The Michelin Man’s Real Name

May 18, 2024

michelin man

He’s been in countless commercials selling tires. He’s large and round and is known as Michelin Man, the mascot of the Michelin Tire Company. But the Michelin Man actually has a name, and he goes by Bibendum. The jolly round figure made of tires didn’t start as the Michelin Man, and he wasn’t so cuddly looking either.

The mascot began, according to lore, when the Michelin brothers noticed that a stack of tires they saw at the Lyon Universal Exhibition in 1894 would resemble a man if it had arms. Fast forward to 1898, when Andre Michelin saw an ad drawn by an artist named Marius Rossillon, who went by the name O’Galop. It was of a bearded man lifting a beer mug with the Latin quote, “Nunc est Bibendum,” which meant, “Now is the time for drinking.” The quote came from the odes of Horace, a Roman poet that published the work in 23 BC. The ad by O’Galop had been turned down by a brewery in Munich, Germany, and Michelin suggested an alternative to the bearded man.

Michelin proposed to turn the bearded man into a man made of tires, and he even kept the quote. O’Galop turned the picture into what Michelin wanted. The new tire man held a glass containing glass and nails, meaning that the tires could take on anything, along with the additional quote, “Michelin tires drink up obstacles.” The mascot came to be known as Bibendum, and Michelin began using the poster for their advertising.

michelin man poster
An 1898 Poster of the First Michelin Man by O’Galop

In those early ads, Bibendum had glasses and was sometimes smoking a cigar, and through the years, his appearance changed as he became a worldwide symbol for the company. There’s also a reason Bibendum’s tire body wasn’t black like the color of tires we know today because tires during that time period were either grayish-white or beige. Tires didn’t become black until 1912 when manufacturers began to add carbon to the tires to act as a preservative.

It is unclear when the mascot started to be called Bibendum or referred to as the Michelin Man. Bibendum, or the Michelin Man, is one of the oldest company mascots still alive today, just behind the Quaker Oats pilgrim.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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