Kia, Microsoft To Promote Soul On Xbox

download win/kia Kia is reaching out to younger consumers and gamers with a plan to promote the new Soul via a video game marketing program with Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE, both units of Microsoft. The effort comprises a national sweepstakes on the two platforms and on Xbox 360 titles and dangles a new Soul and a VIP, all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the best of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) on June 2.

Gamers can enter to participate in the promotion at Xbox.com/Kia or on Xbox LIVE Marketplace until the end of the month. People can also enter via texting on mobile phones to their Gamertag.

Kia is offering other prizes like a home entertainment system with a 47-inch HDTV, Xbox 360 Elite console, a one-year subscription of Xbox LIVE Gold, 120GB Zune and a one-year Zune Pass.

In June, Kia will extend the initiative with sponsorship of E3 on Xbox LIVE. The automaker, which is also official auto sponsor of the NBA, will sponsor Xbox's NBA Live 09 timed with the NBA Finals in June. Microsoft will expedite ROI research via Microsoft Advertising.

The U.S. arm of Seoul-based, Hyundai-owned agency Innocean Worldwide developed the arrangement between Kia and Microsoft Corp. Media was bought by Interpublic's Initiative, which became media AOR for Kia and Hyundai in January last year.

Kia's tagline in the U.S. is "The Power to Surprise," but the Soul has its own theme line, "A New Way to Roll."

Kia Motors America was a rare bright spot in the business last month, with first-quarter sales up 1 percent versus the first quarter last year. By the end of last month, the company had sold 1,246 Souls, which began rolling into dealerships in February.

Whether Kia succeeds in wooing younger buyers is another question. Wes Brown, auto consultant with Iceology in L.A., says the company stands a chance both with the vehicle itself and with the quirky ad campaign, in which the Soul is posited as an escape from the hamster wheel. Literally.

"I think the vehicle is cool -- I think the launch campaign definitely makes you sit there and go 'what the heck is this all about?' It's a clever approach and arguably, the shape of the vehicle, which is what Toyota's Scion division tried with the xB and Nissan will do with the Cube, is right for Gen X and Y."

According to J.D. Power and Associates' Power Information Network, Scion has the youngest customers. The average age of Scion vehicle buyers is 42. Mazda is next at 43. Then come Mitsubishi, Land Rover, Audi, VW and BMW's Mini brand. Kia, whose average customer age is 51, per J.D. Power, is well down the list at No. 28 -- behind its affiliate Hyundai and just in front of Lexus and only eight slots from Buick, with the oldest buyers at 62.

Brown says the vehicle must transcend the parent brand and the consumer perception that "this is a cheap, inexpensive vehicle. But the focus on personalization definitely ties in strongly with what Gen Y wants: that it's a blank sheet of paper waiting for people to put their expression on it."

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