Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Thing In the Sky That Goodrich Does Not Have

It had been so long -- years, in fact -- since I had last seen it, that I had nearly forgotten of its existence. But the last couple of days, while riding the bus home from work, I peeked out the window and there it was.

The Goodyear Blimp, possibly the nation's most recognizable corporate icon, has been spotted in the skies above Pittsburgh for the past two days. It will be shuttling between Downtown and the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin through Monday night when it provides its familiar aerial views above Heinz Field for the ESPN broadcast of the Steelers preseason opener.

Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. pioneered aerial advertising and is now in its 80th year operating the airships, of which there are now three in the U.S.

When I was a child, I had a model of the Good Year blimp. It was your standard grey plastic model with a place where you could load batteries to light up the blimp with a message that you could write in yourself. Ultra cool.

My model blimp is long gone, just as the real one could have been, if the company did not have a high degree of respect for tradition:

Samuel Waltz Jr., principal of Sam Waltz & Associates, a marketing communications firm in Wilmington, Del., said the Goodyear Blimp benefits from its long heritage and what he says is the general public's exposure to an ever-increasing barrage of new advertising and promotions.

He said the blimp has been "grandfathered in" as a marketing message welcomed by the most people.

"If Goodyear were to walk away from the Goodyear Blimp today, it may save a couple million in annual operating costs and another million or so a year in capital costs," he said.

But it would also walk away from the "sunk cost" of 80 years' worth of investment by Goodyear, an investment, he said, the company couldn't afford to buy today.

Hmmm. I wonder if they would consider a corporate sponsor to help defray some of the costs. You know...kind of like..."GOODRICH PRESENTS...the Good Year blimp".

Both companies could come up with some interesting commercials over that one.

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