On any given Sunday this fall, Hyundai Motor Co. will enjoy the national spotlight alongside stars such as Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. Yet it's still unclear whether Hyundai will be ready to make the most of the opportunity.
Last week, the Korean automaker announced a four-year sponsorship of the National Football League, whose popularity is so overwhelming that all 20 of the most-watched U.S. TV programs last fall were NFL games, according to the rating service Nielsen. Wresting the deal from General Motors, which had used football broadcasts to promote its GMC truck brand, was seen as a way for Hyundai to elevate its stature in the U.S.
"We are huge football fans at Hyundai and feel there is no better venue to reach consumers, increase consideration and tell the Hyundai brand story," Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski said in a statement.
But like a football team without a quarterback, Hyundai, which has lost both of the top executives in its marketing department, has a stiff challenge ahead.
Hyundai parted ways with marketing chief Steve Shannon in November. No replacement has been named. One possible candidate, Shannon's second-in-command David Matathia, left Hyundai last week for a job at an ad agency in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Hyundai's corporate-owned advertising agency, Innocean, replaced its U.S. leadership in what sources described as an attempt to improve ties with Hyundai. Steve Jun, CEO of Innocean's European division, was tapped to lead the office, replacing Tony Kim, who was reassigned to Innocean's headquarters in Seoul.
Hyundai has refrained from publicly criticizing Innocean's work.
Yet the company's dealers have been unhappy with the quality of Hyundai's national advertising, says Adam Kraushaar, president of Lester Glenn Auto Group in Toms River, N.J., and chairman of the Hyundai National Dealer Council.