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Inside Goodyear's Bowl Game Sponsorship Strategy

Find out how the brand combined art and technology to create activations with “sticking power,” and garnered more than 150 million impressions.

By Mitra Sorrells January 19, 2017, 7:00 AM EST

After doing the broad jump, high jump, and a ladder drill, fans received a 30-second slow-motion video of their experience to share on their social channels.  

Photo: Courtesy of Goodyear

Goodyear has been an integral part of college football since 1955, when the Goodyear Blimp provided aerial footage of the Tournament of Roses parade. Since then, the brand has been involved in hundreds of games, providing sponsorship and flying its signature blimp high above the playing fields. For the third year in a row, Goodyear was the title sponsor of the Cotton Bowl Classic, held on January 2 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. This year the company’s marketers tried a new strategy, focused on creating engaging activations on site that would also generate online buzz long after the game ended.

“Last year we played the largest game of cornhole … but it was one and done. It didn’t have sticking power,” says Tiffany Valentine, Goodyear’s general manager for North American marketing for communications and sponsorship. “This year was a big shift beyond just an on-site activation to saying now it’s about amplification. That’s how brands win—by breaking through in new creative ways that go beyond that moment for those individuals.”

As part of that strategy, Goodyear commissioned two tire sculptures from Blake McFarland, an artist who is also a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. Over the course of 15 days and using 460 Goodyear tires, McFarland created seven-foot-tall sculptures of Bucky Badger, the mascot of the University of Wisconsin, and Buster Bronco, mascot of Western Michigan University, which were the two teams facing off in the Cotton Bowl.

Five days before the game, Goodyear unveiled the sculptures in Dallas and moved them into the teams’ respective hotels. The day of the game, the large art pieces were on display at Goodyear’s two activations on either side of the stadium. “All of the fans loved having their pictures taken with this tire art that was custom for their team. It brought Goodyear into the conversation in a unique way like nobody else could,” Valentine says. After the game, Goodyear donated the sculptures to each school. “Now people on both campuses are taking pictures and sharing. It’s more of an evergreen approach,” she says. Goodyear is still gathering data, but to date the tire art has garnered 151 million impressions in total across PR and social campaigns.

In addition to the tire sculptures, Goodyear worked with Next/Now to create activities for fans that combined physical challenges with digital takeaways. Fans stood on an Astroturf floor in front of 10- by 10-foot LED screens to test their ability at three skills: a high jump, a broad jump, and a ladder drill. At the end, the participants' results displayed on the LED screen to create a photo backdrop, and the participants received a 30-second slow-motion video of their experience to share on their social networks.

Valentine says the physical challenges were created to tie into the “blimpworthy” marketing campaign that began at the start of the college football season in September. “Blimpworthy celebrates the spirit of football—hard work, grit, and determination—on and off the field. The experience with those interactive screens, ‘Show us how blimpworthy you are,’ was a way to link our message across all of our campaigns for college football to that moment at an activation.”

The strategy also had an e-commerce component: Along with their 30-second video, participants received a coupon code for a future online tire purchase.

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