Buick has Tiger. Kia now has Nadal.

20-year-old Rafael Nadal, the reigning French Open champion, will act as the Korean automaler's "global brand ambassador."

"Global brand ambassador," of course, means "paid spokesperson," and Nadal will appear in Kia television and print advertising campaigns for the next two years as Kia "promotes its 'exciting and enabling' (enabling?) image worldwide." Nadal, for his part, is "delighted" with the situation -- and really, who wouldn't be? It's safe to assume Kia is paying him somewhat more than a pittance to be the company's celebrity face.

The relationship comes at a perfect time for Kia, who will undoubtably leverage the Spaniard's popularity as it prepares to launch the Europe-only C'eed hatchback.

(Press release after the jump)

[Source: Kia]

PRESS RELEASE:

Spanish tennis sensation Rafael Nadal to become global brand ambassador for Kia Motors

Kia Motors has announced Rafael Nadal is to become a global brand ambassador for the Korean carmaker. Kia will be working with the reigning two-time French Open tennis champion to promote its 'exciting & enabling' brand values worldwide.

Nadal, 20, will appear in Kia's global advertising campaigns in TV and print media over the next two years and will promote Kia by taking part in various events, including major international motor shows.

Jung-Moon Park, Senior Executive Vice President and COO of Kia Motors, said, "We are continuously developing and enhancing the Kia brand through the sponsorship of world class tennis tournaments like the Australian Open and the Davis Cup. Rafael Nadal, with his dynamic, exciting on-court presence, is the perfect partner to help build the Kia brand by promoting our 'exciting and enabling' image worldwide."

Rafael Nadal said, "I am delighted to have this opportunity to represent a world class automaker such as Kia. I will do my best to promote the Kia brand across all of its key global markets by continuing to improve my play on the court."

Nadal took the world of tennis by storm when he made his professional debut in 2001 at the age of just 16. He won 10 titles before turning 20, an achievement unsurpassed in the Open era. And he won back-to-back French Open titles in 2005 and 2006, part of a world record run of 60 consecutive wins on clay courts.

The young prodigy became a national sports hero in Spain by leading the Spanish men's team to victory in the 2004 Davis Cup. Kia has partnered with Nadal in Spain for the last two years, using him as the 'face' of the company in TV and print media advertising, to boost the Kia brand in the Spanish market.

Along with its sponsorship of the Australian Open and the Davis Cup, Kia has stepped up its sports marketing activities elsewhere in the tennis arena. Kia loaned courtesy vehicles including the new Sedona MPV to women's tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams when they played a recent promotional match in Korea. In the UK, Kia sponsors the Kia National Club League, the nation's largest competitive tennis singles based league.

Aside from tennis, Kia has boosted its brand through other sports marketing initiatives, such as working with well-known Korean soccer players in major European leagues including Park Ji-Sung who plays for Manchester United and Tottenham player Lee Young-Pyo, as brand ambassadors, and becoming an official partner to FIFA, together with Hyundai.

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