Next year (2019) will mark the 100th anniversary since Goodyear first flew its branded blimp over an adoring public. The blimp launched in an era when most advertisements were inherently local and stationary: newspapers dominated all other advertising channels, branded posters adorned train stations, Coca-Cola painted its logo on the broadside of brownstones, and roadside billboards emerged along traffic routes congested with newly affordable Fords.
The Goodyear blimp was different: It was an owned asset that could fly. Even before the first radio ad, and long before television, Goodyear deployed its blimp overhead, from state to state, taking its message of leadership and safety wherever it chose.
Now, brands are able to communicate through multiple mediums, deploying targeted ads so no dollar is wasted on the wrong consumer. Yet despite some obvious aerospace upgrades, the blimp’s design hasn’t changed a whole lot. It’s a massive hot air balloon with a giant Goodyear logo printed on its side. Today, it primarily travels between sporting events and goodwill engagements. Modern media have taken much of the onus off the blimp needing to literally deliver the advertising from city to city. But despite its antiquated roots, something special continues to happen every time this blimp comes into view: people pause and watch in wonder.
Marketers spend countless hours and dollars every day trying to crack the Holy Grail of how to drive meaningfulness—how to measure and value an engagement. We pay extra, on behalf of clients, for an ad to actually be viewed. We develop complex content strategies in the hope that someone’s thumb stops scrolling down their iPhone for a couple of seconds. And every single day, that job gets harder.
While we continue to modernize the intersection of media and blimp usage, there is no tech stack tracking the lift in tire sales immediately following the blimp’s flyover—at least not yet. Its meaningfulness is anecdotal and gut-driven. Lots of fans take selfies, often positioning their arms to give the illusion they are holding the blimp in their hands, despite it being a mile overhead. Some small towns unite for charity rallies and festivals to honor the distinguished occasion of its visit. If you are a college football player and are fortunate enough to have the blimp show up above your game, the stakes get higher, the rush gets stronger, and you feel the intensity like a professional. And if you already are a professional and your game is worthy of the blimp, you feel like a legend.
No matter who you are, when this illuminated 246-foot airship adorned with Goodyear’s wingfoot logo floats into view, you stop what you’re doing and pay attention. It’s impossible not to. And while “tires” may be the furthest thing from your mind, for a few minutes you actually think about them, and perhaps even smile. After 100 years of practice, they must be on to something.