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Bibendum, 120 years traveling non-stop

The one known as 'Michelin doll' has just been named in New York 'Icon of the Millennium'.

Bibendum turns 120 years old! © Alamy

In Spain it is known as the Michelin doll, Because it is the image of the French tire manufacturer. Its resounding image, built with overlapping tires, He has given name to the 'floats' or lorzas de los gorditos, a meaning that has been collecting the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy for years.

But his real name is Bibendum and he was born in France 120 years ago. Despite his seniority, he is a centenary !, Bibendum is younger than ever and is the most famous pet in the world.

October 1st collected in Times Square (New York) the title of 'Icon of the millenium', The most important award in this sector, presented by Advertising Week, which brings together the world leaders in marketing, advertising and branding.

However, Bibendum was already accustomed to receiving worldwide recognition. With the turn of the century, in the middle of 2000 He was selected by the Financial Times as 'the best brand icon of all time'.

1900 Poster © Alamy


To such prestigious awards adds that since 1900 is the symbol of travel and road safety through maps and the most famous tourist and gastronomic guides in the world, the Michelin Guides.

Bibendum has starred in comics, stained glass, stamps, posters, postcards, key chains, pins, calendars, card games and to a roundabout in Jerez de la Frontera, at the exit of the circuit in which he makes a nod to the bikers around the world.

Appeared in Asterix in Helvecia, in the English version he was a cart seller, and even won an Oscar in 2010 with Logorama a French animated short film in which he was a hero fighting an evil Ronald McDonald.

Not forgetting that for decades it has been the bow mask of many trucks worldwide.

Bibendum in 1905, by O'Galop © Courtesy of Michelin

The origin

The story of this immortal icon began one day in 1894 during the Lyon Universal Exhibition (France). That day the brothers Edouard and André Michelin, that a few years before he had created his company, they looked with great imagination at the pile of tires that decorated the entrance of his stand And they saw a man.

Four years later, in 1898, André met the advertising artist Marius Rossillon, who signed his works as O'Galop. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries advertising always used drawings. So the picture was in diapers, it didn't allow much creativity and it was very expensive.

O'Galop contributed the idea, rejected by a Munich brewery, of an ornate figure raising a beer mug under Horacio's phrase "nunc est Bibendum", which means something like "it's time to drink." The figure was replaced by the idea of ​​Michelin, the torso of a man made with stacked tires, which was white because at that time the gums were sold wrapped in a paper of that color.

The original idea of ​​the Michelin brothers © Courtesy of Michelin

The figure was identified with a potentate of the late nineteenth century, the only ones that could afford to have a car, with impertinent and pure. Today would be quite politically incorrect.

The Michelin man offers in his first posters with a glass full of broken glass and a free translation of Horacio's phrase: “To your health. Michelin tires drink the obstacles. ” A star was born.

People began to refer to him with the striking Latin word that headed the poster. The confirmation came in a circuit, when André Michelin arrived a pilot received him with the shout "Here comes Bibendum."

Bibendum at full speed © Courtesy of Michelin


In the following years that poster was continued to be used, with different variations and with the new Michelin product launches, but Until 10 years later, in 1899, it was not printed in a newspaper.

Bibendum was evolving while the Michelin brothers, with a great commercial vision, exploited it to the fullest in all types of advertising messages, surpassing the brand and becoming the symbol of a world that was rapidly modernizing.

In 1901 the first drawing with legs appears and in 1910 it is already known in the world thanks to its presence in all car races of the time.

In 1916 it reaches the United States advertising and In the 20s he quits smoking and appears on the move. A more stylized Bibendum runs next to a tire in the drawings.

Bibendum in 1913 © Courtesy of Michelin


In the 60 is when his popularity skyrockets and not only because in that decade he began to climb on the front of the trucks. In 1900, with the beginning of the new century, The Michelin brothers began to edit a series of maps and guides that they distributed among their few customers at the time.

Being a motorist in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was an adventure, more complex than going to the Himalayas now. Few and bad roads, few gas stations and remote workshops, the guides became an essential survival tool because they also included points to eat or sleep on the intrepid trips.

Bibendum was the image of the first guide, launched in 1900 in France and 10 years after Spain, and has remained so until when there is already 23 annual editions.

In the 20s the Michelin guides were taking the form we know today. The restaurant rating by stars and the rules were set to reward establishments.

Forty years later, with the rise of travel in the 1960s, the guides became another element of cars. Today they combine the paper format with the digital one, but their function remains the same ... helping motorists.

The first Michelin Guide of Spain (1910) © Courtesy of Michelin

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