- Tennis, ski-jumping raise brand profile at home and abroad
SEOUL 28 January 2003 - For a company that is just starting out in the global sports marketing field, Kia Motors is seeing incredible results already in 2003.
The first success of the year came from Korea`s ski-jumping team, which has been sponsored by Kia since 2001. The four man team traveled to Tarvisio, Italy for the 21st Winter Olympiad where, despite lacking the facilities common to the top skiing nations such as Austria and Switzerland, they picked up almost a clean sweep of medals.
19-year-old Sung-Gil Kang became the first Korean ever to win an international ski-jumping event when he won the K-90 individual gold. The team also picked up gold in the K-90 team event. Kang had to settle for silver in the K-120 event, narrowly missing the clean sweep.
The success of the ski team was closely followed by a stellar performance by top Korean tennis player Hyung-taik Lee, who caused something of an upset when he won the Sydney International on January 11 and then raised even more eyebrows when he went on to reach the second round in the Australian Open, an event that Kia Motors has sponsored since last year.
"These two events have generated an enormous amount of interest among consumers in Korea and overseas," says overseas marketing director Park Hong. "Hyoung-taek Lee in particular has got people looking at Korea again, and that`s good for all Korean companies."
Lee was defeated in the Australian Open by Andre Agassi, the eventual winner of the tournament. From Kia`s perspective, the result was an added bonus. The company also retains Agassi as a corporate spokesperson, featuring him in a corporate advertising campaign at the end of last year.
"As soon as Lee met Agassi we were in a win/win situation," says Hong. "If Lee had won against Agassi the attention would have been enormous both in the tournament and in Korea. Agassi winning the match and the tournament was equally good for us."
Hong is philosophical about the success of the sports marketing initiative. "All we can do is pick the events and personalities that we think best match the Kia brand. After that there is a certain amount of luck involved. We chose last year to associate ourselves with a great event and a great competitor, and this time we have been lucky. Next time, who knows?"
If last year`s Australian Open is any guide, the 2004 tournament will have its share of luck also. Kia sponsored the event for the first time in 2002, the same year that Namco (producers of Sony Playstation games) used the Australian Open court look, featuring the Kia logo, as part of a game featuring all four Grand Slams. "Sometimes lightning strikes twice," says Hong.
Kia is hoping for a third strike, announcing the continuation of the Australian sponsorship agreement until at least 2008. "Tennis closely matches the young, sporty, fun image we want to associate with Kia," says Hong. "We`re looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the sport."
Founded in 1944, Kia Motors Corporation (www.kia.co.kr) is Korea`s oldest manufacturer of automobiles. A part of the Hyundai Automobile Group, the company currently exports around 600,000 vehicles per year through a network of distributors that covers 190 countries. Kia Motors is the major sponsor of the Australian Tennis Open.