Pirelli: company and marketing

Founded in Milan in 1872 by the then twenty-four year old engineer, Giovanni Battista Pirelli, Pirelli & C S.p.A. has been one of the world’s leading retail car tyre retailers for more than a century. But that’s not all.

Being able to stay abreast of a market that has never ceased to be extremely competitive has meant that Pirelli has had to constantly be able to adapt to the surrounding changes and, in order not to succumb, to develop marketing strategies that kept pace with the times.

Of course, in order to make good marketing it would be necessary (although not everyone thinks so) firstly to sell a good product, and from this point of view Pirelli plays it safe: the company’s primary market is the end consumer for which the company is constantly experimenting and designing tyres to meet the needs of every type of customer. The continued and rooted collaboration with the world’s leading automakers (first and foremost those with the nearly one century old FIAT) guarantee the company to tailor ad hoc tires for every vehicle and driving style. It is no coincidence that, as reported by Quattroruote, Pirelli alone in 2016 has recorded 650 snow-tyre approvals for just as many vehicles. In other words, today one vehicle in four in Europe every winter is fitted with Pirelli tyres.

The size of the Milanese company is clearly visible in other numbers, too: Pirelli sells its products in more than 160 countries, counting on a distributed workforce in 20 factories located in 14 countries on four continents, from Argentina to Russia, United to Indonesia passing through Egypt.

As if it were not enough, consider that Pirelli holds more than 5,000 registered patents as the exclusive intellectual property, numbers made possible only by the constant investments in the research sector (6% of what is termed “turnover Premium “).
In this, it is one of its kind and the industry leader, especially if one thinks that the company employs more than a thousand researchers, many of whom are Italian, who can thus make the hard years of study in a company that has always made meritocratic ethics and green economy the strengths of its mission.

However, as stated at the beginning, a company has few hopes to survive corporate changes and its competitors if it fails to position itself within the social environment where it operates. With this regard, Pirelli has chosen this road of social phenomena since it was founded, being present in various degrees in sports competitions, especially in the automotive sector.

In 1907 it won the Beijing-Paris raid by fitting the tyres on an Itala 35/45 HP, and from there the relationship between the Milan producer and motorsports never ceased. Not only did it do so by many other victories with cars that fitted Italian tyres, but it also gained exclusive distribution rights in some of the most followed competitions by motor enthusiasts. Today, Pirelli is the exclusive supplier for the Formula One, GP2 and GP3 world championships for four wheels, and holds the same exclusivity in the Superbike, Supersport, Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 motorbike championships.

However, to understand this company better, you may need to read a few lines about the management model it decided to adopt. Each Pirelli product is built to the highest standards of responsibility towards employees, collaborators and especially the environment.

The Pirelli Foundation was established in 2009, aimed at protecting the Italian historical consciousness, which is indissolubly linked to the company’s almost 150-year old history.

Pirelli’s marketing: campaigns that have made history (and taught others)

Pirelli and Inter

In 1996 Marco Tronchetti Provera became president of the company, and only a year before Massimo Moratti, a member of Pirelli’s Board of Directors, had bought Inter.

The strong friendship with Moratti, together with the Black and Azure (the colours of Inter) allegiance of Tronchetti Provera, made it possible for one of the most successful and lasting football and business adventures on record. From that time on, the Pirelli logo has appeared on the shirts of the Inter as the official sponsor, which accompanied the team during its most glorious moments, always present in the club’s 16 national and international trophies.

Such is the strength of the club’s reputation in the Far East, a 2005 initiative was announced where Inter played a series of championship matches with the sponsor’s name transliterated into Chinese.

However, Pirelli’s flagship campaign is probably the one in the late 2000s, which exploited the image of what was then the strongest player in the world, Ronaldo. An unforgettable 1998 ad where the Phenomenon was shown as he dribbled opponents and repeatedly put the ball in the net, then settled down to Christ the Redeemer on Guanabara Bay illuminated at sunset.

Under his right foot was a “layer” of Pirelli mix, and this all was accompanied by a more familiar slogan: Power is nothing without control.

Pirelli and engines

But if the partnership between Pirelli and one of the largest Italian sports representatives has proved to be a fairly recent investment, there is a far longer story that links the company to the world of motor sports.

Despite the company’s focus on the end consumer, Pirelli had already realised the importance of being among the champions of sport as far back as 1913 when it won its first GP. Ten years later, the famous Superflex Cord tyre was known to the general public as the “tyre of victories”.

The legend of Nuvolari would also contribute to the Italian tyres’ fame, as the “Flying Modenese” chose Pirelli tyres throughout his glittering career both on two and on four wheels.

Since the 1980s, Pirelli has been present in the rally world, where he has collected more than 200 victories and, following its definitive return to F1 (1981), the company began climbing to reach exclusivity for tyres in the championship, which it obtained 30 years later with an agreement that will make it the exclusive supplier at least until 2019.

The Pirelli calendar

To break into the heart of Italians by putting its own logo on the tyres and shirts of the most supported teams in the peninsula knows that only one last third field of action is required to complete the picture: that of women.

And this must have been understood by Pirelli, which has published since 1963 – without profit – a calendar featuring the world’s greatest models photographed by the top professionals. It was a mandatory cult element that adorned the walls of at least half Italian workshops during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The Pirelli calendar has taken the image of Italian and foreign stars like Sophia Loren, Monica Bellucci and Cindy Crawford, but also of admired male characters such as Alessandro Gassman, Bono and Ewan McGregor.

The very best idea has certainly contributed to the spread Pirelli’s trademark that is close to people’s most “authentic” interests, and although it has not generated revenue for the company, it has certainly iconised the image.

Aiming at the bull’s eye, achieving maximum results with the minimum effort is at the base of any marketing strategy worthy of that name.

The landing on the stock-exchange

Following the sale of Pirelli to the Chinese ChemChina and its ensuing exit from the Milan Stock-Exchange, the Milanese company is now planning a stylish return to Piazza Affari (address of the Italian Stock-Exchange).

Pirelli IPO is one of the most interesting ones expected for the last quarter of 2017, and confirming the company’s quality, there are prestigious banks such as Banca IMI of the Intesa Sanpaolo group, JP Morgan and also Morgan Stanley behind the transaction.

Together they represent three of the world’s largest credit institutions for equity investments.

Behind the new IPO, there is already a great deal of marketing that can help push what, according to experts (source: Pirelli to overtake AIB with largest European IPO this year), is one of the largest stock-exchange transactions ever performed in Italy (and one of the biggest from an economic point of view, source: Pirelli reports growth ahead of IPO).