Making tyres sexy: Bridgestone will not return to Formula One, preferring to focus on Olympic ambitions

Oliver Gill
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Bridgestone's European head said sponsoring the Olympics will help to differentiate the firm (Source: Bridgestone)

Tyre giant Bridgestone will not be returning to Formula One, instead believing its sponsorship of the Olympics will help dismiss the notion that "tyres aren't very sexy".

The Japanese firm first supplied grand prix cars with tyres in 1976 and between 1997 and 2010 was either the sole, or joint, supplier to cars vying for the world championship.

Italian firm Pirelli has been the solitary distributor to Formula One since 2011, an association set to continue until 2019 at least.

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Earlier this month Bridgestone, the world's largest tyre company, announced its sponsorship of the summer and winter games until 2024.

Under the strap-line "No matter what", the UK firm announced its Olympic ambassadors. Decathlon legend Daley Thompson was joined by golfer Charley Hull and diving gold medalist Chris Mears.

“At this moment in time, we’ve invested our time and resource in the Olympics. I don’t see us venturing back into Formula One in the near-future," the European head of Bridgestone Robin Shaw told City A.M..

I struggle to see a good fit between what we are trying to achieve with superior quality and a discipline like Formula One where, to an extent, the tyres are designed to fail.

He added: “I’m a Formula One fan, I enjoy watching it but I’m pleased we’ve got our investment in Olympics rather than Formula One at the moment."

Shaw said a key challenge for a tyre firm like Bridgestone is differentiating itself. He said:

Tyres aren’t very sexy. We’re there to provide safety, reliability and performance. But at the end of the day, in most consumers eyes, they’re black, they’re round and they’re rubber.

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Marketing, he added, is key.

While competitors, "spend their ad money" on other sports such as football – in 2015, Japanese rival Yokohama spent £200m on the shirt sponsorship of Fulham-based team Chelsea – Shaw said "one way we differentiate ourselves is the Olympics".

Daley Thompson, Chris Mears and Charley Hull have been selected as the UK firm's Bridgestone ambassadors (Source: Bridgestone)

Prior to the UK's referendum on its membership of the EU last year, Shaw was reported as backing the Brexit vote.

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However, he stressed that in his personal view he was in favour of remaining in the EU. "But I do think it is viable to operate outside of the EU. I’m keen to get on with it. The sooner there is more certainty in the future, the better it is for business.

He added: “I am concerned with the time and money spent on the exit of the EU, when we could have been doing things to make ourselves better, particularly in automotive where we’re pretty strong."

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