Burning Rubber on Ice
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Burning Rubber on Ice

Low awareness of the Hankook brand in Canada led to missed sales opportunities and difficulty expanding the distribution network with major Canadian tire retailers

Holmes Report


Program Description
NATIONAL Public Relations was retained by South Korean-based Hankook Tire to position it as a credible competitor in Canada, accelerating Hankook’s global expansion and growth. Although Hankook is the world’s seventh largest tire manufacturer, it was virtually unknown in Canada and had the lowest media profile of all the main tire brands in Canada. 
Low awareness of the Hankook brand in Canada led to missed sales opportunities and difficulty expanding the distribution network with major Canadian tire retailers (i.e. Canadian Tire, Tirecraft, Active Green & Ross, etc.).  
Before commencing work, NATIONAL conducted informal research through its network and tire dealers. As a result, we concluded most retailers and consumers had minimal knowledge of the Hankook brand. NATIONAL also executed a formal Communications Audit. The results indicated Hankook had the lowest share of voice of all competitors combined, hovering at 1% while Goodyear, Michelin, and Bridgestone had more than 50% of all Canadian media mentions. Our Audit also included interviews with key media across Canada, which confirmed that they were unfamiliar with Hankook’s brand and products. It was our belief that the lack of media awareness contributed to low consumer awareness and missed sales opportunities. 
NATIONAL’s goal was clear: to familiarize Canadian media with Hankook and increase Hankook’s share of voice. 
·                   Achieve more than 15 million Canadian impressions, with an emphasis on mainstream media
·                   USD $1 million ad value in Canada
·                   Increase Share of Voice to 3%  
Overall the Marketing Communications program was a key vehicle to help drive improved sales results in Canada along with advertising and partnership programs.
Strategic Approach
1.    Create a strong Canadian media relations strategy, with a focused approach for Trade, Automotive, business and Mainstream/Consumer media; and
2.    Develop innovative content and proactive story opportunities to reinforce Hankook’s Canadian initiatives such as its strategic Hockey Canada partnership.
Campaign Execution /Activities:
·       The team developed tiered media relations foundation and created a thorough media list focusing on automotive, business, trade, and mainstream media. NATIONAL ensured there was ongoing communication with each group, by sending out targeted proactive releases and being available for any inquiries (i.e. safety tips, corporate changes, sponsorship announcements etc.)
·       As there were no new products for 2010, the team had to be highly creative in our approach. To achieve our goals, NATIONAL proposed and implemented two innovative PR programs for Hankook:
I.          Media Familiarization Trip (May)
In order to give Canadian media an insider’s look at Hankook and a better understanding of the size of the brand, we proposed a Media Familiarization (FAM) trip to Hankook’s facilities in South Korea. The trip focused on Hankook’s business and their commitment to R&D and innovative technology.  NATIONAL secured Canada’s top media,  including writers from both national papers The Globe and Mail and The National Post, The Toronto Star (Canada’s largest paper by circulation), Sun Media (third largest media outlet in Canada), Yahoo.ca, World of Wheels (Canada’s premier consumer magazine on tires and cars), and Canadian Driver.
The trip to South Korea was a huge success – the media were very impressed with Hankook. Some of the highlights included: one-on-one meetings with the Global CEO, Hankook manufacturing facility tour, and a chance to test drive products on a specially designed wet/dry track (one of only 10 in the world). As a result, Hankook received extensive positive coverage in all the major Canadian dailies, including photographs and quotes from Hankook senior executives.   The FAM trip alone secured over 12 million impressions with an ad value of $700,000, an ROI of approximately 7:1. 
II.          Winter Tire Test Drive - Media Event (October)
Winter is an important sales period for tire retailers in Canada. Given our colder climate and severe weather, winter tires are a hot commodity. Hankook makes nearly 60% of its annual sales during the lead up to winter weather in Canada (October – December). To drive consumers to retailers and ensure Hankook received mainstream media coverage of its winter products, NATIONAL devised a winter tire test drive event for media, with a focus on broadcast television, at an ice rink in Toronto.   
The Winter Test Drive event was designed to give reporters a true feel of the tire on an actual ice surface. NATIONAL assisted securing one of Canada’s well known hockey arenas for the on-ice demonstration, leveraging Hockey Canada partnership.  With hockey beingCanada’s favourite past time, this event hit a cord with media and also linked the event back to Hankook’s Hockey Canada sponsorship.
Media had a chance to see the difference between all season and winter tires on an actual ice surface. We targeted trade and automotive media, as well as Canada’s top consumer affairs reporters. Ten media attended, and were given the opportunity to drive two identical test cars, one with all season tires and the other with Hankook winter tires. We had a driving instructor in the vehicle with the media to give advice on safe driving tips and explain the importance of having winter tires. 
The demonstrations clearly showed the importance of winter tires to consumers and provided great stories for Canada’s top consumer affairs reporters including CTV’s Pat Foran and Global’s Sean O’Shea. The resulting coverage was outstanding, with clear brand visibility throughout the arena, endorsement of the Hankook brand by the journalists. The resulting segments aired nationally on the CTV and Global networks across Canada and generated nearly 8 million impressions. Our client was thrilled with the response from the media and the exposure.  
NATIONAL achieved remarkable results for Hankook in 2010. We:
·    Tripled the desired impressions to 45 million with a focus on mainstream media (roughly 66% of impressions were mainstream media)
·    Nearly doubled the desired ad-value from $1 million to $1.9 million USD
·    300% increase in Share of Voice to 4% (up from 1% )
Due to client confidentiality we are unable to disclose exact sales figures, but 2010 was Hankook Canada’s best year to date. Our communications support lead to a marked increase in sales and interest from major retailers in expanding their line up of Hankook products. 
A week after appearing on national TV, Hankook Canada’s Vice President was at a Hankook dealer in Vancouver, where a customer pulled him aside and mentioned he had seen him on TV and because of the segment had purchased a set of Hankook tires. The VP was very impressed by the effectiveness of our campaign and its impact on sales.
“NATIONAL is a result-driven public relations firm focused on delivering and executing strategic plans that complement our business objectives. The extra miles that NATIONAL took in 2010 created great success. The work and cooperation with Hankook Tire’s Canadian Headquarters have been noticed as a benchmark for offices around the world”
Joseph Park, Marketing Communications Manager Hankook Tire Canada
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