Kia Motors Inks Multi-Year Partnership With NBA

Kia Motors America finished its 14th straight year of sales growth by selling more than 300,000 units in the U.S. But the company wants to build even greater brand awareness here.

To that end, the Irvine, Calif.-based sales arm of the Korean automaker has inked a multi-year marketing partnership with the NBA to promote its vehicles and also to trumpet the brand.

As Official Automotive Partner of the NBA, the company will have a number of brand-integration platforms. Most notably, Kia gets title sponsorship of four on-court, televised awards presentations: Most Valuable Player Award; Defensive Player of the Year; Sixth Man Award; and Most Improved Player. The awards will be bundled under the "NBA Performance Awards Presented by Kia" banner. Kia also will get title sponsorship of the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Player of the Month awards.

The announcement, held on Thursday at New York's NBA store, included NBA commissioner David Stern, Kia CEO Len Hunt and past award winners Willis Reed (MVP '70), Bill Walton (MVP '78, Sixth Man '86), Jalen Rose (Most Improved '00) and Mark Eaton (Defensive Player of the Year '85 and '89).

Stern pointed out that the deal seemed natural because Kia already sponsors 16 NBA teams, as well as the ESPN Kia Shootout. "We share characteristics with Kia: youthful, diverse, energetic," he said.

Kia's Hunt said that the agreement fits Kia's global strategy of brand-building through sports. "We are weaving it into a global identity as a sporting brand." He added that the deal complements Kia's sponsorship of individual NBA teams: Kia's sponsorship of the 16 individual teams benefit Kia's efforts at the bottom of the purchase funnel, via vehicle displays at game venues, and dealer promotional tie-ins; the company's new national sponsorship gives Kia greater brand voice.

"With the league, it's top of the funnel; with the individual teams, it's consideration," he said.

As part of the awards sponsorship, Kia will give a 2009 Borrego -- a crossover to be unveiled at an NBA-themed event at this weekend's North American International Auto Show in Detroit -- to each winner.

Kia will also do promotions around the NBA playoffs, the finals and the NBA draft. Kia is also the new co-presenting partner of NBA Nation, a mobile, customized 18-wheel truck that becomes a basketball court.

Next fall Kia is also presenting sponsor of NBA Tip-Off Week, leveraging that with fan events, promotions and in local and national NBA game broadcasts.

DavidandGoliath, L.A. is Kia's creative AOR.

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