Kia AutoSport of Tallahassee is breathing a sigh of relief today following college football’s BCS National Championship. For two reasons. One, the Seminoles won their third National Championship Monday night by defeating the Auburn Tigers. Two, the Noles won 34 to 31, 21 points shy of breaking the 55-point record of points scored in a National Championship game.
Preceding the game, Kia AutoSport announced it would reimburse all customers who purchased cars between January 1 and 6 if FSU scored 56 points on the Tigers. Although none of the odds makers in Las Vegas predicted FSU would hit 56 points (the closest was Richie Baccellieri of The Linemakers on Sporting News predicted 55-21), FSU has scored more points this season than any team in history and going into the National Championship the team was averaging 53 points per game. Combine that with the 42 points Auburn gave up to Missouri in the SEC Championship and we’re looking at a dangerous gamble. Lucky for Kia, the dealership wasn’t burned.
But Kia was tactfully able to insert itself into the hottest thing happening in the Panhandle. As a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State, take my word, it’s all we’ve been talking about for months (I submit this blog as evidence to that). The postgame chats around town are rewarding Kia’s chutzpah: Did you watch the game? Did you see that play? Did you hear about the Kia offer?
It’s a shrewd move, but one that offers a big pay out in free press and the best kind of PR, word of mouth. However, the downside is very real. Ask Jet Chevrolet, a Seattle car dealership that ran a car promotion for December’s Seahawks-Giants game. The stunt cost Jet $420,000 when the Seahawks shut out the Giants 23-0.
Big risk, big reward? Sure, but seller beware. The big takeaway from this is finding a way to insert your institution into the big community conversation: sponsor a tailgate, host a banquet, or run a memorable commercial during the big game.
With FSU’s head coach Jimbo Fisher and his Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston both returning for the 2014 season, we’ll see if Kia is brave enough to try this again next year. Go Noles!
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Auburn beat Alabama in the SEC championship instead of Missouri.