Kia to haul Times Square's ‘2021’ across the U.S. in New Year’s Eve marketing drive
When the New Year hits in 31 days, it won’t magically wipe away the virus or erase the political strife and other factors that made 2020 an historically bad year. But the mere changing of a numeral on the calendar at least brings hope that the next 12 months will be different—and some brands will be seizing on the rare moment of optimism in otherwise dark times.
One marketer trying to make a big splash is Kia Motors America, which is unleashing its first-ever large-scale New Year’s marketing campaign today.
The effort includes using an all-new 2021 Sorento to haul the “2021” New Year’s Eve numerals from the brand’s headquarters in Irvine, California to New York City, where they will be installed at the top of One Times Square. It will make stops at dealerships along the way, with the goal of luring some local media coverage. And the brand will try to make a national splash on New Year’s Eve with TV ads running during ABC’S “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021.” The deal with ABC includes an in-show integration that will spotlight the Sorento road trip using footage of national landmarks, produced in partnership with National Geographic.
There will also be plenty of product placement on Times Square, including Kia vehicles parked throughout and signage on platforms and video screens. Kia will also host frontline workers and their families in Times Square.
“You won’t be able to miss during the ball drop that Kia is a part of it,” says Russell Wager, director of marketing operations for Kia Motors America.
Of course, the in-person ad exposure will pale compared with normal years. The Times Square Alliance, the group that stages the ball drop, has closed the festivities to the general public due to the pandemic and instead will run a virtual event that includes a six-and-a-half-hour commercial-free webcast featuring performances that the alliance has not yet publicized.
Kia is banking on exposure during the TV network coverage. A year ago NBC, ABC and FOX drew a combined 33 million viewers for their New Year’s Eve coverage, while CNN averaged 2.6 million viewers, according to the networks. Kia expects TV viewership to spike by as much as 20% this year with more people hunkered down in front of the TV instead of at parties, Wager says. “We know people will tune in because you can’t go to the ballroom at the hotel that you used to do with a thousand people for a nice band and dancing,” he says.
The brand kicked off the campaign off the week after Thanksgiving because “we kind of felt that November was going to be taken up with the dialogue of an election … [and] by the time we got to the first of December that ideally would be resolved and we could start getting people to look forward to whatever the future is going to be in 2021,” Wager says.
Times Square Alliance also has New Year’s Eve sponsorship deals with Barefoot, the wine brand, as well as Planet Fitness and Waterford, whose crystals are used to make the ball. (The ball has dropped every year since 1907, except for 1942 and 1943 when it was suspended during wartime.)
Barefoot’s plans include placement of two large Barefoot Bubbly bottles on the Times Square stage. But beyond that the brand’s plans are significantly influenced by the pandemic: it will run a sweepstakes giveaway of at-home celebration boxes that include a replica of the ball, plus bubbly flutes, a bubbly chiller, confetti and horns, and all the essentials.
Planet Fitness, which is sponsoring the event for its sixth straight year, normally hands out branded gear to the million-plus people crowding the square. It will still distribute swag this year, but only to the limited number of invited guests, and this will include branded masks. The fitness brand will also run TV ads whose messaging will be used partly to remind viewers that 90% of its clubs are still open, and that it offers virtual workouts via its app and Facebook Live, says Marketing VP Jamie Medeiros.
“Although we won’t necessarily have a million-plus revelers in the square, which I think everyone is so used to seeing … we will still have a huge brand presence of painting the whole square purple and yellow just like we always have,” she says.