Yokohama Marketing to Tyre Connoisseurs
As one of the world’s top ten tyre manufacturers distributing premium brands, Yokohama are aware of the marketing opportunities for the sector in conjunction with motorsport. The company has a history of over fifty years supporting various motorsport events worldwide, and now has provider agreements in place with such prestigious events as the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and 24 Heures Du Mans in addition to control tyre supplier exclusivity for the Formula Master Series and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile-accredited World Touring Car Championship. T&A visited the manufacturer at the latter competition for its 13th and 14th rounds at Brands Hatch on 27 July with the question in mind: how exactly does this sort of event partnership help Yokohama sell more tyres?
Well, to begin with, we can rule out making direct sales at the event – the presence of Yokohama as a WTCC partner represents a massive financial commitment for the company, considering the large number of tyres required and the presence of company representatives and displays, not to mention the materials distributed to the crowd. Of course, the major purpose of Yokohama’s involvement is – from a corporate perspective – the ability to promote the brand, especially considering the WTCC regulation that means Yokohama are the solitary “control tyre” provider. Over the weekend, visitors are made fully aware that the rubber they see being used out on track comes solely from Yokohama’s Advan range, through the pre-eminence of the brand around the track.
The Yokohama Advan logo was distributed liberally around the Brands Hatch circuit, especially noticeable on the bridge over the track as cars approached Clark corner and the home straight. In addition, just beyond the final straight in the pit lane, the brand adorned a lorry’s trailer, prominently parked so that it was permanently within the sight of grandstand viewers peering towards Clark.
Naturally, the prominence of the logo means little without acknowledging the context and audience. Yokohama was able to distribute promotional materials to the crowd of 35,000 motor racing enthusiasts over the weekend. If ever there is a crowd au fait with the benefits of the premium brands and interested in finding out more, then it is likely to be in attendance of one of only three FIA-recognised events. These materials ranged from lanyards holding Yokohama-branded info-cards, to actual used Advan slicks, which were handed to a lucky few petrolheads at the morning’s WTCC autograph session.
The proximity to tyres themselves continued in a crowd competition to find the quickest wheel-changer among the assembled masses. The contest, which continues throughout the season, saw an entrant on Saturday 26 July come up with an astonishingly fast time of 25.25 seconds – the season’s current record. T&A’s recorded time is not fit for publication, but your correspondent will say that he didn’t quite double the current record. And in any case, the sun was in his eyes. This sort of proximity to tyres, within the context of a friendly competition, only increases the potential for interest in the brand of rubbers adorning the audience’s cars, and Yokohama’s strong presence at the event – unique among tyre manufacturers – gives them a strong platform for branding.
Of course, the crowd of 35,000 represents a healthy target audience, but the presence of the Eurosport television channel – which covers the two WTCC races live – allows the branding to be seen during the race, and, thanks to Yokohama’s TV advertising strategy, when the channel takes advert breaks between its coverage.
This weekend, viewers across the globe tuning in for coverage of the event would have had the opportunity to see the Yokohama Advan brand between the live pictures. The advert itself, shot to emphasise the manufacturer’s red and black corporate colours, reflects the tyre’s target audience by using the strap-line, “Not for Everyone”. In this sense, the tyre line is equated with the high-performance levels necessary to fit the sports cars of the races and appeals directly to the connoisseur. “This is a premium brand,” chime the tagline and the glossy filtered images onscreen. The brand’s presence as OE on high-performance vehicles from premium car manufacturers – such as the Aston Martin Vanquish parked conspicuously outside Yokohama’s corporate marquee – fits with this appeal to the savvy tyre consumer; a demographic that is certain to have some crossover with the WTCC audience.
It would be uncharitable to suggest that business interests were the only reason for Yokohama’s continued support at the event. The company’s UK directors were very keen to emphasise their fondness for the event and, though business decisions obviously come first, the chance to be involved in supporting a world championship sporting event is one that Yokohama relishes. Of course, the PR gleaned from such an event is only enhanced by the company’s enthusiastic approach. Its desire to continue to be the official control supplier for WTCC reflects the power of the event to lend its prestige to Yokohama and its Advan brand.