Kia is launching an advertising campaign featuring NBA all-star Blake Griffin, who achieved considerable notoriety for dunking over a 2011 Kia Optima at the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest in February. The campaign, which features the 2012 Optima, recently kicked off with a humorous television spot dubbed "Time to Shine."

The 30-second advertisement features a playful homage to the now-famous dunk. At first, Griffin is shown in a superhero costume, wearing inline skates while being towed by an Optima. As the basketball star approaches an enormous wooden ramp, the Optima veers off course and Griffin lets go of the tow rope, skating up the ramp and catapulting into the air. There, he catches a basketball launched from a cannon and dunks perfectly into a 45-foot basketball hoop. In addition to showcasing Griffin's exceptional talent, the ad also prominently ties the Optima to a youthful market of basketball fans.

"There is an inherent link between the youthful style and performance attributes of the Kia Optima and the extraordinary talent and athleticism displayed by Griffin in every game," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing and communications for Kia Motors America's vice president of marketing and communications. "The Kia Optima is not your average midsize sedan and Blake Griffin is not your average spokesperson or athlete, making the memorable connection in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk competition the perfect launching point for a playful follow-up to a spectacular feat."

According to Kia, Griffin is the only professional basketball player who has a global marketing relationship with an automaker. Kia calls the basketball star its global spokesperson, noting that Griffin makes public appearances at its events and philanthropic initiatives and is included in many of the brand's marketing programs and advertising materials. As such, the automaker says commercials featuring Griffin will continue throughout the year.

Since a fully redesigned new model debuted last year, the Optima was mostly unchanged for 2012. With a starting price of just under $20,000, the midsize sedan features a standard 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine, while 274-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and 206-horsepower hybrids are optional. According to Kia, the 2012 Optima is already available at dealerships nationwide.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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