Extreme Off-Road Motorsports Yield Goodyear Big Dividends

AKRON, Ohio, Aug. 2 The unyielding rock of extreme rock crawling is yielding big dividends for Goodyear.

The results are hard to knock, according to Steve Myers, marketing manager for Goodyear's light truck tires. For example, Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tire sales climbed a hefty 47 percent last year; so far this year, sales have jumped another 35 percent.

In addition, American-produced Wrangler MT/Rs are being exported all over the world, specifically to Australia, Chile, Peru, Thailand, Germany, Great Britain, Argentina and Venezuela. The tires are manufactured at Goodyear plants in Fayetteville, N.C., and Topeka, Kan.

Sales figures parallel growth of the Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals, which is drawing 15,000 to 20,000 spectators per event. Myers said the series "serves as the perfect backdrop for our event marketing program. Goodyear dealers participate in ride-and-drives, which allow them to test Wrangler MT/R tires while driving a vehicle accompanied by an off-road expert.

"Local dealers also schedule sales events when the series comes to town. Many of the celebrity drivers attend these events to sign autographs," Myers said.

Goodyear has spent little on a print Wrangler MT/R advertising program, opting for grassroots word-of-mouth and extreme off-road motorsports that include Championship Off Road Racing, Best of the Desert racing and its rock crawling series.

"We were stuck between a rock and a hard place when we introduced Wrangler MT/R in 1999. Our partnership with the Rock Crawlers Association of America certainly solved how we would launch the tire and grow sales," Myers added.

The new extreme motorsport helped highlight Goodyear's technology in tire durability and toughness. Myers said the tire's Durawall technology, which resists tire sidewall punctures, was vital to the tire's successful performance.

As it turned out, timing also was crucial for a tire that's tough as nails. On the heels of another manufacturer's tire recall, J.D. Power and Associates said a 2001 replacement tire study showed tire reliability and durability were the most important reasons for choosing tires. Tire price came in second.

Late last year, Goodyear marketers polled U.S. consumers and found that emergency responsiveness was the most important tire benefit. Reliability, durability and value followed in importance.

Together, Goodyear, Skyjacker Suspensions and sanctioning body RCAA have "shared a vision to grow and improve rock crawling competition. We've added live commentators and scoring leader boards like golf events to enhance fans' experience," Myers said.

An added benefit to consumers, the same Wrangler MT/R tires that competitors use in the rock crawling series can be purchased at the local Goodyear retailer. The series wraps up its third season Sept. 20 and 21 in Johnson Valley, Calif.

Due to Wrangler MT/R's success on the rocks and at off-road racetracks, a halo effect benefits other Wrangler tire lines. "Our plans include several surprises, such as a new supporting cast for MT/R," he said.

Goodyear's bottom line also capitalizes from MT/R's higher margins and top-line growth. On the rocks, the tire stands on firm ground.

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