Troubled Firestone's Indy 500 deal is 'best PR effort'

NASHVILLE: In a move designed to deliver a major PR boost after several troubled years, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire has signed a deal with the Indianapolis 500 to put the Indy 500 name on a new Firestone tire.

NASHVILLE: In a move designed to deliver a major PR boost after several troubled years, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire has signed a deal with the Indianapolis 500 to put the Indy 500 name on a new Firestone tire.

The tire manufacturer has already begun selling the new Firehawk Indy 500 tire through its retail outlets, and has launched a major PR effort for the product. Agencies Ketchum and Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence of Nashville are working on the campaign.

A press event unveiling the new tire was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 5. Roughly 40 journalists attended, and were given opportunities to ride in cars equipped with the new tires, said Woody McMillin, manager of motorsports and consumer products PR at Firestone. USA Today and tire-industry trade publications, among others, have run stories about the tire.

Additional PR measures include a newly launched website, Indy500Tire.com - the first site Firestone has created for a single product) - and a partnership with Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix, the official watch of the Indy 500. Firestone is holding a contest to give away a Lacroix watch.

Later this month, the tire giant will give all 33 drivers who qualify for this year's Indy 500 race a free set of its new tires, and plans to give 33 fans at the race free tires as well.

Firestone is already the official tire of the Indy Racing League, a series of races around the country. It began negotiating late last summer to convince Indy 500 officials to put the Indy 500 name on a tire for the first time in its 90-year history.

The agreement "is one of the best things that's happened to us in some time,

said McMillin.

The new tire won't carry the Firestone name. Firehawk is Firestone's high-performance brand, and the new tire will sport that name alongside that of the Indy 500. "I think the tire itself will be our best PR effort,

McMillin said.

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