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Marty's Marketing Musings© Kia Owned 2016 Australian Open

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Kia owned the 2016 Australian Open the

by Marty Bernstein
Editor at Large
The Auto Channel

January 31, 2016; Sunday, after a fortnight of almost 500 individual matches, nearly 750,000 tennis fans in attendance, thousands of hours of worldwide television coverage, millions of viewers’ impressions, countless articles and photographs in newspapers and magazines three champions were crowned:

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Novak Djokovic won the men’s championship for the sixth time

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Angelique Kerber pic won her first Grand Slam defeating Serena Williams

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Kia Motors won my award for defining how to sponsor a major tennis event

Over the past few years’ tennis was the sponsorship domain, at least in America of the U.S. Open’s Men’s Singles event of luxury brands including Lincoln which passed to Lexus who then recently defaulted to Mercedes-Benz. These brands did not sponsor the Ladies Singles events. Smacks a bit of gender discrimination, doesn’t it?

But Kia doesn’t just sponsor the important men’s and women’s events it sponsors the entire tournament! And has since 2002. Tennis fans, including your author, usually follow many of tennis tournament categories including men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, senior and junior events along with wheelchair tennis either in person or on ESPN.

From personal experience I can tell you there isn’t a tennis court from the grandstand and stadium venues to lesser courts to practice in all off Melbourne Park, home of the Aussie Open, that lacks significant Kia logo identification. The major match venue alone, Rod Laver Stadium, pic with its retractable roof alone has 26 Kia logos strategically placed so they’re always in a shot on television. Talk about brand exposure. A special request to Kia public relations as to how many Kia logos were at the Aussie Open went unanswered. Hmm.

Granted there’s a bit of over-logo-ing at the site, but it costs a bundle to be the main sponsor of the entire tournament and an ROI is expected by corporate management. Compare that to Mercedes which gets its Tristar on the court’s net in two positions and a few signs around the venue and elsewhere at the U.S. Open. And that is not inexpensive.

Kia also had numerous on and off-site activities to augment its sponsorship including providing the transportation services since day one of its partnership with the Australian Open. Every year, more than 100 new Kia vehicles are supplied to the Australian Open to ensure the safe and convenient transportation of the world’s top tennis players, VIPs, officials and media during the tournament.

In addition to supplying courtesy vehicles, Kia Motors also displays its latest product line-up around Melbourne Park and live sites in host city, Melbourne, to showcase its cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art styling to international audiences.

The opportunity to provide fun and interactive programs for the fans around the Melbourne Park has been a rewarding experience for Kia Motors. Kia has been executing a number of special hospitality programs.

The Marketing Perspective
Kia’s objective in partnering with the Australian Open was to help raise awareness of its brand and provide added momentum to its “transformation into one of the leading global automotive brands” noted a recent press release.

Kia is not a major brand in Australia, they call themselves a challenger brand selling 30,000 cars out of one million. The brand’s strategic objective was to build deeper engagement with consumers and improve perceptions around Kia’s quality and innovation credentials through maximizing the impact of Kia’s Australian Open Tennis sponsorship. Specifically, the brand set the following benchmarks, based on increasing:

Consideration among new car buyers by 10% year-over-year
The number of people engaging with Kia (specifically measured by increases in- test drives booked online and dealer locations) by 10% year-over-year Positive brand discussions in social media and web traffic to by 20% year-over-year
Vehicle sales volumes by 6 percent over the same period in 2015

To achieve these objective benchmarks Kia teamed with pro tennis player Sam Groth and the Australian Open to create “Game On,” an interactive mobile game that engaged customers and generated awareness and brand affinity for the automotive company.

Called Game On that leveraged Shazam’s audio sync technology, an accelerometer used in fitness apps, and the smartphone’s gyroscope to simulate the experience of returning a serve against a professional tennis player. The accelerometer and gyroscope measured the quality of the swing, and the app would display whether or not the return was “successful.” This was the first year Kia leveraged its Australian Open sponsorship beyond the conventional TV ads and in-stadium promotions.

The Game On mobile execution in 2015 became the focus of the campaign, and Kia sought to make all media and consumer exposures interactive. Kia invested AUD $300,000 (9 percent of the overall campaign budget for January/February) in mobile media, significantly more than average mobile buys in Australia, which account for less than 1 percent of the total media spend.

Sales in January and February were the highest on record for these months when there were no new model launches happening. Kia experienced an 8 percent increase in sales, better than its 6 percent objective. This feat was all the more impressive considering the Australian Open experienced a 4 percent audience decline, and Kia’s sponsorship budget had decreased by 5.7 percent from the previous year. The app was downloaded 193,000 times in two weeks, and users averaged 15 minutes of playing time, during which they viewed over 20 Kia ads. The app ranked No. 1 in iTunes and Google Play, doubled organic web traffic to the Kia website, and generated AUD $2 million in editorial coverage in Australia and globally. Most importantly, registrations for test drives increased 29 percent year-over-year, helping to drive an additional AUD $10 million in sales during the two months of the campaign.

Bottom Line
As one of the fastest growing automobile brands in the world, Kia’s sponsorship of the Aussie Open became the focus of over 42 nations whose representatives participated in the annual event, the first of four Grand Slams. Internationally, tennis has a strong nationalistic following and is often compared to the game we American’s call soccer. And by the way soccer is also a sport in which Kia is a major sponsor.

What happens in Melbourne has worldwide ramifications for Kia.