Kumho Tire, Hot Sauce, the Atlanta Hawks, and a Look Back On One of the Hottest Promotions in Sports

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ATLANTA, GA – MARCH 11: AND1 Mixtape legend Hot Sauce drives to the basket against Darren Rovell during a 1 on 1 challenge during halftime of the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks on March 11, 2018 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

While the Atlanta Hawks may not have had the best year on the court, their promotional game was on fire this past season, led by the viral sensation Hot Sauce and his trickeration during commercial breaks.

The idea originally came from a collaboration between Kumho Tire, Hot Sauce, and the Hawks that was centered around Kumho’s campaign around the NBA All-Star Game.

“As a long-term partner of the NBA, leading up to the All-Star Game, we had been activating with the league on a monthly basis through ‘Kumho Handles’, a digital and social series that highlighted the top-5 handles from players that past month throughout the season,” said Brian Gallagher, Senior Marketing Manager, North America, Kumho Tire USA. “Moving into the All-Star Game, we developed a consumer promotion called ‘Hip Hop Handles’ and we hired Hot Sauce for it. We filmed the creative for the promotion at Philips Arena and that’s where the idea developed.”

After filming the creative, Gallagher and his team thought that they could take Hip Hop Handles beyond just All-Star Weekend and knew Atlanta would be the perfect spot given the company had just relocated its headquarters to the area three years earlier.

“We figured we could leverage Hot Sauce and have him come out to select games in the 4th quarter and then have a fan come on and try and steal the ball from him. If they did, they would win a set of tires from Kumho and a $50 dollar gift card,” said Gallagher. “It totally made sense for as we leveraged our relationship with the NBA to amplify our national ‘Kumho Handles’ promotion on a local level through our relationship with the Atlanta Hawks.”

As a challenger brand, Kumho looks for opportunities that are unique and play to what the company stands for and what the products actually are best used for.

“We are always looking for something unique and unconventional,” said Gallagher. “Not only to break out of the clutter of our current tire industry, but  also to rise above the competition and do something in a creative way.”

They found what they were looking for with Hot Sauce and the Hawks and were able to activate the partnership in a way that brought attention to the best attributes of the tires.

“Our strategy is to illustrate the shared attributes between our brand and the sport of basketball,” mentioned Gallagher. “And the quality characteristics of our tires, like control, handling, traction and overall performance were demonstrated on the court through the dynamic moves exhibited by Hot Sauce.”

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Not only was the promotion good for Kumho and the Hawks, it was good for Hot Sauce.  

“Kumho brought me out of retirement and helped build my brand and also helped their marketing campaign,” said Hot Sauce “We’ve partnered together and it’s been a big deal ever since. I caught the tail end of this season, the last 15 games, so hopefully we get started in the beginning of next season, and do the whole season, so we can really put on a show.”

When it came to his opponents, the streetball legend didn’t mince his words in regards to letting people beat him, even though he might have a soft spot for children.

“I had 15 games, and I washed everybody out of the gym, but my favorite contestants were the kids (who took the ball). Anytime it comes to kids, they might win. Even if it’s just one kid, it doesn’t have to be a double team, that’s just me giving back. The next day, it was on ESPN. I’ve had a handicapped guy take the ball from me, I’ve had a guy in a wheelchair take the ball from me. The kids, it made their day.

But when it comes to adults, ain’t no days gonna be made. As you saw, I destroyed the three opponents after the kids. Y’all are gonna come down, get embarrassed and I’m gonna send y’all asses back up to the nosebleeds.”

Hot Sauce going one-on-one with a fan. ©Kat Goduco Photography

As for the Hawks, the team was happy with not only Hot Sauce, but how the collaboration came together with Kumho. A collaboration that was a true partnership in every sense of the word.

“Kumho Tire has been a tremendous partner. They have been flexible and have empowered us to develop original ideas and content that build upon our personal relationship with our audience,” said Andrew Saltzman, CRO of the Hawks. “Our joint collaboration with streetball legend Hot Sauce has provided an incredible amount of positive exposure for both of our brands.”

While the season may be over, the success of the campaign points to the potential of Hot Sauce once again breaking ankles for everyone to see.

“We have had something over 3,000,000 impressions thus far,” said Gallagher. “It’s a long-term build, but an activation like this is key in helping us reach our objective.”