property and a specific product’s attributes. As we see in the “Performance Puck” commercial, the Blizzak tire designed for winter conditions is the perfect choice to align with the NHL and the Winter Classic. Similarly, the “Performance Football” is linked with the Potenza tire brand (positioned as tough, providing best in class grip and stability).
And Bridgestone extends its emphasis on sports marketing to the company’s digital assets. The website prominently features Bridgestone Sports, while both their Facebook page and Twitter feed are heavily sports oriented. For instance, in addition to showcasing sports related creative, the Bridgestone Facebook page is currently featuring the launch of the Firestone brand’s Destination Summer promotion where prizes include a trip to the World Series and IndyCar races.
Sports Marketing at Home
Chris then walked me through how Bridgestone uses sports marketing in its “hometown” of Nashville. As you would expect, the company has established different criteria for its headquarter region program. It started by identifying the three primary constituencies that it wishes the program to serve:
The partnership with the Predators and Bridgestone Arena is structured to provide assets that can be activated on behalf of each of these groups.
In addition to regular access to tickets for the Predators and other Bridgestone Arena events, there is the pride that comes from knowing their Employer is playing a major role in supporting of one of the areas premier sports and entertainment assets and is a major contributor to Nashville’s high quality of life.
Bridgestone has a great relationship with its retail network and makes a point of bringing as many of those customers as possible to Nashville and treating them to the high end sports and entertainment experience at a level that only a Naming Rights Partner can provide. They can also activate at retail by taking advantage of several company-owned Firestone Complete Auto Care stores in the Nashville area.
Bridgestone is committed to assisting deserving community groups through access to several Arena assets. For instance, they have established a Community Corner within the Arena that is available on a rotating basis to various community groups to set up displays, distribute information and generally increase awareness. Bridgestone also offers experiential opportunities such as Team Road Trips to be used as auction items.
Finally, I asked Chris how Bridgestone measures the effectiveness of their local programs. He told me they continually monitor the demand for their sports portfolio assets from employees and customers. This demand is consistently high and tells the company they are delivering something of great value to these important constituencies. From a community perspective, they rely on feedback from the organizations they serve as well as perceptions from government and business leaders they interact with. Chris believes that Bridgestone is perceived across the board as the “quintessential corporate citizen”. So, after looking into various aspects of the Bridgestone sports marketing program, I think you’ll agree it’s easy to understand why Sports Business Journal chose them as the Sports Sponsor of the Year and why Bridgestone should be a great example of how the right sports program can be such a powerful tool in helping a company achieve it’s marketing objectives.
What are our thoughts on Bridgestone winning Sports Business Journal’s prestigious Sponsor of the Year award? Were they deserving or do you think another brand should have won? Leave your comments below or tweet us!