In terms of the world’s most recognizable brand imagery, the unmistakable Goodyear blimp can’t have many competitors. Here’s a look at the success and influence that the company has now enjoyed for well over a century.
Formed in 1898, Frank Sieberling named the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company after Charles Goodyear, the modern inventor of vulcanized rubber. Although it’s since been proven that the ancient Mesoamerican peoples knew how to treat natural gum rubber so that it would stay stable thousands of years ago, it wasn’t until Goodyear’s 1839 discovery that the world was once again able to enjoy the benefits of the compound.
The right place at the right time
Right from the beginning, the Goodyear set itself apart through its uncanny ability to get involved with the right people at the right time. Sieberling set up shop at the very height of the bicycle craze of the late 1800s, and continued to benefit from the good luck and timing that had eluded Charles Goodyear his whole life. One of Sieberling’s very first projects was designing racing tires for Henry Ford in 1901, before the latter had even officially formed the Ford Motor Company. A number of design firsts in the field of airship research followed, culminating in the launch of the world’s first helium-filled commercial airship in 1925, Goodyear’s Pilgrim blimp.
Racing success, moon landing
By 1962, Goodyear tires were featured on more championship-winning racecars than any other manufacturer, and the company eventually went on to be the sole tire supplier for the Indianapolis 500 a few years later in 1975. This era also saw the celebration of glamorous raised white letter tires used on production muscle and sports cars. And above and beyond these earthly endeavors, Goodyear also participated in NASA’s Apollo program, sending the first tires to the moon on 1970’s Apollo 14 mission.
The modern Goodyear image
Despite continued support of NASCAR and the motor racing industry in general, after a long association with Formula-One racing, Goodyear announced its decision to retire from involvement in the sport in 1997 for unknown reasons.
The iconic Goodyear blimp on the other hand, remains a fixture at sporting events around the world and the Kentucky Derby, contributing live footage from the air. Goodyear continues its long partnership with NASA and is currently developing a spring-tire for rovers to be used on the space agency’s proposed 2020 moon base.