"I was a Kia K900 driver and fan before we decided to become partners, so I'm really excited to be Kia's first-ever luxury ambassador." – LeBron James
LeBron James is taking his talents to Kia.
The 10-time NBA all-star has signed on with the Korean automaker as a spokesman for Kia's first luxury sedan, the 2015 K900. While the move isn't as shocking as his 2010 defection from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat (he re-signed with the Cavs this summer), it has raised eyebrows, as James is a noted car collector who has owned a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and other high-end models.
Still, James said that he was a fan of the K900 before he signed on as a pitchman. Perhaps telegraphing the upcoming deal, he posted a photo of himself in the car in August, saying: "Rolling around in my K900. Love this car!"
Kia said James reach out to the company to sample the K900. "I was a Kia K900 driver and fan before we decided to become partners, so I'm really excited to be Kia's first-ever luxury ambassador," he said in a statement. He added: "For me, a partnership has to be authentic and real to who I am, and that's what makes this one so special."
Kia is a longtime sponsor of the NBA and serves as its "official automotive partner." In 2009, James received a Kia Borrego for earning MVP honors, though he donated it to the Akron (OH) Urban League.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. James, who will officially be called a "luxury brand ambassador," joins fellow NBA star Blake Griffin, tennis player Rafael Nadal and professional golfer Michelle Wie in Kia's lineup of celebrity endorsers. James will appear in TV advertisements, including a spot called Fit For A King, which launches in November as the NBA season tips off.
Kia hopes the partnership with James will raise the profile of the K900. Though it's expected to be a relatively low-volume car, Kia sold just 56 of them in September and has sold 1,106 units this year. As Kia's flagship, the K900 aspires to compete with sedans from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and others. It offers powerful V6 and V8 engines paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a luxurious cabin with wood and leather features, and design flourishes like LED lights and a prominent chrome grille. It starts at $59,500.
For more, scroll through Kia's press release down below.
Multi-Year Partnership Forged After James Experienced the Advanced Technology, V8 Power and World-Class Craftsmanship and Materials of the Kia K900 for Himself
• As the K900 Luxury Ambassador, James will star in advertisements for the modern and elegant sedan and make exclusive appearances
• First TV spot in Fit For A King™ campaign to debut later this month when the 2014-15 basketball season gets underway
IRVINE, Calif., October 15, 2014 – On the court, he is a ten-time NBA All-Star and the most popular athlete in the U.S.1; away from the arena he is a philanthropist, businessman and trendsetter; and today, LeBron James proudly includes a Kia K900 – the brand's first-ever rear-drive luxury sedan – among his fleet of exotic automobiles. In a multi-year partnership with Kia Motors America (KMA), James assumes the newly created role of K900 Luxury Ambassador after the avid car collector reached out to Kia – the Official Automotive Partner of the NBA – for a firsthand experience with the flagship sedan aimed at confident, independent thinkers who actively seek out new products and unique ideas from up-and-coming brands.
"I was a Kia K900 driver and fan before we decided to become partners, so I'm really excited to be Kia's first-ever luxury ambassador," said LeBron James. "This partnership is about the power of great style and performance. Kia and the K900 are out to challenge conventional wisdom and show people how to think differently, and I can relate to that. For me, a partnership has to be authentic and real to who I am, and that's what makes this one so special."
In August, James posted "Rolling around in my K900. Love this car!" online with photos of the sedan, which AMCI Testing2 recently certified as Quieter, Smoother, and Better Riding Overall than the Audi A8 4.0T, the BMW 750i and the Lexus LS460.
"As fans of the game of basketball, we were honored to learn that one of today's most influential athletes and tastemakers recognized something different was going on at Kia and wanted to check out our new flagship sedan," said Tim Chaney, vice president of marketing communications, KMA. "Like Kia, LeBron James does not want to be confined by conventions or traditional definitions, and as our K900 Luxury Ambassador his star power will cause people to question everything they think they know about our brand."
In his role, James joins Kia's roster of high-profile ambassadors, which includes fellow NBA All-Star Blake Griffin, tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, and U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie.
About Kia Motors America
Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA proudly serves as the "Official Automotive Partner" of the NBA and LPGA and surpassed the 500,000 annual sales mark for the second consecutive year in 2013 following the launch of seven all-new or significantly redesigned vehicles. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles, including the rear-drive K900** flagship sedan, Cadenza premium sedan, Sorento CUV, Soul urban passenger vehicle, Sportage compact CUV, Optima midsize sedan, Optima Hybrid, the Forte compact sedan, Forte5 and Forte Koup, Rio and Rio 5-door subcompacts and the Sedona midsize multi-purpose vehicle, through a network of more than 765 dealers across the United States. Kia's U.S. manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia, builds the Optima* and Sorento* and is responsible for the creation of more than 14,000 plant and supplier jobs.
Information about KMA and its full vehicle line-up is available at www.kia.com. For media information, including photography, visit www.kiamedia.com. To receive custom email notifications for press releases the moment they are published, subscribe at www.kiamedia.com/us/en/newsalert.