SBJ/Sept. 20-26, 2010/Marketing and Sponsorship

LEFTON REPORT: Kia, sponsor since '07-08, back for 3 more seasons with NBA

KIA NBAFernando Medina
Kia has put its name on four NBA Performance Awards, including Defensive Player of the Year, which Dwight Howard won for 2009-10.
Kia, an NBA corporate sponsor since the league’s 2007-08 season, has renewed for another three seasons, according to industry sources.

Since it signed with the NBA, the league’s official auto has put its name on four of the NBA’s most important performance awards. The annual awards for MVP, most improved player, defensive player and sixth man are collectively dubbed the NBA Performance Awards presented by Kia.

The auto brand is expected to continue with that platform as well as again helping to sponsor the league’s Tip Off Week celebration and, of course, buying media on NBA rights holders ESPN and Turner. Last season, Kia had team deals with 13 clubs, and we’re told that total should increase before the new season begins Oct. 26.

While we can’t give the NBA all the credit, Korean carmakers continue to set the pace for the industry. Kia, specifically, reported earlier this month that year-to-year sales were up 31.6 percent through August, including a 10.7 percent increase for North American sales over 2009.

IMG Consulting handles sports sponsorship for Kia.

LOCKED OUT: In what might be considered the first impact of a possible NFL work stoppage, some NFL sponsors are starting to grumble about the difficulties of planning marketing for next season.

Predictably, these are the consumer packaged goods brands that routinely are planning marketing activation programs tied to sports or entertainment properties a year or more in advance. Since they include some of the largest buyers of sports media in the country, it’s important to take note of their concerns.

“We’re normally 18 months ahead with any program,” said a top marketer at one NFL sponsor. “The NFL is talking to us, but everybody [on the sponsor side] is PO’ed, and it is difficult for me to say now that we’ll do any retail activation with the NFL next season even if they’re playing next year.”

Even for those whose marketing calendars don’t extend quite as far out, because of the uncertain future of the collective-bargaining agreement, the league is unable to assure sponsors that there will be a scouting combine, a player draft in April, minicamps or training camps. That shrinks the lead time on activation even more.

“There’s not a lot the league can do short of settling the thing, but increasingly, the consumer products companies that are [NFL] sponsors are going to be in freeze mode when it comes to NFL planning for 2011,” said a well-placed agency source.

Of particular interest to us will be Anheuser-Busch’s strategy, since its new and pricey NFL league rights don’t begin until next year.

NET EFFECT: On the positive side of the NFL ledger, sales at the NFL Network are just as buoyant as they are at the league’s broadcast rights holders. David Pattillo, NFL vice president of media sales, said the net has sold “in the mid-90 percent range” of its inventory, compared with 80 percent a year ago. The strong number is no doubt aided by the net’s increased carriage number, with NFL Network now available in 57 million homes, up 10 million from last September.

Especially active categories, Pattillo said, were auto, movie studios and telecommunications.

New advertisers include General Auto Insurance, Chrysler and Pizza Hut. Southwest Airlines is underwriting aerial coverage of NFL Network’s game schedule. Returning for their fixed positions are Sears as title sponsor of the pregame show; Lexus for the “Pre-Kick” show; former league sponsor Sprint with the halftime show; and Kay Jewelers with the postgame show.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.
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