Kia Uses Surprise And Delight To Build Positive Brand Association With Fans During NBA All-Star Weekend


Extending its contract as the Official Automotive Partner of the NBA in late 2017, Kia sought to expand its presence across marquee NBA events. Beyond sponsoring the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League, Kia’s presentation of NBA Tip-Off and NBA Performance Awards expand the brand’s presence to NBA fans. During the 2018 NBA All-Star weekend, though, Kia gave NBA fans a new way to engage with the automotive brand.

Hosting a thoughtfully designed space inside Hudson Loft, located within walking distance of Staples Center, Kia opened the doors to its vehicles and a one-of-a-kind basketball experience with its #KiaAllStarLoft.

Fans desiring to enter the space pre-registered using links distributed across Kia’s social media accounts and were assigned entry times, meaning the space was never too busy and provided a sense of exclusivity. Upon entering, energetic hosts, including NBA dancers and mascots, welcomed fans and informed them of the various ways to engage with the space. Each corner of the loft presented a different opportunity for fans to create memories during NBA All-Star weekend.

“The loft was about bringing the experience to the fan of the game. It was a 360-degree experience,” Sylvia Lopez-Navarro, Kia Motors America’s director of experiential marketing, said.

From a video game room where fans could compete against each other in NBA2K to an autograph section where top NBA players engaged and took pictures with fans, the experience was meant to give fans access to opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t receive.

“When we were thinking about what this initial concept was going to be for NBA All-Star, which happens to be in our backyard here in Los Angeles, we thought about fans that may not have an opportunity to attend the game. We thought about how we could bring the game to them and let them be a part of it. When we thought about the loft, we thought about all of the opportunities that would touch fans’ hearts and create memories, whether through digital experiences or an experiential opportunity,” Lopez-Navarro explained.

The centerpiece of the space was a hi-chroma red Kia Stinger filled with basketballs, which would later be donated to Girls Inc. Behind the Kia Stinger was an Instagram-worthy wall filled from floor to ceiling with branded basketballs of all 30 NBA teams. In total, nearly 700 basketballs decorated the space.

Central to Kia’s activation were opportunities to “surprise and delight” fans. Along with the autograph room, two specially designed escape rooms gave fans the opportunity to not only win prizes, but engage with Kia’s vehicles and be surprised by NBA stars, including Andre Drummond and Udonis Haslem.


Inspired by the escape room craze that has swept America, Kia built out full-scale escape rooms, inside of which Kia vehicles served as the centerpiece. Led by trained guides, fans entering the escape rooms were led first to clues that required them to enter a Kia vehicle and receive a clue by performing a task, like turning on the radio, inside of the vehicle. Thereafter, a series of clues led fans to various points throughout the room and required them to complete numerous basketball and Kia-related exercises as a team.

While every fan ultimately escaped the room, some were lucky enough to score some signed LeBron James merchandise in the process, while others were thrilled when Andre Drummond popped into the escape room to try his hand at solving the clues and take selfies with them.


In terms of NBA All-Star activations, Kia’s #KiaAllStarLoft was one of the most thoughtfully designed in that it met the needs and interests of its target market by providing unparalleled access to the brand’s vehicles, NBA stars and the game of basketball. Along with this “360-degree” execution, where Kia’s activation stood out the most was in its creativity.

While many brands create Instagram-worthy spaces within activation venues, Kia went a step beyond by building out a space that allowed fans to actually interact with the venue. The inclusion of full-scale escape rooms meant that fans spent significant time not only in the space, but also interacting with Kia’s products and its NBA story. The likely result for Kia is driving positive brand associations for those fans who visited the #KiaAllStarLoft, and driving positive value for its NBA sponsorship renewal.

Alicia Jessop

Founder of Ruling Sports


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