NFL Said to Be Close to Sponsorship Deal With Hyundai

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Hyundai Motor Co. is close to an agreement on a sponsorship contract with the National Football League, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The South Korean automaker would replace General Motors Co., which ended its association with the most-watched U.S. sports league this past season after holding rights since 2001.

The people requested anonymity because they haven't been authorized to discuss the deal. NFL spokeswoman Joanna Hunter declined to comment. Chris Hosford, a spokesman for the U.S. unit of Hyundai, said the company regularly talks to sports organizations. "But I can't confirm anything at this time," he said.

GM, which featured its GMC brand through its NFL association, was paying more than $25 million annually, excluding advertising time buys, according to one of the people.

Hyundai's affiliate, Kia Motors Corp., has an agreement with the National Basketball Association.

Hyundai has a sponsorship with scandal-plagued FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, and is active with on-campus marketing through its partnerships with IMG's college division.

The deal would come as global sales at Hyundai and Kia fell in the first five months this year, as unfavorable currency- exchange rates undermine their ability to compete against the likes of Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. Hyundai's U.S. market share slipped to 4.3% this year through May from 4.4% a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp., as its 2.2% sales increase failed to keep pace with the rest of the industry's growth. A stronger won and a weaker yen have given the automakers' Japanese rivals a competitive edge in overseas markets.

--Bloomberg News