Part II: Sports Marketing Proves That a Rolling (Bridge)Stone Gathers No Moss - Tire Review Magazine

Part II: Sports Marketing Proves That a Rolling (Bridge)Stone Gathers No Moss

NYSportsJournalism.com recently interviewed Phil Pacsi, vice president of North America Consumer Tire Marketing for Bridgestone Americas, about the company’s sports marketing eeforts, sports fans and consumers, Tiger Woods and The Who. Part I of this interview appeared yesterday on Tirereview.com.

Q: Bridgestone will be title sponsor of the Super Bowl XLIV half time show for the third consecutive season. What will it be like having The Who after Tom Petty at Super Bowl XLII and Bruce Springsteen at Super Bowl XLIII?

Pacsi: We’re getting more and more excited about that as it gets closer, and more people I speak with have very big expectations about this half time show. Both with the Winter Classic and the Super Bowl, the biggest problem I personally have is the number of people asking me for tickets. I don’t have tickets to give to people. The Winter Classic and the Super Bowl are both difficult to get.

Q: This is Bridgestone’s third consecutive Super Bowl half time. Has the impact lessened at all?

Pacsi: The Super Bowl and the half time show have enormous power. People talk about the Super Bowl almost all year, and besides the game itself, they talk about two things: The commercials and the half time entertainment. These elements create a lot of buzz, and to have the Bridgestone name associated with the half time show is an incredible opportunity.

Q: Bridgestone also has had TV commercials during the Super Bowl. Will your new spots during the next game create buzz?

Pacsi: They will. We will have two new commercials and we plan to have some teasers in early January [during the Winter Classic and NFL playoffs] to get the buzz going.

Q: The Winter Classic has gone from zero-to-60 in three years, but the Super Bowl half time show as a major entertainment and marketing event can be traced back to Super Bowl XXVII when Michael Jackson performed. Does it still have room for growth and continued marketing support?

Pacsi: I really think it does. I know that the NFL has been looking at, and continues to look at and access, where it can go and where it needs to go, what should the half time entertainment be. The NFL is looking at Super Bowl L as a milestone event, so I think they are planning a half time show to be a milestone as well.

Q: The NFL moved the Pro Bowl to Miami the week before Super Bowl XLIV, so will that add anything to the Super Bowl buzz?

Pacsi: It will be interesting to see how that works out. Until they see the results, I think the jury is still out on that.

Q: What is Bridgestone’s status as the official tire of the NFL and the company’s association with the half time show moving forward?

Pacsi: We became the first official tire of the NFL in 2007. Our current deal expires at the end of this season. We are in negotiations with the NFL at this point.

Q: John Baratta, president of consumer tire replacement sales for Bridgestone Americas, said that the new alliance with MLB could elevate the Firestone brand to "new heights of consumer awareness and visibility." Would that be a significant replacement should Bridgestone not remain the official tire of the NFL or the NHL?

Pacsi: The best-case scenario for us moving forward is to have partnerships with MLB, NFL and NHL. That is our intent. We like the performance they are giving us and the positioning with the brands. There is always room for improvement but these are things in which we can mutually work together.

Q: Bridgestone Golf has a major presence in the sport and Bridgestone recently extended deals as the official tire of the PGA and also as title sponsor of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, held in August, where Woods is defending champion and has won the title seven times. If he does not play in 2010, what impact would that have on the Tour?

Pacsi: We’ve already seen the impact when he missed a significant part of the season in 2008 to recover from knee surgery. It would have a big impact on the TV ratings and on overall awareness. But it is commensurate of the PGA Tour to try to see what they can do keep awareness and interest high, whether it is to build on the other players or in other ways to counteract that Tiger effect and keep their viewers and fans involved.

Q: Bridgestone’s alliances tend to be more with events than specific athletes, although you do work with Mark Messier, who is retired. Given what has happened over the past year with Woods, Michael Phelps, Manny Ramirez and others, how do you feel about that strategy, and do you feel that athletes have the power to actually influence consumers?

Pacsi: When we were making our decisions about what we were going to do for the brand, we very seriously looked at individual athletes, we looked at leagues and we looked at high-profile events. For our purposes we felt that the league affiliations and the high-profile events was the position where we needed to be with the brand to get the overall umbrella effect.

Q: Even given the current situation with Woods, are there still positive aspects in aligning with individual athletes?

Pacsi: Using an individual player or endorser does have some benefit, especially when you can look at integration into your product. For instance, our golf division does have some players, and they use the golf equipment. Fred Couples and Brandt Snedeker, who was the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2007. When they do well in tournament play, you receive a lot of brand awareness and you get a lot of exposure. In July the Bridgestone Golf division signed Lee Trevino, who is an epic star in the golf world and has brought some very nice movement to the golf brand. In hockey, our alliance and allegiance with Mark Messier, with whom we sponsor the Mark Messier Leadership Award Presented by Bridgestone (which recognizes an individual as a superior leader in hockey, and as a contributing member of society) and the Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award (to encourage leadership, community spirit and to reward youth hockey players or mentor/coaches for their contributions to youth sports or education). He is a great person and the awards are nice tie-ins to everything that he exemplifies both on and off the ice.

Q: What have been the major shifts in Bridgestone’s marketing strategies when looking at ways to reach consumers?

Pacsi: Everything is fair game at this point: traditional marketing, new media, Twitter, Facebook, especially moving into 2010. We put out some feelers into different areas this past year. We are taking it slow, but in 2010 there will be movement into more non-traditional media. That is where everything is going. Our belief has always been that we don’t want to put something out there to support a product and not do it right. We may not always be the quickest to respond to new trends but when we do it’s the right way. Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, we are not just putting a site out there and not have it updated with new information on a regular basis. Many companies do that – the upload a site and then forget about it. But it is dynamic. It constantly needs to be monitored, upgraded and changed.

Q: Looking ahead to 2010, what are Bridgestone’s marketing challenges and goals?

Pacsi: We are working on renewing with the NFL and NHL. That is high on the list. The challenges in 2010 will not be unlike those in 2009. We will still feel the effects of the economy. Our goal will be to continue to keep our awareness of the brand out there. Ultimately at some point things are going to break free. We akin buying tires to going to the dentist. It’s not something that people want to do – it’s something they have to do at times. What we do know is that people are putting off their tire purchases. We hope that when the need does arise that they will remember Bridgestone, put us or keep us in their considerations and be there. We definitely have been reminding people with the things we do that we are out there.

(This interview by Barry Janoff, executive editor of NYSportsJournalism.com appeared on that site on Dec. 21.)

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