By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Japan's Bridgestone Corp has gone from a rookie Olympic sponsor to a model for fan participation following their Fan Zone at the Olympic Golf Course for the 2016 Rio Games and will try to help other federations do likewise.
Bridgestone, the world's biggest tire maker and a long-time maker of golf equipment, set up a demonstration area for fans unfamiliar with the game in golf's return to the Olympics, which proved to be a hit and impressed IOC officials.
"The feedback was incredible," Phil Pacsi, Bridgestone's vice president of sports marketing, told Reuters at The Sport Business Summit in New York on Tuesday.
"The (International Olympic Committee) were thrilled and asked us to work with them to try to help to further them in other sports as a model for other federations."
Golf had previously not been on the Olympic program since 1904, and Brazilians were largely unfamiliar with the sport.
"The IOC, trying to do new and different things, allowed us to be one of the first experiments with having a demonstration as close to the field of play that we could, with consumer activation with the game," Pacsi said. "It worked great.
"The focus was to try and educate the Brazilian population that really knows nothing about golf. It was really nice to see Brazilian families and kids picking up golf clubs and we hope it makes a lasting impression on the country."
The Fan Zone had putting areas, a long drive simulator and a closest to the pin simulator at three different bays, with local Brazilian professionals offering lessons to fans.
"That was the first time that the IOC, the (sports) federation and a (sponsorship) partner worked together to put this type of showcasing on," said Pacsi.
"The IOC came by bringing other partners and said, 'what can we do now?' So we’re working to see what kind of models we can put together."
Bridgestone is in the talking stage for plans at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and looking to see if there is something that can translate for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Pacsi said.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)