SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico—In an effort to increase its brand awareness, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. is changing marketing strategies to emphasize sports and interactive fan experiences.
At its Jan. 8 tire dealer conference in San Jose del Cabo, Kumho told tire dealers its main strategy change is to “move away from expanding our motorsports accomplishments” and instead sponsor some college football and NBA teams, according to Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing for Kumho.
Some of those past motorsports accomplishments include nine years of participation in more than 100 off-road races and wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Lemans.
Brennan said Kumho will continue to support grassroots racing, including the Sports Car Club of America series, enthusiast clubs and The Off-Road Championship racing series, but the company has found most motorsports sponsorships to be cost-prohibitive.
Kumho has been sponsoring the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat through this season and last fall sponsored five college football teams from the Ohio State University, the University of Texas, the University of Florida, the University of Tennessee and the University of Southern California.
In its NBA sponsorships, Kumho has prominent signage on the arena scoreboards, suite nights and text messages fans to come to its booth to win prizes. The company's fan zone in Miami features a gaming wall with four 60-inch high-definition TVs and a Sony Playstation 3 console, where fans can play the game NBA 2K11.
At both the college and NBA venues, Kumho photographs fans at its fan zone booths and then posts the photos on its Facebook page to encourage the subjects to share the photos with their friends and potentially create a viral campaign for Kumho, according to David Koh, pricing manager for Kumho's marketing department.
Kumho also is touting its basketball sponsorships on a billboard campaign appearing in the teams' home cities and in Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas.
Speaking with Tire Business after the meeting, Brennan said Kumho's 2011 marketing strategies need to pull together its sports marketing, social media and web presence and all of its advertising efforts to boost brand awareness.
“So for us, building the brand is really going to take building a synergy of all the efforts we do because of limited resources and getting the most out of that,” Brennan said.
Kumho's other efforts include sponsoring a teen driving education program at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Mr. Koh said eight high schools in Ohio and Indiana sent students to the course's driving school last year.
The company also introduced this month a free racing game app called “Kumho Tire Drive” for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and will have a version ready for Droid mobile phones soon. (See above story.)
Kumho has a two-year sponsorship agreement with the Lakers and the Heat, he said, and the company is evaluating “what we did and how we can maximize” its college football sponsorships.
Koh said the company is re-evaluating its college football sponsorships and will sponsor only three college teams for the 2011 football season. Kumho will stay with Ohio State and USC, he said, but will look for a new sponsorship of a Southern college team.
Koh said the decision to move to three NCAA teams is related to the size of Kumho's U.S. marketing staff, which he said was spread thin during this past football season.
Echoing that sentiment, Brennan said that three of Kumho's sponsored college teams didn't have enough company employees to staff the Fan Zones, and “although we did all the interactive stuff wanted to do and activate, it wasn't us telling the story. It was a third party who didn't know anything about us.”
Kumho also would like to increase dealer involvement in its sports marketing efforts, according to Koh. He said that involvement could mean sharing space on LED signage at the stadiums and arenas, as well as partnering with dealers in contests where consumers can win tickets to the games.