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The Big Brand Theory: Hyundai, Soccer, and Zombies


ImageThe history of automobiles in the US is a fascinating story that, at each point, touches on some of the greatest changes in in the very culture of the country. We don't need to go back to the transition from horses to cars, nor even to the transformation of the market during the 70's oil crisis, to sense the tremendous changes that have taken place in how people connect with their vehicles.

Hyundai's part in that story is remarkable: in 1986 they entered a US market already dominated a handful of manufacturers. In that incursion, they did so with the low-cost alternative, were pilloried for quality issues, and overcame. Today, Hyundai Motor America is consistently praised for its innovative designs, quality, and efficiency. 

The automobile industry is, of course, competitive.  It isn't easy to differentiate in  that middle segment in which all of the makers talk of quality and value. To stand out, Hyundai has used social media to forge a very different identity with their customers. 

ImageJon Budd, Senior Group Manager of New Media at Hyundai Motor America says that he loves working for the brand. "We're a challenger brand," he says. "So we're able to 'punch above our weight a bit' and in doing so have to be a little daring and risk-taking and not do that traditional mainstream marketing."

Since 2002, Hyundai has been one of the worldwide official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup. Over time, Hyundai's marketing team has found that by focusing on the passion of soccer, they could tie it in with the passion that their customers have for their vehicles.

The sponsorship marketing originally focused on traditional advertising and creative. "What we saw," Budd tells me, "during those moments our spots ran during the match, there was a lot of conversation around our brand and the hashtag we're using for the brand, which also got picked up as the de facto hashtag for the whole FIFA Worlds Cup. The hashtag Budd is referring to is #BecauseFutbol.

A Tumblr site was created for #BecauseFutbol, and is used as the central social platform for the sharing of content. Soccer fandom and the mania for the World's Cup was a natural fit for Tumblr.

 explains, "we really matched the creative we put in Tumblr to those passion points so that when we shared it across the other channels it really engaged and resonated with those audiences." Much of the creative content placed on Tumblr was created by Hyundai's main creative agency, a creative agency that specializes in that very type of work  as well as major Tumblr influencers.

Before creating the #BeacauseFutbol Tumblr site the brand didn't have a presence on Tumblr.  How would the team measure the success of their work?  Budd shared that they reached out to Tumblr and asked them, and were told that they should look for a certain quantity of "notes per post." At this time, Hyundai has already well exceeded the original objective they set. The team is also planning on doing a brand study following the Worlds Cup to measure the brand lift around awareness and sentiment.


World soccer championships don't go on year-round, though. Another recent example of Hyundai's creating social content that touches people's passions was vehicle integration with AMC's Walking Dead show.  While Budd describes it as "basic 101 vehicle integration," he noted fans of the show were really connecting with the Hyundai brand.

The marketing team was inspired to create an app called the Walking Dead Chopshop, in which people can download the app, take three of the vehicles and modify them to survive the zombie apocalypse.

Hyundai's efforts are a great example of a brand not just focusing in on one passion point, as Red Bull does with extreme living, but instead, working across a general sense of what people are passionate about, and then tying it in with a brand. Both soccer and zombies are things that fans do get passionate about, and now, are able to associate with an automotive brand. 

Join The Conversation

  • Jun 23 Posted 2 years ago chrisbrown68

    great, but it's not the "World's Cup" or the "Worlds Cup". It's the World Cup.

    The. World. Cup.

    Come on, USA are in this now and doing well. No excuses for being behind the rest of the World anymore guys.

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