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More Car Buyers Consider Kia Thanks To Griffin Slam

One of the most interesting pieces of product placement was seen in the finals of the Slam Dunk Contest on Sunday when Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunked over the hood of a car.

Blake Griffin from the L.A. Clippers in the All-Star Dunk Contest.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Blake Griffin from the L.A. Clippers in the All-Star Dunk Contest.

The car wasn’t just any car.

It was a Kia, which is the official car of the NBA. Griffin didn’t just decide to dunk over the car at the last minute. It was arranged weeks ahead of time by Griffin’s management company, Excel Sports Management, Kia officials and its agency, IMG.

As part of the deal, Griffin and Kia agreed to have a more formal relationship if the dunk was pulled off and he won the contest, which he did.

The product placement is already bearing fruit. It’s not known how many cars Griffin’s jump actually helped sell, but Edmunds.com, an online resource for automotive information, says car buyers said they were 20 percent more likely to consider a Kia brand car on Sunday, the day after the dunk, compared to an average Sunday. They were twice as likely (104 percent) to consider buying an Optima, the specific model that Griffin dunked over.

“Whether product placement is successful or not all depends on the context,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Edmunds.com. “When I heard about and saw the Kia Optima placement, I knew it was brilliant.

"It was the smartest type of product placement."" -Edmunds.com, Karl Brauer

Brauer said that since Griffin didn’t do much with the car, it was more natural and therefore more effective.

“It was the smartest type of product placement,” Brauer said. “If it is blatant and intrusive and is painfully obviously it doesn’t work with the under 40 crowd. If it’s contextual and subtle, like this, it works.”

Traffic also spiked online in the day after Griffin’s dunk.

Consideration traffic for the Kia brand on Edmunds.com shot up 27 percent compared to a typical Sunday. Consideration for the Kia Optima surged 64 percent. That’s a pretty big number when factoring in that the average consideration for all makes ticked up only 3 percent on Sunday.

Nielsen reported that the All-Star slam dunk contest was watched by a contest record 8.1 million viewers, 49 percent more than last year. Viewership peaked on Griffin's dunk over the car.

Kia sold $2 billion worth of cars in 2010. It was 55 percent more business than South Korea's second largest automaker did the year before.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com