QUEBEC CITY – Kia Canada Inc. and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) have announced a new five-year partnership that will see the Korean auto giant become the league’s official automotive partner as well as the presenting sponsor of the Memorial Cup.
The CHL, which is comprised of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and the Western Hockey League (WHL) is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams spread across Canada and the United States.
Each year, the CHL’s three league champions plus the team from the host community play for the Memorial Cup, one of the oldest championship trophies in North America first awarded in 1919 by the Ontario Hockey Association as a means of remembering fallen Canadian soldiers from the First World War. The trophy was awarded for the 100th time last May, when the Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the 2018 Memorial Cup.
As part of the agreement, Kia will become the presenting sponsor for the Memorial Cup beginning next May when Halifax and its QMJHL team, the Halifax Mooseheads, host the 2019 tournament. The CHL also announced the site of the 2020 Memorial Cup, which will take place in Kelowna, B.C., home of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets.
“On behalf of the Canadian Hockey League it is my pleasure to welcome Kia Canada to the CHL family,” said CHL President David Branch in a statement. “We are excited to work together to align our goals and build a strong partnership that includes creating a unique and memorable experience at our distinguished national championship. We look forward to the Memorial Cup Presented by Kia in Halifax this May, and our 2020 event in Western Canada.”
The CHL deal also provides Kia with the platform to engage with CHL fans as an associate partner of the league’s high-profile special events such as the CIBC Canada Russia Series and the Sherwin-Williams CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game.
During the regular season Kia will also partner with the CHL’s top teams to create feature content and serve as the title sponsor for the league’s weekly top-10 rankings. Once the playoffs are underway, Kia will become a playoff partner for each regional league with various sponsor activities on the road to the Memorial Cup.
Finally, Kia will also present the Humanitarian of the Year Awards for all three leagues, along with a national recipient, at the CHL’s annual awards ceremony.
For a company that is currently rolling out a slew of new and refreshed models, the CHL deal represents an opportunity for Kia to put its products in front of a large and dedicated audience.
“It’s two things. It’s the investment with the CHL but also to be the presenting sponsor of the Memorial Cup. It’s also a very big thing for Canadians, our veterans, our soldiers, so we’re proud of that,” Michael Kopke, Director of Marketing, Kia Canada Inc. tells Wheels.ca in an interview.
“Depending on what data you look at, a third of Canadians are engaged in [hockey] on some level whether it’s sitting in front of the TV or coming to the game, like we have tonight, or your kids are ultimately involved in it on some level, so it’s a big part of the Canadian pastime.”
Given that it has only been in Canada since 1999, the CHL deal also provides Kia with an opportunity to educate Canadians about a brand they may not know much about, particularly in a modern context.
“A lot of Canadians don’t know a lot about the Kia brand, so this is a grassroots opportunity to engage in hockey in a relevant message, but also use that audience to introduce them to the Kia brand and introduce them to our products,” Kopke says.
Speaking of products, it’s been a busy 2018 for Kia and things aren’t about to slow down anytime soon.
Already on sale are the Sorento mid-size SUV and Sedona minivan, both refreshed for 2019. Up next is the all-new Forte compact sedan, which will begin arriving in dealerships in the coming weeks.
And lest one thinks that is all, think again – the second-gen full-size K900 sedan is due out by the end of the year, with the compact Niro plug-in (PHEV) also set to arrive in late 2018.
Finally, Kia revealed its first 2020 model in mid-September when it took the wraps off an early production version of the Telluride at New York Fashion Week. The Telluride is a full-size, V6-powered, eight-passenger SUV that will be built at the company’s U.S. manufacturing site in Georgia and is due to go on sale in early 2019.
Kia isn’t saying much about the Telluride right now, but it should be front and centre on the auto show circuit in both the U.S. and Canada in the coming months.
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