While Bridgestone will continue to be known as the "Official
Tire of the National Football League," it intends to "shift its
focus" from backing the halftime program to reinforcing promotional
messages about the performance of its tires throughout the NFL
season, the company said. It is likely to continue as an advertiser
during the Super Bowl.
"Plans are being finalized for a high level of consumer
activation that will provide the opportunity to better connect with
consumers by providing them with exclusive access to major NFL
events from the offseason to the Super Bowl," Bridgestone said in a
The change came as Bridgestone extended a sponsorship pact it
has with the NFL through March 2016. Bridgestone has been an NFL
sponsor since 2007.
The company's shift takes place after the most recent Super Bowl
halftime show generated some controversy -- the first time the
much-watched event had done so since Janet Jackson bared part of
her breast on CBS in 2004. In this year's halftime event, rapper
M.I.A. raised her middle finger and uttered a profanity that NBC
was unable to block despite a time delay.
"What happened is the responsibility of M.I.A., and what
happened during the show was, in our view, offensive and very
unfortunate," Dan MacDonald, VP-community and corporate relations
for Bridgestone Americas, told Ad Age in an interview in February. "We hold
the artist responsible."
Bridgestone received around 20 emails of complaint, said Mr.
MacDonald at the time, a smaller amount than it has in years when
the halftime show featured relatively controversy-free
The Nashville company now feels that spreading out its
promotions across the NFL season "makes good business sense at this
point," said Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer, Bridgestone
Americas, in a prepared statement.
The Super Bowl halftime show was once known for a more sanitized
brand of entertainment. In its 1985 iteration, an Air Force
entertainment unit of dancers and other performers offered up riffs
on the theme "World of Children's Dreams," and the 1976 broadcast
featured Up With People celebrating the American bicentennial with
a program themed "200 Years and Just a Baby."
The concept of having a backing sponsor was intermittent at
first. In 1979, Carnival lent its name to a Caribbean-themed
halftime program, but a sponsorship petered out again until 1989,
when Diet Coke lent its name to a show called "Be Bop Bamboozled in
3-D," which came complete with 3-D effects. The idea appears to
have begun in earnest in the early 1990s, when the NFL sought to
put on a bigger program to eliminate distractions from rival
networks who weren't showing the game but trying to counterprogram
against it during halftime.
In 1995, for instance, Oscar Meyer presented a concert starring
Diana Ross. Since that time, E-Trade, Progressive , AT&T Wireless, Ameriquest Mortgage,
Sprint Nextel and
others have sponsored concerts by U2, Shania Twain, No Doubt, Paul
McCartney and The Rolling Stones. AOL, touting a faster speed for
its online service, was the sponsor of the 2004 program featuring