Let’s face it, advertisers love sports – perhaps none more than in the auto industry.
Last year’s FIFA World Cup was the biggest worldwide televised sports event in history, next in total number of viewers is expected to be next weeks Super Bowl XLV, with commercials costing from $2.8 to $3.0 million for each :30-second spot.
But here in the ‘land down under,’ Kia Motors has set an incredibly high benchmark for sponsorship of a single, important athletic event, the first of the four Grand Slam tennis majors, the Australian Open. Kia is the major sponsor of the entire 14-day event for men and women. Not just a single event at a Slam Event ala Mercedes, which last year took over sponsorship of the men’s singles at the U.S. Open, which was preceded by Lexus, which took over from Lincoln.
In all due respect this is not an inexpensive sponsorship, but if getting the proverbial bang for the buck – aka ROI — is the measure of success then Kia, Korea’s oldest car manufacturer Is the winner in straight sets similar to how Kia’s brand ambassador, Rafel Nadal, got slammed on Wednesday night and Roger Federer did, too, a day later — both in straight sets. The winner however is Kia: Game, Set and Match.
While Kia’s marketing investment is not divulged, it’s gotta be worth a helluva lot more exposure than a commercial or two, even three in the Super Bowl. Kia is very frugal. Following are some rather amazing stats which may cause some agency, media and corporate execs to utter, “OMG!” Or maybe, “WTF?”
Kia has been the major sponsor since 2002 and renewed its commitment in 2009 through 2013. That’s my definition of long-term. The Kia logo is omnipresent in Melbourne Park, home of the event, which is spread out in three stadiums and outside courts. When I asked Michael Choo, Kia’s manager of international communications, how many Kia logos were on signs, bags, banners, flags, tennis nets, programs, displays, official and unofficial web sites devoted to the Aussie Open and tennis generally and god knows where else including fans for tennis fans sitting on the sunny side of stadium and over a million tickets and credentials? His response was “We have never counted them, but it would make a good contest for Facebook, wouldn’t it?”
One measure is the hours of brand exposure during broadcasts of the many events over the fortnight on 12 television networks and numerous web sites in which the Kia logo is shown. Last year 5,239 hours of games were telecast to over 150 nations all of which sell Kia vehicles. The gross media value year last year was estimated at $250.932 million! This year could bring even more airtime according to ESPN and The Tennis Channel people I spoke to on-site,
While soccer generates national fervor and passion, tennis is equally nationalistic. That value is almost incalculable. Nadal’s involvement with Kia started with the Kia distributor in Spain helped him early in his career when he was an unknown.
Hong-Joe Kim, Kia’s general manager of overseas promotions, told me about some interesting events and competitions the company stages in countries selling Kia vehicles. “We are using two events, one is a test drive event the other uses amateur tennis in 23 different countries.” In the test drive event lucky customers in each country were invited to the Aussie Open in Melbourne. They’ve already seen one Men’s Singles event and will attend a Women’s Singles event and take a tour of the tennis venue in this lovely city where I’ve escaped winter in Michigan. I’ve spoken with a few contest winners who are beyond thrilled.
And if that not enough there’s the Kia Amateur Australian Open, an elimination event now in its eighth year. Fourteen nations were involved with 14,160 teams eventually narrowed to just 34. They, too, are in Melbourne for a special day-long tennis championship and will attend two semi-final events and a special dinner in their honor.
In another activity, Kia sent 20 Korean tennis playing kids from the Avia ball kids program to Melbourne to be ball-kids during early rounds. Having been a ball-man myself at a major event I can relate to the kids thrill and excitement of just being on a tennis court at a major.
In more traditional sponsorship activities, Kia has supplied over 100 vehicles to the Aussie Open as the official supplier of motor vehicles which among other things provide chauffer service to players and officials from their hotel to Melbourne Park. One driver told me, “The tennis pros are some of the nicest I’ve ever met.” He singled out Andy Roddick, America’s top ranked player and a fan favorite. There are several car displays, face painting (really big and kinda weird here) ads in the official program book which sells for sixteen buck Aussie dollars or $16 U.S.D., not exactly a good value, but a great souvenir. More from here about the tennis semi-finals and champion events as well as sights and sounds and of course the cars, food and wine for Monday.