EVENTS & PROMOTIONS: HOOPS & HUBCAPS: HYUNDAI TEAMS WITH BASKETBALL EVENTS VIA OFFER OF TEST DRIVES

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Streetball International's popular "Hoop-It-Up" has given birth to an event within the event that's almost as popular as shooting hoops: driving.

While waiting for their chance to compete in scheduled weekend basketball tournaments, thousands of young adults, spectators and their families are test-driving Hyundai cars in a program rolling across the U.S. with the "Hoop-It-Up" tour.

Tested last year in five markets, Hyundai Motor America's "Learn & Drive" program has been expanded to 13 markets this summer, and its success has led Streetball parent company Universal Sports America to consider adding test-driving events with other car marketers to its other grass-roots sports tours such as the "Spike-It-Up" volleyball tour, said Susan Bernhard, VP-regional sponsorship sales at Universal.

`FITS IN PERFECTLY'

"Competitors have time to kill between events, and test-driving a car on-site fits in perfectly with the day's activities," she said.

Automotive Marketing Consultants, Redondo Beach, Calif., designed the test-drive program, allowing licensed drivers to take Hyundai's value-price Elantra and Tiburon models over bumps and hairpin turns, and around fake "rock" obstacles, on a short course.

"We have image problems we can fix only by getting people into the car to see how it really performs," said Kevin Mayer, advertising manager at Hyundai, whose low-price autos have been the subject of jokes and negative publicity. Hyundai's ad theme, "Driving is believing," was developed by Bates USA, Irvine, Calif.

The "Learn & Drive" program averages 2,000 test-drives per weekend, generating about 200 leads per market from consumers interested in buying a Hyundai, Mr. Mayer said. Each test driver is asked to fill out a questionnaire about car buying plans in exchange for a portable chair with the Hyundai logo.

Hyundai receives on-site signage plus local TV, radio and print promotion in each city with the test-drive program. "Hoop-It-Up" is currently on its 45-city run; Foot Locker, Mennen Co.'s Speed Stick, Nike and Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade also are sponsors.

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