• Mar 15, 2011
Blake Griffin posterizes the 2011 Kia Optima – Click above to watch video after the jump

Kia has become an active presence in both the National Basketball Association and Grand-Am Challenge racing series. Participation in both requires a fair amount of investment for the automaker, but so far, Kia says this marketing gamble is paying off handsomely.

In 2010, Kia sold 356,268 vehicles to U.S. consumers. That's a record for the automaker, and it tops efforts by more established brands Mazda, Volkswagen and Subaru. Kia is optimistic that 2011 could be even better thanks to the increased brand exposure coming as a result of its NBA tie-ins.

Viewership of this NBA season is up, which means Kia's messaging is reaching a greater number of fans. That messaging got a massive surge during All-Star Weekend when Los Angeles Clippers forward used a 2011 Optima as a prop in the slam-dunk contest. Millions of people watched Blake Griffin soar over the hood of the strategically placed sedan, and many continue to view clips of the dunk on YouTube. (You can do the same, by clicking past the jump).

Beyond the NBA and the Optima, Kia has outfitted its Forte Koup for racing duty. Running in the Grand-Am Challenge Series, the Forte has been hitting the track for two solid years now. This year, the team was able to make it on to the podium.

It's two very different markets, but the Kia lineup is getting exposure to a very large audience. Traffic to both its website and dealerships is up, and Kia has been so buoyed by its Grand-Am involvement that it is also understood to be considering going racing with the Optima.

[Source: WardsAuto | Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Anybody in the NBA can jump over a car and dunk, apart from Earl Boykins maybe. Blake Griffin dunks on people, when it comes to dunk contests, DeRozan is way ahead. Kia looks good though. But to make it impressive he'd have to jump over an SUV.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm sure supplying multiple Cee'd models to serve as Reasonably Priced Cars on Top Gear hasn't hurt sales either!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wish they'd develop a partnership with the NHL and MLS.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Dumbest product placement ever. I've never been much of a fan of the NBA in the first place, but the slam-dunk contest was at least entertaining to watch. Apparently now, it's just another opportunity to whore themselves out to the highest bidder.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Marketing doesn't matter so much if one doesn't have appealing products - which Kia finally has.

      Remember, those Joe Isuzu commercials (which became a part of American pop culture) didn't exactly keep Isuzu afloat in the US.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I drove a KIA Optima EX Turbo this past weekend and it was incredible! I had been looking at the Infiniti G37 and MB C350, but this blows both of them away in so many areas, most of all price. But even fit & finish, ride, handling and performance was at least equal or better than the other two.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The handling and performance in the Optima EX (!!!) was equal to or better than the C350 and G37?

        Umm, no. Not even close. Sounds like you need to do some research as that was a very silly thing to say.

        • 3 Years Ago
        After loving my '10 Forte EX, I was dead-set on an Optima or Sonata... until on a trip down to Chicago this past weekend a complete DB decided to ride my a** doing 80 (in a 65) in his brand new Optima, flipping me off and honking at me the entire time. That was when I realized Kia's aspiration of becoming the new Honda had come to fruition. There goes the desire to want to own another Kia ever again.

        A shame, I *really* like my car. =(
        • 3 Years Ago
        @16915V

        You sir are an idiot. Go compare cars that are in the same class. No one shopping for a G or C Class are driving through the KIA lot unless it is to turn around after missing the Infiniti of Mercedes dealership down the street

        I have the G and it was recently backed into in a parking lot. The irony in this is that when I dropped it off at the body shop they gave me the Optima to drive until my car is done. After driving both I can tell you that in NO WAY can you compare the two. Nothing against the Optima or its owners but is no G.

        The only way your point would make sense is if you are one of those that compares a used LUXURY car to a new ECONO car by price only and convince yourself that since the inexpensive new car has navigation and leather that it is in the same class. Yea right.......
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is why I stopped watching the All-Star game and weekend. The dunk competition, the purest of creativity and athleticism in the NBA, is now a marketing campaign. Next thing you know, we'll have Steve Jobs jumping over a stack of iPad's and dunking a 7 foot hoop with a mini-ball.

      Where are the real dunkers at?

      I remember... MJ, Spud Webb, Domonique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Jason Richardson.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Pro sports have been a huge test bed for marketing for many years. I'm surprised it took until 2011 to pull a stunt like this. There are only so many ways one man can dunk a basketball.

      Commercial success for Kia at the cost of losing some fans that prefer a pure dunk contest.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Whomeva at KIA recommended they do these sponsorships should get a hefty bonus. You have the NBA for the general consumer, and then Grand-Am series for the enthusiast. In the past few years KIA has risen out of their Econo-box glorified golf-cart status into a legit player for decently priced cars.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Whomeva? Really?
      • 3 Years Ago
      Here's a question which I don't know if it has ever been asked or answered....

      How many NBA players actually own and drive a KIA?
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