Tire companies are increasingly using sponsorship to bring some excitement to a less-than-exciting product.

And many are making a significant investment in the marketing medium. U.S.-based tire manufacturers are expected to spend more than $135 million on sponsorship in 2017, per ESP research.

Bridgestone Americas, Inc. is by far the biggest spender in the category. The subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp. will spend an estimated $50 million to $55 million on sponsorship in 2017.

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is the second biggest spender in the category with an estimated $30 million to $35 million spend, with Continental Tire following in a distant third with an estimated $10 million to $15 million spend.

Hankook, Falken, Cooper Tire, Kumho Tire and Yokohama—the other most active sponsors of non-endemic properties—are each expected to spend less than $10 million in 2017.

While Bridgestone is the biggest spender, Continental Tire is the most active sponsor. Thirty-three percent of properties with a sponsor in the tire category report a partnership with Continental followed by Bridgestone (29 percent), Hankook (29 percent) and Goodyear (10 percent).

Below, four sponsorship hot buttons in the tire category:

Promote brand attributes
Tire manufacturers use sponsorship to promote brand attributes of durability, strength, safety and performance.

Bridgestone leverages its official tire status of the NFL with “Bridgestone Performance Moments,” while Kumho Tire uses the NBA to promote the similarities between on-court ball handling and the role its tires play on the road.

Bridgestone in 2016 extended the NFL sponsorship with a new five-year agreement, while Kumho Tire announced a multiyear extension with the NBA.

Promote tire brands
While tire companies typically use sponsorship to promote their corporate brands, they also look to promote product lines.

Yokohama this year partnered with Spartan Race and Nitro circus, as well as two off-road races in Mexico—the Yokohama Mexican 1000 and Yokohama Sonora Rally—to promote its growing Geolander light truck tire line.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. last month delivered a live weather forecast on behalf of Goodyear at a Charlotte-area TV station to celebrate the launch of Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady, a new consumer tire.

Drive dealer traffic
Driving dealer traffic is a key objective in the tire category, particularly among companies that sell through independent retailers.

Cooper Tires leveraged the Cincinnati Reds and other MLB teams with a promotion that dangled free tickets in exchange for the purchase of four qualifying tires, while Yokohama activates its sponsorship of Chelsea FC with promotions that dangle the opportunity to win a team jersey.

Yokohama leverages Nitro Circus by offering tickets and behind-the-scenes experiences to dealers and wholesalers.

“Getting dealers excited is half the battle,” said Andrew Briggs, Yokohama vice president of marketing and product management

Bridgestone and Goodyear are the only two tire manufacturers in the U.S. that operate their own tire chains.

Drive sales during key sales periods
Tire companies often use sponsorship to drive sales during key sales periods. That includes the sale of regular tires from March through October and the sale of snow tires from October through December.

Goodyear, for example, sponsored the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing on behalf of Goodyear Ultra Grip winter tires.