The bright green and white Fuji blimp, which appeared high above the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, was making one of its last West Coast appearances on behalf of the Japanese film maker. Fuji's lease on the airship, which was used to promote its sponsorship of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, is expiring.
"All we're doing is letting that particular blimp go," says Carl Chapman, vice president of the consumer products division of New York-based Fuji Photo Film USA Inc. "We plan to use a similar blimp on the East Coast. These things are not good at flying over mountains. It would be nicer if we could afford two of them." The second blimp is scheduled to start flying in March.
Next Sunday, the West Coast blimp will be stripped of the distinctive Fuji logo. San Pedro-based United States Skyships, which recently purchased it from Airship Industries of London, hopes to decorate the vehicle with a new corporate name.
"We are looking for a corporate sponsor for the blimp," said Joe Parr, president of United States Skyships.
The marketing tool will not come cheap. The cost of blimp advertising starts at a monthly rate of $325,000 to $350,000. For the minimum leasing period of one year, the advertising tab would run at least $3.9 million to $4.2 million.
The Fuji blimp hasn't always flown under its true colors. When it provided security surveillance during the Olympics, the bright green logo had to be covered up with a "Welcome" sign because International Olympic Committee rules prohibit advertising in or around competition sites.
Ironically, the Goodyear blimp, with logo, was seen during the Games because it had a separate contract with the Los Angeles Police Department to aid in security and was therefore exempt from the no-advertising rules.
The tables turned come Rose Bowl time, however, when the Goodyear blimp was temporarily grounded because of a mechanical problem.
Chapman said Fuji's airship, "being (only) the second one (after Goodyear's), was effective. It has gotten us tremendous publicity. This year, we will try to create the same thing, but without the Olympic event, it will require a little more plotting on how to do it." He added that Fuji has used a similar airship in Dusseldorf, West Germany, for about five years.