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Why Eugenie Bouchard has so many fans at Kia Canada

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada walks off the court after her win over Virginie Razzano of France during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.

Andrew Brownbill/AP Photo

If you watched emerging Canadian tennis sensation Eugenie Bouchard in her Wednesday night semifinal at the Australian Open, you'll know why they were cheering so loudly at Kia Canada headquarters in Mississauga, Ont.

No, they are not tennis nuts at Kia Canada. And they certainly were not pleased to see the 19-year-old prodigy get schooled in straight sets by veteran Li Na.

But the Kia Canada folks were overjoyed to see the Kia logo plastered all over the stadium. The Kia people knew that the Bouchard match would attract thousands and thousands of extra eyeballs in Canada – "the Bouchard effect" pulling in non-tennis fans.

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And the exposure didn't come out of Kia Canada's marketing budget. Jack Sulymka, head of corporate partnerships at Kia Canada, says that Kia Motor Corp. (KMC) out of Seoul bought the rights as the title partner, and Kia of Australia took care of "activation" – local promotion, displays, test drive bookings and so on.

"This is a true partnership or collaboration with head office and (the) local subsidiary," says Sulymka. .

Live sporting events are a major way for car companies to break through the media clutter. Sure, viewers could PVR Bouchard, but who wants to watch a recorded match? Even then, the Kia signage would be visible to the live audience and millions of TV viewers worldwide. The Globe and Mail reported this week that the Australian Open final last year drew 349 million television viewers worldwide.

Like other car companies, Kia is using sports partnerships to reach car buyers. Kia Canada is a major sponsor of all three Major League Soccer teams in Canada. This aligns with KMC's global sponsorship of FIFA. Kia is also sponsoring the women's U20 World Cup in Canada this year, and the women's World Cup in Canada next year. Kia Canada also sponsors PGA Tour golfer David Hearn.

Naturally, Kia will be thrilled if Canada's women's soccer teams pull a Bouchard, buying Kia extra exposure. Ditto if Hearn manages to win a PGA event. For purely business reasons, car companies have become the biggest sports fans of all.

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