Kia is one of the most well-known brands in the world, not just in the automotive industry. How did this South Korean car company transform into the powerhouse it is today?
Well, there are several reasons for that evolution, but we can certainly attribute the popularity to Kia’s relationship with professional sports leagues. While many casual fans may be familiar with the agreement between the brand and the NBA, the company has actually spread out to each of the major professional sports. Sure, the NBA may get the recognition for how it’s included the car brand in many of its most popular events (including the NBA Dunk Contest). However, the brand is certainly making strides in the NFL, MLB, NHL and even professional golf. This doesn’t only give the brand some recognition, but it also helps solidify Kia’s place as a “maker of sporty cars.”
If you’ve seen any of these sport-oriented commercials, you’ve probably been itching to visit a Kia dealer in Miami. Before you head out, though, check out the company’s relationship with the major sports leagues. After you see the number of athletes who have endorsed the car company, you may be convinced that Kia is the brand for you…
Kia’s sponsorship agreement with the National Basketball Association is certainly the most well-known of all the professional sports leagues. The relationship started back in 2003, when the car company sponsored several of the league’s pre-game shows (this eventually led to Kia sponsoring the season-ending awards and the All-Star MVP).
That deal became more elaborate in 2009, when the brand became the NBA’s official automotive sponsor. You may have seen the clip of Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunking over a Kia during the 2011 Dunk Contest, and the star has since been featured in many of the brand’s commercials. This relationship evolved once again in 2014, when the brand was also declared the Official Luxury Vehicle of the NBA and the Official Automotive Partner of the Women’s National Basketball Association and the NBA Development League.
As part of their newest agreement, Kia named superstar LeBron James as their K900 Luxury Ambassador. This followed a photo posted by James that showed him “rolling around in [his] K900.”
“This partnership is about the power of great style and performance,” James said in a statement. “Kia and the K900 are out to challenge conventional wisdom and show people how to think differently, and I can relate to that. For me, a partnership has to be authentic and real to who I am, and that’s what makes this one so special.”
The brand is now sponsoring many of NBA.com’s videos. In fact, the brand planned a Holiday Gift promotion on the website that would offer fans an opportunity to win a new Kia Optima.
“As one of Kia’s longest-running partnerships, our involvement with the NBA and teams has driven dramatic increases in consumer awareness, perception and consideration for the brand, and we are excited to extend our partnership and continue connecting with the league and its passionate fans,” said Tim Chaney, the Vice President of Marketing Communications for KMA. “Like the NBA, Kia is a brand that appeals to a broad segment of the American market and through our expanded partnership as Official Luxury Vehicle of the NBA, we hope to bring the K900 flagship sedan to the forefront and bring confident, independent thinkers to Kia’s showrooms.”
The most significant step in this relationship will actually be coming during this year’s NBA All-Star game, which will feature the Kia logo on the player’s jerseys. This will mark the first time in the four major professional sports leagues in America that a brand’s logo will be featured on the uniforms.
Several baseball teams have partnered with the car brand to sponsor several aspects of their elaborate stadiums. For example, the Kansas City Royals recently announced that Kia would be the exclusive rights partner of their Diamond Club at Kauffman Stadium. This agreement followed the corporate partnership between the two sides in 2012.
“Expanding Kia’s partnership with a highly regarded organization like the Royals provides Kia with the opportunity to reach fans of the game of baseball and showcase our products,” said Mike Helgesen, the regional director of Kia Motors America.
The Texas Rangers did a similar thing in 2013 to help usher in the debut of Japanese superstar Yu Darvish. A special section of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was coined the “Kia Yuniverse,” which provided fans with free t-shirts and K-Cards.
The NFL once again ran a series of ads during this past season’s “NBC Sunday Night Football” broadcasts, this time highlighting their new Sorento CUV. The advertisements appeal to “football families,” showing the vehicle in three different “real life football situations.” This includes Participation (shows a young athlete winning a season-ending participation award), Great Game (showing a father loading his son’s football equipment into the cargo area), and Pants (a mother decides to park on an off-road grass area instead of a traditional parking space).
“Sunday Night Football attracts the largest primetime audience and provides an excellent opportunity to connect with football fans and showcase the premium utility experience of Kia’s largest and most capable CUV ever,” said Chaney.
The Kia Classis is now one of the premier tournaments on the Ladies Professional Golf Association circuit. Established in 2010, the event takes place at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California.
“The Kia Classic annually showcases some of the world’s most talented athletes playing at the highest levels of women’s professional golf,” Chaney said. “As the Official Automotive Partner of the LPGA, we at Kia look forward to this tournament every year and wish all of the players the best of luck as they compete at Aviara.”
The tournament brings together the best female golfers in the world to compete for a $1.7 million purse. Last year’s winner, Cristie Kerr, was the first American to take home the winning honors.
“Kia has been a vibrant supporter of not only this tournament but the LPGA and professional women’s golf, and we are thrilled to extend our partnership,” said Tournament Director Dennis Baggett. “Kia is an integral part of this tournament’s success and we look forward to growing this event in Southern California.”
Kia’s relationship with the National Hockey League isn’t as established as those with the other major sports leagues, but several teams have a partnership with the brand. This includes the New York Rangers, who established the Kia Motors Test Drive giveaway, which offered entrants a chance to win a brand-new Kia.
Kia’s successfully got their hand in each of the professional sports leagues, giving them an opportunity to reach out to millions of potential customers. Whether they’re releasing a new commercial or simply assigning their name to a stadium’s luxury suites, the brand is out there and getting recognition. We should expect to see these relationships evolve over the coming years, and we may eventually see the familiar Kia logo on these professional athlete’s uniforms. In the meantime, we can appreciate how the brand is trying to evolve and cater to a specific demographic, a risky venture that has clearly worked out for the company.