LeBron James signs on as Kia spokesman

October 16, 2014
Kia officially announced LeBron James as its official spokesman on Thursday (Yonhap)

Kia officially announced LeBron James as its official spokesman on Thursday (Yonhap)

By Kim You Jin

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Kia Motors America (KMA), the U.S. arm of South Korean carmaker Kia Motors Corp., said Thursday it has named star NBA basketball player LeBron James as its K9 brand ambassador, hoping to boost its profile in the world’s No. 2 automotive market.

“(James’) star power will cause people to question everything they think they know about our brand,” KMA Marketing Communications Vice President Tim Chaney said through a press release.

The flagship premium sedan, re-badged as the K900 in the United States, first hit the U.S. market in January this year.

“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,” Chaney said.

Prior to his official endorsement of the Kia brand, the NBA star had posted a photo of the sedan on his Twitter account in August with a message that said, “Rolling around in my K900. Love this car!”

Kia has a list of high-profile athletes promoting its brand, including another NBA player Blake Griffin, tennis star Rafael Nadal and professional golfer Michelle Wie.

Kia, a sister company of the world’s fifth-largest carmaker Hyundai Motor Co., has been pushing to break free from its low cost and low quality image from 20 years ago when it first entered the North American market.

As part of its efforts to change consumers’ perception of its brand, the carmaker continues to roll out new models to appeal to various buyers, such as the electric compact Soul EV, and also sponsors major sports events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

So far, Kia’s aggressive marketing has been paying off. The company’s brand value came to US$53.9 billion to take 74th place this year, up from 83rd in 2013, according to global brand consultancy Interbrand’s Best 100 Global Brands.

Kia’s car sales in the United States rose 6.9 percent on-year to 40,628 units in September, according to KMA.