Goodyear Goes Tubin' with the US Swim Team
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Goodyear Goes Tubin' with the US Swim Team

Goodyear sought Hill and Knowlton’s expertise to promote the launch of the Goodyear Aquatred 3 all-season tire. Hill and Knowlton designed a program to maximize Goodyear’s existing Olympic ad buy, while building consumer excitement for the launch of the G

Paul Holmes

Tube your way to Sydney? Goodyear sought Hill and Knowlton’s expertise to promote the launch of the Goodyear Aquatred 3 all-season tire. Hill and Knowlton designed a program to maximize Goodyear’s existing Olympic ad buy, while building consumer excitement for the launch of the Goodyear Aquatred 3 all-season tire.  The program would highlight the product benefits, including the importance of traction and the superiority of the Aquatred 3 versus competitors. 

Hill and Knowlton believed it could maximize Goodyear’s Olympic ad buy and position the company in the same light as “Olympic” sponsors without the exorbitant $40 million dollar price tag required to be an international Olympic sponsor, or the estimated $4 million dollars it would cost to be an official USA Olympic Team sponsor.  Hill and Knowlton suggested a sponsorship with an USA Olympic team, for only a fraction of the cost.  It was determined that the USA Swim Team would be the best fit for this program because of the team’s track record of success and the natural tie to the product.  Thematically, the relationship fit well with the program because the swimmers ‘channel’ water away as they swim, just like the Aquatred 3 does as consumers drive through water.


With it being an Olympic year, Goodyear faced several obstacles. The first was creative utilization of the US Swim Team. The swim team has numerous other sponsors and it was a challenge to effectively use the US team for positive media coverage. The second issue was the utilization of the company’s Olympic ad buy. Goodyear needed to effectively drive their brand development campaign for their new Aquatred 3 tire through an innovative PR program that would give appropriate support for their expensive ad buy. These two obstacles were both overcome through the Aquatred Challenge, which creatively drove ad support for the new brand while gaining media coverage across the nation through a quirky and offbeat event.


Research conducted included soft soundings of media to select the most effective spokespeople for the program. U.S. Swim Team event research was completed to find the correct target demographic to partner with the demographic targeted for the release of the new Aquatred 3 tire. 

From preliminary research Hill and Knowlton found out that the media was looking for a new and fresh face to its usual Olympic coverage. Goodyear was ready to put forward that face. Also by attending U.S. swim team events, logistical timing for the program and the strength of selected spokespersons within the swimming community was confirmed.  


Hill and Knowlton merged its research with the client’s goals and objectives to create an exciting marketing program designed to enhance consumer awareness and enthusiasm for the launch of the Aquatred 3, while also raising money for the USA Swim Team. The first-ever Goodyear Aquatred Challenge was born, and included a national competition to determine America’s top inner tube racer.  Goodyear, which entered into a strategic partnership with USA Swimming and the sport’s brightest stars, pledged $5 donations for each participant in the six regional Aquatred Challenge events.  The Goodyear Aquatred Challenge was designed to be simple, fun and open to even the most out-of-shape backyard pool potatoes.  Competitors 18 years and older in both men’s and women’s divisions were required to climb aboard a truck inner tube and race one full pool length, or 50 meters.  The Aquatred Challenge regional competitions were held in conjunction with six major USA Swimming-sanctioned meets in various cities. The 12 Aquatred Challenge regional champions (six men, six women) received a set of new Goodyear Aquatred 3 all-season tires, and reservations for two for an expense-paid trip to Indianapolis to compete at the U.S. National Swim Team selection meet.  The two national champions and their guests each received an expense-paid trip to Sydney to watch the U.S. Team compete against the world’s best.  The events were supported by media relations, radio promotions and grassroots efforts that exposed our target audiences to our message points, and were designed to attract consumers as well as significant media coverage by giving all in attendance the opportunity to interact with the USA swimmers on a one-on-one basis.  


Create trade and consumer awareness and excitement for Aquatred 3

Maximize Goodyear’s Olympic ad buy while raising money for the USA Swim Team

Promote sales of the Aquatred 3 tire when it hit the market 


Provide individuals with an opportunity to interact with Olympic athletes, as well as give them a chance to compete for a trip to Sydney, Australia for the summer games.

Create a fun and whimsical event to bring media attention to the launch of the new Aquatred 3 tire.

Utilize Olympic ad buy by partnering with the U.S. Swim Team and selecting high profile athletes to serve as spokespeople during national and regional events promoting the new tire. 

Conduct media outreach to print and broadcast outlets through several different platforms including sports, lifestyle, metro, national and Olympic reporters.


As soon as we received client approval, we began proactive national pitching of sports, sports marketing, and automotive publications. Six regional 50 meter inner-tube races were held in Ann Arbor, MI, Charlotte, NC, Santa Clara, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Long Island, NY, and Indianapolis, IN.  The male and female winner from each event earned the chance to compete against the other regional winners at the USA Swim trials in Indianapolis, with the chance of being the first-ever national champion of inner-tube racing.  

Regional Events – Following weeks of preparation, we contacted local broadcast, radio and print media, as well as local Goodyear dealers to alert them of the Aquatred Challenge in their area.  We used radio promotions and newspaper calendar listings to enhance local awareness of the event.  Our grassroots efforts were targeted at local and masters swim clubs, and all registered USA swimmers in the area. Direct mail pieces that included fliers and posters promoting the event were distributed.  We informed TV and print media that our USA swimmers were available for interviews and photo opportunities at the events and provided TV stations b-roll footage of the prior events.  Goodyear Aquatred signage was strategically placed around the pool for the race.  We distributed a results release and b-roll footage to local and national media at the completion of the event.  There was strong attendance in each market.

Finals Event – Prior to the finals event in Indianapolis, we drafted pitch letters about each to the publications and stations in each of their local markets.  We pitched sports, feature, lifestyle and local editors. The day prior to the finals, a satellite media advisory was sent to national weekend sports and news programs, and to all news stations in the participant’s local markets.  A press conference featuring the participants and five-time gold medallist Jenny Thompson was held the day of the event.  Goodyear signage was again strategically placed around the pool and a live satellite feed was available twice the day after the event.  A sold-out crowd rose to its feet and cheered on the Aquatred racers with the same enthusiasm they had shown for the USA swimmers.  As soon as the event concluded, separate releases on the results of the race and on the program as a whole, as well as b-roll footage were distributed to local and national media. 


Goodyear Aquatred stories saturated the local media in each market that the event visited. Media coverage included:

ESPN SportsCenter – The men’s final from Indianapolis was featured on the show’s opening, and was ranked the number two play of the day.  ESPN reaches more than 78 million homes.

KTLA’s Channel 5 morning news – LA’s top morning news show had  feature reporter Gayle Anderson report live, in an inner tube, at the USC Pool on the morning of the LA event.  Two stories with b-roll footage were shown along with seven live teasers.  Similar pieces were done in all six markets

A live radio broadcast from the event was held in each market.

Favorable articles were printed in San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Charlotte Observer, Dallas Morning News, The Deseret News, San Jose Mercury News, Sports Business Journal (twice), Tire Business Magazine, Swimming World, Long Island Lifestyles, Charlotte Magazine, San Jose Magazine, among others. All articles reached Goodyear’s top target media markets.

In addition, Goodyear achieved other substantial business results including:

  • Maximized Goodyear’s Olympic ad buy by giving the company the appearance of an Olympic sponsor for a fraction of the $40 million international Olympic sponsor price tag. 
  • More than 4,000 spectators gave the Aquatreders a       standing ovation at the sold-out Indianapolis Natatorium final event. A free set of Goodyear Aquatred 3 tires and a free trip to Indianapolis was awarded to all twelve regional winners, and the two, 2000 inner tube national champions won a trip to Sydney, Australia for the summer games. 
  • Raised $10,000.00 for the USA Swim Team 
  • In the first 6.5 months of sales, Goodyear sold 63% of the total number of Aquatreds. This is more than the total number of Aquatreds sold in the previous three years combined. 
  • The Western region of the U.S., typically the most difficult region for wet traction/Aquatred sales, purchased 107% more tires in the first 6.5 months of Aquatred 3 sales than the previous three years combined.
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