Hyundai snags NFL sponsorship, replacing GM

(AP) – A year ago, Hyundai Motor Co. sponsored the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the motto “Because Fútbol.” Now, the Korean automaker is going after a different type of football fan as the automotive sponsor of the National Football League.

Hyundai and the NFL jointly announced a four-year sponsorship deal today.

“We are huge football fans at Hyundai and feel there is no better venue to reach consumers, increase consideration and tell the Hyundai brand story,” Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski said in the statement. “We can’t wait to show the NFL’s 188 million fans the great design, advanced technologies, dynamic performance and numerous safety features within the Hyundai lineup.”

The sponsorship allows Hyundai to use NFL trademarks in its own advertising. Hyundai also gains preferred marketing access to annual events such as the Scouting Combine for draft-eligible players, the NFL Draft and the Super Bowl.

With the deal, Hyundai replaces General Motors, which had sponsored the NFL from 2001 until this past season. GM’s sponsorship nominally cost about $25 million per year, but the company was estimated to have spent more than $150 million per year on NFL-related
marketing, including television advertisements.

For at least the last three years, GM’s NFL sponsorship was specific to the GMC truck brand. GM decided not to renew the contract when it expired in March, a company spokesman said.

“We value our relationship with the NFL and its fans, but have decided to focus our sponsorship resources in other areas in the future,” GM said in a statement.

The financial terms of Hyundai’s sponsorship weren’t disclosed.

Ironically, Hyundai opted out of advertising during this year’s Super Bowl, snapping a streak of seven consecutive appearances in the game. Hyundai typically had run one or often two commercials in each Super Bowl since 2007. It used the recession-era 2009 Super Bowl to promote its recently introduced “Assurance” program, which promised to take back a car if the buyer subsequently lost his or her job.

Sports marketing

Hyundai and its corporate sibling, Kia Motors Corp., have made heavy use of sports marketing in recent years. Hyundai has had a live presence at hundreds of college football games since 2011 through a partnership with sports marketing firm IMG, while Kia, a sponsor of the National Basketball Association, has secured an endorsement from hoops superstar LeBron James for its K900 luxury sedan.

Hyundai hopes the NFL sponsorship will raise its profile in the United States, where the brand has recently been hurt by unfavorable shifts in exchange rates and by a car-heavy product lineup.

Hyundai sold 303,648 vehicles in the United States through the first five months of 2015, a 2.2 percent increase, as the market expanded by 4.5 percent on hot demand for trucks and crossovers. Hyundai sells two crossovers and no trucks.

Mike Colias and Advertising Age contributed to this report.

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