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Volume 24 No. 160
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Blake Griffin's Dunk Over A Kia Took More Than A Month To Put Together

The dunk that won the NBA’s Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Saturday night took only a few seconds to complete, but the process that united Blake Griffin with Kia, the league's official car, was around five weeks in the making. N.Y.-based Excel Sports Management handles Griffin, and the company’s VP/Marketing Jaymee Messler said the idea came from Griffin in January. Kia sponsors both the NBA and Griffin's Clippers. "We knew if it was going to be a car, it would have to be a Kia," Messler said. While Kia has been reticent to use athletes in their stateside marketing outside of golfer Michelle Wie, a quick call to the automaker’s U.S. HQs confirmed their enthusiasm. However, there was the not-inconsiderable matter of convincing Sprite, title sponsor of the event since ‘03 and one of the league's largest corporate patrons, that Kia was not carjacking the event. With the help of NBA officials, the Kia Optima was used. It was not a billboard for the automaker and also included Sprite logos as a nod to Coca-Cola. "We had to be very respectful of Coke's rights and fortunately they saw the value it had for the overall event," said Tim McGhee, Senior VP for IMG Consulting, Kia's sports and sponsorship agency. Kia paid what McGhee called "a reasonable" incremental fee to stage the automotive aerial.

FLAWLESS IN PRACTICE: Griffin rehearsed the dunk on the Staples Center court Thursday night after an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” "During this whole process we wanted this to be fun, not like an obligation," said Messler. "Blake did two or three and they were all flawless, so that was it." Added McGhee, "He jumped over the car so easily at the rehearsal that there was some talk, not necessarily serious talk, of him jumping over the roof." As presenting sponsor of Sunday's All-Star Game telecast, Kia scrambled to produce a TV ad including the dunk for the game, but ultimately there was not enough time. However, a TV ad is still in the works. "We haven't started to calculate the media value of this yet, but you just know it is something that will endure," McGhee said. Griffin signed the steering wheel of the car yesterday during a Jam Session appearance and the vehicle will be auctioned off for a yet-unnamed charity.

GRIFFIN IN DEMAND: Griffin’s marketing prowess is now soaring higher than the flight path above the Kia. Subway debuted a national TV ad with Griffin last week, and Griffin also has deals with Nike and PowerBar. After that? "Obviously, we are talking to Kia about a longer-term relationship," said Messler. "Overall, he's someone that's beginning to transcend basketball and we are looking for few other long-term partnerships that make sense. Especially in season, there's not a lot of time. But the interest on him over the last few months -- this just brought it up a level or two."

TAKE A SECOND LOOK AT US: For Kia, which took national stage on a building where rival Toyota is a huge sponsor, the hope is that the Griffin dunk makes consumers take a different look at the brand. The tagline is "The Power to Surprise," and “we think we have surprised people now," said IMG Consulting Vice President Shawn Morrissey. Given the attention that the dunk has attracted, there have been quite a few comments to the effect that no NBA player would drive a Kia. Not the point, says Morrissey. "We present Kia as fans of the game, and if it gets them in consumers' consideration set now, then we're doing our job," he added.