Carmakers use concerts to connect with young buyers

Sat Oct 10, 2009 1:11pm EDT
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By Cortney Harding

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Most of the time, test-driving a car results in nothing more than a sales pitch, automobile envy and a brief sample of that new car smell. But for music fans in select markets, taking a Kia Soul out for a spin gets them something more: a free concert.

The shows are part of an ambitious marketing effort launched by Kia in hopes of attracting a younger audience to its Soul marque, which launched in March.

Dubbed the Kia Soul Collective, events are held on weekends in 10 cities; so far, six have taken place, with four planned for Atlanta, Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Recent gigs have featured acts like N*E*R*D, MGMT and Against Me; future shows will include sets from Atlas Sound, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Silversun Pickups.

The campaign also includes a Web site that features a download of an original track by Janelle Monae, branded cell phone and computer wallpaper designed by Jeff Staple and a short film by music video directors Jonas and Francois.

"This is the first time we've done something like this," said Kathryn Cima, manager of sponsorships and events at Kia Motors America, adding that the brand's only other musical venture has been a Vans Warped tour sponsorship. "We didn't start off thinking this would be a music initiative, but as we looked for ways to connect with the target audience, we found that music was a good way to reach them."

Cima said the Soul Collective events have resulted in more than 1,000 test drives. "We don't really have the data to do a one-to-one match in terms of test drives pegged to the events and sales," she said. "But we are seeing a great response, especially in the social media space. People are blogging and Twittering about Kia being cool and the Soul being a cool car."


Even though car sales waned in September, Jeff Tammes, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Cornerstone, said that now is the perfect time for Kia to start building relationships with younger consumers. "The purpose of these events is to introduce the Kia Soul to kids," he said. "Since it's a newer brand, many of them are finding out about it for the first time. While they might not be ready to buy a car right now, when they are, they'll think back to this event and remember the Soul."   Continued...

<p>A salesperson walks among Mercedes Benz and KIA cars at a shop in Riga March 20, 2009. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins</p>