Kia Motors America, Inc.’s four-year-old sponsorship push continues to gain momentum.

Fueled by a rash of new vehicle rollouts over the past two years, the Korean automaker has expanded existing partnerships with the NBA and LPGA at both the team and sanctioning body level.

Case in point: Kia recently inked a new partnership with the NBA Golden State Warriors and renewed existing partnerships with nine NBA clubs. The deals build on existing ties with the NBA and three other teams.

On the golf front, the automaker in late 2011 signed a new tie with the LPGA, a sponsorship that supports the company’s three-year-old title of the Kia Classic LPGA tournament in Carlsbad, Calif.

And additional deals are in the works: Kia plans to add another NBA team to its sponsorship portfolio and is exploring ties with other national sports properties, said Tim Chaney, Kia’s director of marketing & communications.

“We continue to look at big, high-profile opportunities in the sports marketing space where we can build out a strong presence for Kia.”

IEG SR spoke with Chaney about Kia’s sponsorship strategy, its NBA and LPGA marketing platforms, the company’s activity in the branded entertainment space and other topics. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR: Kia recently expanded its NBA and LPGA partnerships. What is the thinking behind the new sponsorships? 

Chaney: Sponsorship is playing a bigger role in our marketing mix. We’re investing in more opportunities to engage sports fans on multiple levels.

It’s no longer enough to run ads, even on sports programming. We want to engage NBA and LPGA fans through on-site promotions, digital media, community events and other activities that extend well beyond traditional media.

IEG SR: What was appealing about the NBA and LPGA?  

Chaney: We use the NBA to reach affluent, multicultural consumers as well as urban, more metropolitan consumers.

We began our NBA program in 2008 with team sponsorships to build our presence in some key markets. We added the league sponsorship two years later. The league partnership made sense: It complements our team deals and gives us the opportunity to carve out a strong platform within the league.

We started our golf involvement with the Kia Classic. Last fall we expanded the partnership to become the official vehicle of the LPGA, which provides a presence at eight additional tournaments.

The LPGA is about exposing our products to a different audience. We’re a full-line automobile manufacturer with vehicles for every age, budget and gender, so it’s important not to narrow our focus with our sports marketing initiative.

IEG SR: Tell me about your growing product lineup.  

Chaney: We have been on a product blitz over the past two years. We call it a product transformation. The number of new vehicles that we have launched over the past two years is unprecedented in the automobile industry.

We’re a completely different company, and our goal is to attract more urban, educated and affluent customers as we continue to grow. It’s important to get the word out to people who aren’t familiar with us or who haven’t been in the market for a new vehicle in a while.

IEG SR: Kia’s NBA partnership includes a number of media-centric platforms such as the Kia NBA Tip-off. How do you activate team deals?

Chaney: We activate on the local level with in-arena signage, on-court promotions and test drive ticket promotions at local dealers. We also leverage the ties with local media. We try to extend our national sponsorships to the team and local level so that we can integrate our local dealers.

IEG SR: Kia recently inked a new partnership with the NBA Golden State Warriors. What was the thinking behind that relationship?  

Chaney: We identified the Bay Area as a strategically important growth market. We had a deal with the Warriors several years ago, but we did not renew it due to various reasons.

The Warriors have a very passionate fan base, and the team has new management that includes Jerry West, whom we have worked with in the past. They also have a new coach and promising young players, all of which were positive factors.

IEG SR: Tell me about Kia’s LPGA program.

Chaney: We’ve had a good experience with LPGA in relation to the Kia Classic. The LPGA is a great organization. Their players are great, and we see nothing but opportunity. We have a multiyear relationship with Michele Wie, so the expanded partnership made sense to us.

The sponsorship gives us an on-site presence at eight tournaments and additional media. Like our relationship with the NBA, we’ll leverage the tie with a performance award platform that recognizes top players.

We’ll have a heavy on-site vehicle presence and a link to dealers with promotions and test drive offers. We’ll also host appearances by Michele Wie and entertain dealers at tournaments. We’re just getting started on the program.

IEG SR: Kia has sponsored the Vans Warped Tour over the past several years. What’s the thinking behind that partnership?

Chaney: We partnered with the tour to promote the launch of the Kia Soul. The Vans Warped Tour draws a youthful, Gen-Y audience, and we thought the tour would be a valuable way to expose the vehicle to that audience.

It wasn’t so much that we developed an in-depth music strategy. We want to reach young adults beyond TV. Music is an important passion point for the Gen-Y segment, and we want to put our product in front of them.

We continue to use the sponsorship to promote other vehicles. Last summer we showcased the all-new Rio subcompact and the Forte sports sedan.

IEG SR: How do you measure success?

Chaney: With the NBA, we use third-party research to reach fans that are located in markets where we have team sponsorships. We established a benchmark when we launched the program that measures fan awareness, opinion and purchase consideration for Kia and our products.

We measure the program every year against the benchmark, and we have seen a significant increase in awareness, positive opinion and purchase consideration.

We also use team and league research in the measurement process. The opinions of our local dealers are important as well, as well as test drive offers and sales. There are multiple inputs, but it’s all specific and measurable.

IEG SR: Kia over the past several years has played in the branded entertainment space with a tie-in to the CW Network’s Nikita television show. Tell me about that.

Chaney: We have renewed the show integration and sponsorship deal for third year. It’s an opportunity to go beyond a 30-second TV spot on a popular show. We leverage the tie by offering behind-the-scenes content on the show’s website.

We like the youthful audience Nikita reaches. It’s part of our alternative media strategy to expand our presence and engagement beyond TV spots.