Kia Pulls Out Stops To Promo '11 Optima

Kia Epic Ride This year, Kia is taking a page out of sibling Hyundai's big-voices, big-places strategy to promote its 2011 Optima and other vehicles. The Irvine, Calif.-based automaker is not just advertising in the Super Bowl along with Hyundai and getting vehicles in the new series "Nikita" on The CW Network.

Kia also has the 2011 Optima on a Times Square billboard, a made-for-cinema, 60-second spot titled "Sweet Dreams," and is promoting the car as "Official Vehicle of the NBA" this season as part of its multi-year deal with the league. Optima will also be featured as part of Kia's sponsorship of the LPGA golf tournament at Industry Hills, Calif.

With its sponsorship of the "Nikita" show, Kia will tout both Optima and the Sportage crossover, with product placement as well as sponsorship of a three-part digital video series about the show. There is also an app gaming experience and social networking program around the partnership.



Kia will run an on-air and online series called "Undercover Operations: Interviews with the cast of Nikita." The online content, at will show the cast on-set talking about their characters, and show sneak previews of the second half of the season. The company will sponsor "Undercover Operations: with Maggie Q and Lyndsy Fonseca," a three-part video series starting Feb. 10 that comprises an examination of the show's main characters. The weekly program will run for three weeks in conjunction with on-air and online promotions.

Michael Sprague, Kia Motors America VP marketing, says the Optima will also be part of the Nikita integration. "This was part of our upfront buy last year, and we have both passive and active integration," he says. "Sportage will be in this episode, then we will integrate the Optima into the rest of the season." The car was actually in some early episodes during the fall.

Kia, which touted its Sorento SUV in last year's Super Bowl, is supporting the 2011 Optima this time with a 60-second spot via AOR Santa Monica-based David&Goliath. The ad is part of an integrated digital, print, social media and retail program that has an online-gaming focus. The TV spot, set to air in the first quarter of Super Bowl XLV, has such characters as a police officer, an international villain, aliens, and ancient Greek god of the waters Poseidon traveling through time to get behind the wheel of the Optima by any means possible.

One of the game-centered integrated promotions dangles five Optimas to winners of "One Epic Contest," wherein consumers have to solve a series of online puzzles. The promotion, at, challenges players to find answers to four questions, clues to which are in 15-second TV spots, print ads and social media postings. The clue to the fifth question will be in the 60-second Super Bowl spot. People who answer all five then have to play a final puzzle game. The first five people who solve it before midnight on game day, Feb. 7, get the new car.

Sprague says the effort starts Monday with 15-second teasers on selected networks -- one of which teases the Super Bowl spot, the other the online competition. He says that each day starting next Tuesday, Kia will post one of the five questions, with the last one reserved for Sunday. "It's a great place for us to be as a challenger brand; we are talking to 100 million viewers, so it builds awareness both for Kia and the new product."

The bowl game plan includes another gaming element that promotes a test-drive incentive. The program puts Optima in a "Big Game Tournament" on Zynga's "FarmVille," "PetVille," "Mafia Wars," and "Café World" games. The Big Game program lets players earn "currency" by participating in an Optima-branded virtual football game with a team of characters from different Zynga games.

Players see Kia Optima content during game play promoting a test-drive program. On Feb. 4, Kia will begin offering a $25 Visa prepaid card test-drive voucher that consumers can download at Kia's consumer site. The coupon is redeemable after the holder visits a dealership and takes a test drive of the Optima.

Sprague says the company is actually doing a lot more in terms of integration this year than last. "We took the playbook from last year, and looked what did and didn't work. We went down the path of integrating games because of the explosive growth of online gaming." He says the Zynga program is intended as a kind of alternative to halftime. "Our contest is meant to drive traffic and interest both before and during the game."

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