The blimp is back.
Goodyear's iconic airship hasn't been in the brand's ads since the 1980s, but the company will exhume it with a new campaign themed, "Get there," launching Feb. 18 during the Daytona 500.
"The Goodyear blimp has been such a focal point for this brand, such a powerful marketing tool, that we are now moving it forward," said Joey Viselli, Goodyear's director of marketing. "It will be brought to life in our advertising from here on out."
Viselli said all advertising efforts will begin with the blimp at both local and national levels: "We are going to change every touchpoint from here on to match this campaign."
TV spots, via McCann Erickson, New York, will star two blimp pilots—actually actors—with one playing the role of the sage and the other an eager-to-learn younger man.
In the initial three broadcast spots, the two converse about what they see on the ground and weave a message of security and dependability into their conversation. Two more broadcast spots will be released this year. Spending wasn't disclosed. Goodyear spent $46 million on ads during the first nine months of last year, per TNS.
The effort comes as Goodyear over the past year has strived to improve its product mix and exit some segments of the private label business.
"The strategy came before the execution here, in that we wanted to occupy a space that says 'Our technology helps get you there,'" said Craig Marcus, creative director at McCann.
Goodyear is the latest brand to bring back an old icon; others include Burger King's King, KFC's Colonel Sanders and (most recently and most appallingly) the deceased Orville Redenbacher.
There's a reason marketers keep mining their past, said David Altschul, president and founder of Character, a Portland, Ore., shop that develops stories and characters for marketing. "A lot of venerable icons were invented in an era like the '60s or '70s, when mass production was at its height," he said. "The Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean, Tony the Tiger were good just to have on TV.
"But audiences are fragmented now, and just reviving a character doesn't work. It has to be part of a story; it has to be relevant."
While the blimp has been MIA from Goodyear ads for two decades, it has been active on the event marketing front. Based in Akron, Ohio, the tire and rubber maker has three active blimps that are fixtures at sporting events. These days, they often vie for airspace (physically and on TV broadcasts) with other airships. Budweiser and Fuji also are regular blimp users.
H. P. Hood, a New England Dairy company, for instance, has benefited from a blimp that flies over Boston Red Sox games. In 2003, Pepsi's "Aquafina pure luck" campaign awarded prizes to consumers caught drinking from a bottle of the spring water when they were spotted from one of two branded Aquafina blimps.
Another blimp, also set to appear at the Daytona 500, will employ a 70 x 30-foot digital screen to broadcast race highlights from Ginn Sports Entertainment, a Celebration-Fla.-based company that markets Ginn Resorts sports properties.
"This has digital quality to show both day and night," said Kent Atherton, president/COO of GSE. "We are using a combination of old technology and new technology to deliver something altogether new."
While divining the ROI on a blimp is an inexact science, data from Joyce Julius and Associates, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based firm, states that a recent airship campaign for an undisclosed brand over three events—a major golf tournament, a four-game series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and a weekend drag race in Las Vegas—was worth $2.5 million, with 126 million impressions.