VW plans major World Cup ad push to counter Hyundai

Ads for GTI will go head-to-head against those from official auto sponsor

Vinay Shahani joined VW in November after nine years at Nissan North America.

NEW YORK -- Volkswagen is planning a major World Cup advertising push that will go head-to-head against official automotive sponsor Hyundai.

The German automaker is making a major ad buy across ESPN, ABC and Univision to tout its GTI during coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil this June, according to Volkswagen of America's marketing boss Vinay Shahani, who attended this week's New York auto show.

Hyundai has served as FIFA's official automotive sponsor since 2002. Along with affiliate Kia, Hyundai has locked up World Cup auto rights through 2022.

But VW believes the World Cup is the right audience to tout its performance-oriented GTI, Shahani said. The model is especially popular with younger males and Hispanic consumers. A huge number of Hispanic viewers -- key drivers of GTI sales in the United States -- tune in every four years for World Cup.

"The alignment between who watches the World Cup -- and who drives a GTI -- is perfect. That's a match made in heaven for us," Shahani said during an interview at the show with Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News.

VW's lead ad agency, Deutsch, Los Angeles, is working on World Cup ads. Hispanic shop COD, Miami, is working on Spanish-language ads. The coordinated campaign will break around the official start of the 2014 World Cup on June 12. The quadrennial event will take place all over Brazil through July 13.

Shahani said the campaign won't be just a "pure" TV play.

"There's going to be TV advertising. But we're going to be heavy in digital as well and social media," he said. "When we're watching sports, we're not just watching the TV any more. We've got our iPhone and iPad at the same time."

ESPN ($100 million) and Univision ($325 million) forked over an estimated $425 million for American TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Fox Sports and Spanish-language network Telemundo spent a record $1 billion on TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

In the U.S., the VW division's sales dropped 3 percent in March and 11 percent over the first three months of 2014, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

You can reach Michael McCarthy at mmcarthy@adage.com



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