Motorsports point the way for Kumho
While not one of the world’s giant tyre manufacturers, Kumho is in the top ten and the company realised some time ago that it needed to concentrate on its overseas activities if it were to grow, but this is easier said than done. There is no doubt that established brands have a terrific advantage – everybody knows their name and they have decades of history behind them. Of course, this has not been achieved overnight and is the result of many years of effort and considerable financial outlay and it is a daunting task for a comparative newcomer into a market to try to get its name known, especially when the target is a considerably shorter time frame than decades.
So the question is how to boost awareness in a number of diverse markets across the globe in a manner which makes economic sense? Different countries have differing cultures and tyre requirements, but Kumho realised that a common factor – and one popular in most countries – was that of motorsports. Thus it was that, in the 1990s, Kumho began to develop its involvement in international motorsports, in a strategy that was to become central to the worldwide marketing of the Kumho brand.
This strategy is by no means unique – after all, the Yokohama brand established a reputation for high performance in the UK after cars shod with its tyres won four consecutive British Touring Car championships from 1990 to 1993. However, the biggest pitfall in such a strategy is that, if you are going to go down the motorsports route, then you have to be sure that you are going to be good at it and you need implicit faith in the product. You also need to divert considerable resources towards R&D and to provide the technical back-up that so many motorsports events require nowadays – the tyre manufacturer has to do so much more than merely provide tyres.
This, then, was the route that Kumho decided to pursue and the quality of the racing product has been proved in competition over the years. Perhaps the highest-profile recognition came when Kumho ECSTA S700 tyres were adopted as the control tyre for the Formula 3 Euroseries, which is a series of 10 races, taking place in five different countries (Germany, France, Italy, Austria and The Netherlands).
Further recognition came in 2002, when Kumho signed a five year contract as the official tyre supplier to the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3, which brings together the best drivers from various European national championships. Last year Kumho was the control tyre for the first time and the lap record at Zandvoort in The Netherlands was broken – a dream start for the Korean company.
This year’s Marlboro Masters was contested by 49 drivers from 20 countries and for some of them (notably those from the British and Italian championships, which use another make of tyre) this was their first experience of racing on Kumho tyres. The race took place on a blisteringly-hot day at the Zandvoort track, attended by 55,000 spectators. Kumho branding was much in evidence and, indeed, the company has a very close association with the venue, having adopted a corner at the circuit in order to capitalise on the estimated TV audience of up to 800 million for last year’s event.