What do the two greatest performers on ice have in common? Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Hill and Knowlton helped Goodyear, America’s number one tire company, introduce a new line of winter tires called the Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice. Hill and Knowlton developed an integrated public relations and marketing campaign that included a contest, sweepstakes, media relations, advertising and point-of sale effort.




In launching a new winter tire, Goodyear faced several obstacles.


A majority of US drivers use all season radials rather than change to winter tires.  Hill and Knowlton helped overcome this challenge by establishing Goodyear as the winter driving expert and educating consumers about the need for winter tires.


This was the first time Goodyear had used a celebrity spokesperson for any of their campaigns and they wanted to ensure a spokesperson that exemplified the image of their tire. Hill and Knowlton searched through Goodyear’s target audience for the new tire and found the perfect performer on ice to complement their new tire. 




A review of market research from Goodyear told us that nearly 80 percent of Scandinavian drivers, 50 percent of Austrian drivers, 33 percent of German drivers and 20 percent of Canadian drivers switch to winter tires during the winter months, while only 4.5 percent of American drivers switch. We also found that U.S. winter weather markets had a higher than normal appreciation for hockey. Hockey viewers matched tire purchase demographics as well. Following extensive brainstorms and research, the team developed a once-in-a-lifetime millennium celebration designed to “grip” the hearts and imaginations of Americans, Canadians and media beginning October 1 through New Year’s Day, 2000.




Hill and Knowlton Irvine developed the program concept and elements and worked with and its sister ad agency, J. Walter Thompson Detroit, to execute the Ultra Grip Ultra Trip from April 1999 through January 2000.  Through its partnership with J. Walter Thompson, the program was developed in such a way that public relations drove all advertising.



The Ultra Grip Ultra Trip program, an integrated marketing program was developed to:


  • Educate U.S. consumers’ about the performance and safety benefits of winter tires over all season tires.
  • Convey the technological advancements made by Goodyear that made the new Ultra Grip tires up to 40 percent better in snow and ice than all-season radials.
  • Create a link in consumers’ minds between the Ultra Grip tires and the idea of “gripping” the road more effectively than all-season radials.
  • Create awareness and educate drivers regarding the need for winter tires in a predominately all- season tire market. Generate winter tire sales in cold weather markets across North America.


With millions of consumers seeking the ultimate way to celebrate the new millennium, Goodyear came up with a “gripping” once-in-a-lifetime millennium adventure. The Ultra Grip Ultra Trip was designed to generate customer traffic, while publicizing the launch and product benefits of the new tire.




Our campaign strategy included:

  • Capture the sprit and interest in the changing of the millennium as platform for consumers to both reflect on the century that was and look forward to what the new century can bring through a creative promotion.
  • Carefully select a spokesperson that would personify the attributes of the tire and our program – bringing it to life and providing the consumer with a fuller understanding of winter tires.
  • Create a set of tips for drivers to follow during winter weather situations.
  • Leverage the target demographics’ passion for winter sports, especially hockey.




The account team believed that with the millennium fast approaching, millions of North Americans would be asking the question: What am I going to do to celebrate the dawning of a new century? The answer to the question for a chosen few was the first-ever Goodyear Ultra Grip Ultra Trip program.


Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was selected as the consummate product spokesperson. Hill and Knowlton positioned Wayne and Ultra Grip tires as the two most “gripping” performers on ice.


This fully-integrated promotion, including a contest, sweepstakes, radio promotion and Internet access, was supported with public relations, advertising and point-of-sale materials. Gretzky was prominent in all facets of the program, which kicked off with “The Great One’s” return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since his retirement for a national media tour. He later returned to New York for the Contest Finals at Wollman Ice Skating Rink in Central Park.


There were three ways for consumers to win the Ultra Grip Ultra Trip:

  • “10 Most Gripping Events of the 20th Century,” a national sweepstakes whereby consumers voted on the most gripping moment of the century (e.g., Neil Armstrong walks on moon; Berlin Wall falls)
  • “The Most Gripping Moment of My Life,” a national contest whereby consumers described their most gripping individual moment (e.g., birth of a child, wedding day, heroic act) in 200 words or less essays. The contest finals were at Wollman Ice Skating Rink in New York’s Central Park in front of a panel of celebrity judges that included Wayne Gretzky, Donald Trump, Sally Ride, James Patterson and Bobby Labonte, some of the nation’s most gripping performers of this century. The eight finalists told their story in front of the panel and went on to travel upon the Ultra Trip two weeks later.
  • Regional Radio Promotions developed in key winter-tire markets, these promotions were diverse in approach, but consistently  spread the winter tire benefits message.


In the end, 65 contest, sweepstakes and radio promotion winners enjoyed The Goodyear Ultra Grip Ultra Trip’s ultimate millennium prize package including:

  • Expense-paid trips to New York City.
  • A private jet trip on Millennium New Year’s Eve from New York to Los Angeles with winners ringing in the New Millennium across four time zones.
  • The grand prize contest winner and Sweepstakes winner each received a 200 Mazda Millenia Millennium Edition. Mazda is another Hill and Knowlton client and served as a partner in the promotion.
  • Rose Bowl Parade and Game tickets in Los Angeles.
  • Free Ultra Grip Winter Tires from Goodyear.
  • The Ultra Grip Ultra Trip program received substantial promotional support via a national advertising program developed by JWT.
  • Top 10 Winter Driving Tips matte release to educate drivers about the dangers of winter weather driving and the importance of a proper winter tire.


Media relations efforts included the pitching of all national broadcast TV, radio and print broadcast in the US and Canada. Within our targeted media we additional pitched sports, lifestyle, auto, marketing and millennium reporters.




The Ultra Grip Ultra Trip’s program results were phenomenal. They included:


  • The consistent delivery of Ultra Grip’s key interview message points in national U.S./Canadian and target market PR news placements. Approximately 85 percent of media hits included key message points.
  • More than 55,000 Ultra Trip Web site and write-in entries to the sweepstakes and contest. Contestants were looking for the most “gripping” way to spend the dawning of a new millennium, while voting for their favorite moments of the century past.
  • PR news placements with an estimated audience
  • reach of 62,613,805 viewers, readers and Web surfers.
  • Extensive media placements including: Regis and Kathie Lee, ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, Good Day LA (Fox, Los Angeles), MSG Sportsdesk (MSG Cable Network, NY), Local newscasts in Houston, New York, Columbus, Cleveland among a few. Print coverage included USA Today, Akron Beacon Journal, New York Time, Motor Trend, Good Housekeeping, Sports Business Daily, Newsday, New York Post, Cincinnati Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, The Oregonian, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Brandweek, Tire Business. All media placements fit within the company’s top target markets.
  • Canadian coverage included TSN, CBC-TV, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Calgary Sun, London Free Press and others.
  • Winter weather driving tips were published in more than 300 local publications.
  • The consistent third-party celebrity endorsement of Goodyear and Ultra Grip Ice by sports legend Wayne Gretzky in media interviews.  Gretzky participated in more than 30 media interviews on behalf of the Goodyear Ultra Grip ice tire.

One of the greatest testaments to the success of the program is that every Goodyear Ultra Grip tire that has been produced is already sold. Goodyear can not make enough of the tire to keep up with the demand. Almost 500,000 winter tires have been sold, an increase of more than 100 percent from 1998.