Hyundai Makes Loyalty Center of World Cup Campaign

Automaker Not Overly Concerned About Interlopers Like VW

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A country that experiences a baby boom after a big win on the pitch. A fan so obsessed with not getting World Cup match results he puts blinders up all day long. A dad who paints his face with his daughter's makeup to cheer for his home country.

Only the World Cup can inspire such passion, according to Hyundai, official auto partner of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Rather than focus on athletic endorsers, the automaker will focus on the passion of fans in a planned World Cup marketing blitz starting in June. The theme: "#Because Futbol."

That was the strategy laid out by David Matathia, Hyundai Motor America's Director of Marketing Communications, during a preview given to Ad Age on Tuesday.

The idea? Only Hyundai -- which has been named No. 1 in customer loyalty for five years by research outfit Brand Keys -- can inspire World Cup-level loyalty in owners. Hyundai agency Innocean USA, Huntington Beach, Calif., is creating the campaign, which will run across ESPN and Spanish-language Univision.

"The theme we're working with is: as loyal and as passionate as fans are about their nation, or about their team, Hyundai owners are about their Hyundais," said Mr. Matathia. He declined to comment on ad spending.

Upcoming TV ads will highlight the emotions generated by World Cup -- and ask fans to share their own passion for World Cup and the Beautiful Game.

One TV spot called "Boom" opens in a hospital emergency room in an unnamed Spanish-speaking country where a woman in labor shows up with her husband. They discover an entire roomful of expectant couples. "What was going on nine months ago?" wonders a nurse. Flashback to nine months before when a World Cup victory led the entire country to go mad with amor -- including the young couple who hit the sack after the win.

Another spot called "Avoidance" shows a young man avoiding all mentions of World Cup game results. At the office, he runs past a group watching a match on TV with his fingers in his years. When he hears ESPN's distinctive jingle on his car radio, he quickly turns it off.

As he pulls up in his driveway, a neighbor runs up to share the news. "Zip it, Brian!" he yells. When he gets inside his house, he thinks he's safe to finally watch the match. Until his little girl happily says: "Daddy, we won."

Hyundai and Innocean's outdoor work will employ the same strategy. One billboard ad going up in New York's Times Square will show a close-up of a fan with the quote: "I borrowed my daughter's makeup for my game face."

Hyundai's World Cup effort will push the new 2015 Sonata, which hits showrooms the same time as World Cup. It's a "critically important" launch for Hyundai, said Mr. Matathia. The Sonata ranks as the automaker's best-selling U.S. vehicle (followed closely by the Elantra). It's the car that really "defines" the Hyundai brand, he said.

To gain prime visibility, Hyundai will sponsor World Cup halftime shows on ESPN and Univision. The media plan calls for 98 TV commercials to air during halftimes of match telecasts on ESPN and Univision from June 12 to July 30. There will also be a retail campaign aimed heavily at the Top 20 U.S. Hispanic markets. The "#Because Futbol" digital campaign has already gone live on Web sites such as Tumblr.

But Hyundai won't be the only auto brand advertising on ESPN. Rival Volkswagen of America will try to ambush Hyundai's global sponsorship by airing spots for its GTI, a vehicle that's popular with younger and Hispanic consumers. Deutsch, Los Angeles, and COD, Miami, are creating the campaign.

"The alignment between who watches the World Cup -- and who drives a GTI -- is perfect. That's a match made in heaven for us," said VW marketing chief Vinay Shahani during an interview at the New York International Auto Show.

But Mr. Matathia countered that Hyundai will be the exclusive auto advertiser "within games" themselves, where viewer attention will be highest. "Obviously, we can't buy out the networks entirely, so you will see other automotive companies potentially on those channels within the month-long run of the Cup. But within the games themselves, we are exclusive."

World Cup telecasts don't have the repeated commercial breaks of U.S. leagues such as the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, he noted. So Hyundai's plan is to "own" halftime, Mr. Matathia said. "That is, we believe, the most coveted place to be."

Due to its global sponsorship, Hyundai will also get product placement at game sites in Brazil, he added. Hyundai's brand will be on rotating sideboards within stadiums. Put all those elements together and the best VW can do is "surround" the matches, concluded Mr. Matathia.

"They won't be able to touch the games themselves. With us having the on-site branding as well, we feel we have them fairly well boxed out."Unlike other World Cup sponsors such as Adidas, Hyundai will not use soccer stars in its campaign. The automaker considered going the athletic-endorser route, according to Mr. Matathia. But it decided that focusing on the universal subject of fan passion would give the work more of a "global" feel.

"We recognize the fact that even though [the campaign] is airing in the U.S., we're really speaking to a very diverse, very global audience. We wanted to be reflective of that. By not attaching to a specific player, it allowed us to speak to this very rich and very diverse audience -- and highlight the true global nature of the Cup."

Along with affiliate Kia, Hyundai has locked up World Cup auto rights through 2022. ESPN ($100 million) and Univision ($325 million) paid $425 million for American TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Fox Sports and Spanish-language network Telemundo are spending a record $1 billion for TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Hyundai's sales rose 4% in April but fell 1% overall during the first four months of 2014, according to Automotive News Data Center. The Sonata and Elantra ranked as the eighth- and ninth-best selling cars in April, according to AN.

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