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Volume 24 No. 134
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Bridgestone Branching Out Olympic Presence To Buildings, Bikes

Bridgestone is best known for selling tires, and its Olympic sponsorship has so far been used to move those tires in a conventional retail sense.

But 17 percent of the Bridgestone company is not tires, and it owns Olympic marketing rights in two other categories you can expect to hear more about once the calendar turns to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic cycle: seismic isolation bearings and self-propelled bicycles.

Phil Pacsi poses with Bridgestone's concept bicycle.
Photo: Ben Fischer

The first are as advanced and industrial as it comes: massive rubber cushions that are fitted under building foundations to protect against earthquakes. Bicycles, on the other hand, are early-19th century technology that children use.

Bridgestone is emphasizing both in a display at its Seoul hospitality headquarters for the Pyeongchang Winter Games, at the elite Shilla Hotel, anticipating two years from now.

Earthquake-prone Tokyo is an excellent market for the seismic isolation bearings, and Bridgestone hopes to provide bikes at the Tokyo Olympics, said Phil Pacsi, Bridgestone vice president of sports and events.

A display explaining seismic isolation bearing.
Photo: Ben Fischer

“We tried in Rio but it got to be really difficult,” Pacsi said. “I think it’s going to be a big play in Tokyo.”

I’m sure there are complicating factors I’m not considering, but at first glance, bicycles seem like an ideal addition to the Olympics. With security perimeters and parking lots designed to accommodate dozens of coaches and officials, the Games often involve distances that are a little too far to walk comfortably, but not far enough to justify a car or bus.

Bridgestone displayed a concept bike in its display, one that uses heavy-duty plastic spokes to support the rubber tire instead of air.

Bridgestone is entertaining about 140 customers and other guests over five waves, choosing to base its Pyeongchang program in Seoul. In an apparent coincidence, the Shilla Hotel hosted a major conference of Hyundai dealers on the opening weekend of the Olympics. (The Shilla itself is an interesting story, owned by a company whose CEO is Lee Boo-jin, daughter of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee.