Trial disrupts Hyundai World Cup marketing plans

When South Korea's biggest automaker created the World Cup slogan "Be There With Hyundai," its image-makers didn't expect Chairman Chung Mong Koo to be in a courtroom during the football finals. According to Heejin Koo of Bloomberg, the head of Hyundai Motor Co, Korea's only official World Cup sponsor, will miss the games in Germany because he's standing trial in Seoul on fraud and embezzlement counts. The charges against Chung, most of which he denies, are damping Seoul-based Hyundai's plans to showcase its Sonata sedans and Tucson sport-utility vehicles at the event.

"We are canceling events that would have allowed our top executives to meet with reporters, FIFA officials and corporate clients,'" said Park Chae Hoon, head of sports marketing at Hyundai. "Still, the overall marketing by our representative offices in Europe will go ahead as planned." Chung, who's unavailable to comment, had planned to attend the World Cup tournament, Park said. He has repeatedly denied embezzling 120 billion won ($127 million) from Hyundai and setting up a slush fund for bribing government officials, according to his lawyer.

Hyundai expected a 70-fold return on its 10-year World Cup sponsorship agreement with football's governing body FIFA, Park said. The championship matches attract a total audience of 28.8 billion people. While Hyundai won't disclose its investment, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co is paying US$500 million to sponsor the next four World Cup competitions.

See also: Hyundai provides 1250 vehicles for FIFA World Cup (5 May)