Soaring Again

The Goodyear Blimp flies high over its base in Suffield, near Akron.

Goodyear Blimp ready for Big Ten Football

By Terry Troy

What’s almost as long as a football field, eight and a half times as high as a basketball hoop and sails through the air? Any denizen of the Greater Akron area can tell you it’s the Goodyear Blimp.

Like so many aspects of the current pandemic, the Goodyear Blimp’s flight schedule was negatively impacted as sporting events were cancelled due to social distancing concerns. But as our national sports scene opened back up with Major League Baseball, then the National Football League and other major sporting events, the Goodyear Blimp once again took to the skies. Now, with Big Ten Football up and running, the blimp is once again soaring high.

While the fans in the stands may be sparse or even non-existent, Big Ten Football still commands a huge television audience, which translates to tens of millions of advertising dollars for each event.

“We actually have four blimps, three in the United States in Ohio, Florida and California and one in Europe,” says Emily Cropper, senior manager of global communications for Goodyear. “As major sporting events continue to come online this fall, we are still waiting to see what our ultimate schedule will look like.”

But it’s bound to be busy. Well before the beginning of Big Ten Football in October, the blimp had been providing coverage for college football’s ACC and SEC conferences.

“We covered the first Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and the Giants so we have the NFL on our schedule through the remainder of the fall, too,” Cropper adds.

The Goodyear Blimp that’s based in California was assigned to cover the MLB playoffs in San Diego and Los Angeles, while the blimp stationed in Florida near Pompano Beach was designated to provide aerial coverage during the NBA Eastern and Western Finals as well as the NBA Finals.

But it’s the aerial coverage of college football, especially the Big Ten, that is nearest and dearest to the Ohio fans of the lighter-than-air brand ambassador. And the blimp that’s based just outside of Akron is usually assigned to Big Ten games due to its hours-away proximity to Michigan, Pittsburgh and Columbus, as well as Chicago, Illinois and Indiana being only a day’s journey away. But in addition to being a brand ambassador, the Goodyear Blimp is also a very effective marketing tool, says Cropper.

“Our marketing team is always aware of where we are providing coverage of events so they can balance marketing dollars with our aerial coverage program,” she says.

The airship also instills a great sense of civic pride to everyone in the Greater Akron community.

“Everyone in the Greater Akron community can tell you the first time they saw the blimp, the last time they saw the blimp and how most recently they saw it,” Cropper says. “I tell a lot of people that I have one of the best jobs in the world because I get to make people smile by letting them see the blimp.”

The Goodyear Blimp’s association with college football began in 1955, providing aerial coverage for the Rose Bowl. Since then, the blimp has covered more than 2,000 major sporting events, from the Rose Bowl to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl and everything in between. In special recognition of its legacy with college football, the Goodyear Blimp was inducted as an honorary member of College Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

It is the only non-human to be so enshrined.