Friday, March 21, 2008

Bridgestone - Branding Evolution

Bridgestone Leverages Brand Through Sports Sponsorships

The Nashville Business Journal reported on March 14th that Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC recently received approval from the NHL to become one of their official sponsors. In recent years, Bridgestone has increased its presence in the sports arena, as well as its product offering for certain sports, life golf.

The Bridgestone brand has improved in many ways by (1) countering the premium-brand position of Michelin, and (2) producing sports products that challenge the definition of quality and excellence. When Bridgestone first launched their golf ball line, many golfers, including myself, equated the product to the sub-par Dunlop (another tire manufacturer) golf ball. In the end, the Bridgestone ball sits among the industry’s best balls. In fact, once-considered premium brands, like Slazenger, have shifted their market position to a younger crowd, interested in a power game – a transition from their previous performance game target.

It’s a natural progression for any established company to begin expanding their product offering, and transitioning their identity from a product company to a concept company. When you think of Sony, Apple, or even Coca-Cola, you more than likely no longer think about the specific product that made them famous, but you relate the name more to the concept of quality, with respect to electronics, personal computing, or even beverages. In this same respect, Bridgestone, in my opinion, is making the attempt to become known for making premium products with some derivative of rubber in them. It possibly may not be as clear as the previous three examples, but I don’t think the attempt will hurt their plans for growth and diversification of revenue sources.

This topic serves as an example to small businesses on how a brand develops. Too often, business owners offer a wide array of products or services to either not miss a buck or to support their main product that doesn’t truly “pay the bills”. In either case, chasing every possible buck often consumes more resources than it generates useful revenue, and supplementing a failing product/service with more profitable products/services often means the failing product/service eventually needs to be revamped or eliminated. Please note the word, “often”, because many people will say that the failing product/service has some necessary need that is exempt for ROI justification. For this argument, I have no retort.

Anyway, please keep Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC on your radar for more significant branding moves in the market. They are a Nashville-based company, with a commitment to many local community initiatives, including education and diversity.

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