Kia Becomes a Time Machine in New Ads With Blake Griffin
By STUART ELLIOTT
A child actor appears as the basketball star Blake Griffin circa 1995 in a commercial for Kia in a campaign that features Mr. Griffin and debuts as the N.B.A. 2012-13 season begins. A child actor appears as the basketball star Blake Griffin circa 1995 in a commercial for Kia in a campaign that features Mr. Griffin and debuts as the N.B.A. 2012-13 season begins.
In basketball, traveling violates the rules. But in advertising, sending a basketball star on a time-traveling odyssey, inside the sponsor’s product, makes for clever commercials.
In a humorous campaign, Kia Motors America and its agency, David & Goliath, are reteaming with Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers for a series of commercials in which the basketball star drives a Kia Optima sedan as if it were a time machine.
The campaign is to begin on Tuesday, to coincide with the start of the 2012-13 National Basketball Association season. The 2013 Kia Optima is the “official vehicle of the N.B.A.”
The commercials feature Mr. Griffin using the Uvo voice-activated entertainment and information system inside his Kia Optima to send him back to different years from 1995 to the early 2000s.
The years, it turns out, are his “Wonder Years,” to borrow the title of the TV series, in that in each commercial Mr. Griffin meets a young actor playing a younger version of himself.
Blake Griffin in the Kia advertisement. Blake Griffin in the Kia advertisement.
For instance, in the first spot Mr. Griffin asks to go back to 1995 and Uvo summons up the song “This Is How We Do It” from that year. He meets up with a version of himself who, based on his birth date in 1989, is about 6 years old.
“Who are you?” the child asks Mr. Griffin, who replies, “You, from the future.” The child wonders if Mr. Griffin’s Optima is his spaceship, to which the grown-up replies, “No, it’s way better.”
The Kia association with Mr. Griffin began when he dunked over a Kia Optima at the 2011 N.B.A. All-Star Game.
Sports and music are two of the four pillars of the Kia brand’s outreach to its target audience, along with popular culture and what the company calls the “connected life” — that is, technology like Uvo.
“The immediate impact” that Mr. Griffin had “on our brand was incredible,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president for marketing and communications at Kia Motors America in Irvine, Calif., and “proved to be very successful with the N.B.A. fan.”
“We felt we needed to do it again,” he added.
Mr. Griffin’s family provided images of him as a child to make it easier to cast the children in the commercials, Mr. Sprague said, and “within hours” of the casting calls getting under way in Los Angeles and New York, “we had some great people to represent him.”
A different child portrays Mr. Griffin in the second commercial, which is set in 1997 and uses the song “How Bizarre.” In that spot, Mr. Griffin encounters the younger version of himself playing football with friends.
“Wrong sport,” he tells the child, kicking the football far away. He also offers the junior Blake some fashion advice: “Stop wearing jean shorts. Just trust me.”
There will be three additional spots, Mr. Sprague said, to be released periodically as the N.B.A. season progresses. The five spots will run on networks like ABC, ESPN and TNT as well as on the Kia channel on YouTube.
Although football may be the wrong sport in the commercial set in 1997, it is the right genre for Kia advertising, at least when it comes to the Super Bowl. Kia has announced it would return as a Super Bowl sponsor, buying time during Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013.
Although Mr. Sprague declined to talk about what the Super Bowl spot will be about, he did rule out a couple of possibilities. It will not be a commercial featuring Mr. Griffin, he said, nor, as of now, will it be a spot with the popular hip-hop hamster characters for the Kia Soul.