Following a tough year financially and postponement of its 2010 London show, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) cancelled the British International Motor Show outright.
Despite attracting 472,000 visitors to its last edition at Excel London, SMMT blamed the recession, as well as decline in manufacturer support, for its demise.
Yet as one show goes, another invariably steps into its place. Over the past year, we’ve seen the launch of the Windsor-based British Motor Festival, expansion of the Canary Wharf-based Motorexpo locally and internationally, the ongoing success of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and news of the first environmentally focused car event, EcoVelocity this September.
So why are these events able to continue where the flagship international event has failed?Cost considerations
According to MD of the recently launched British Motor Festival, James Brooke, one of the major downfalls of the British International Motor Show was the hefty cost of staging it.
In addition, the reason other UK motor shows such as the Windsor event or the Motorexpo in Canary Wharf are successful is due to localised and regional focus and manageable scale, he claimed.
“To make the international show work, there were extremely high costs associated with a venue of such scale and huge resources from manufacturers and exhibitors to support the show,” Brooke said. “The major factor which has helped lots of other motor-based events is that they have all been designed in a different way, where costs are much lower and the focus is localised.
Therefore, the people you need to attract don’t have to be national or international. It also means your marketing is more targeted and at a local level.
“For us, the strategy is driven by identifying demand for the event in a particular area, then making sure when things are being put together, they’re done on a sensible cost basis so exhibitors don’t have to carry unnecessarily high costs.”
Brooke also cited a change in its exhibitor base. As manufacturers reined in marketing costs as a result of the downturn, motor dealers increasingly sought opportunities to put their wares in front of potential buyers.
“Dealers are now the ones driving the cogs of industry,” Brooke continued. “They are the salesmen and have seen an opportunity through shows to generate new leads and business.”
Having said that, Brooke pointed out manufacturers were still exhibiting but finding different opportunities to tap into other dedicated motoring audiences, such as that apparent at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Keeping it interactive
Spokesperson for the Goodwood Festival of Speed Gary Axon said it introduced the successful Moving Motor Show component to its event last year as a way of providing manufacturers with regulated exhibition space to preview products. The preview showcase runs alongside five new and classic car displays, sports arena and interactive shows.
“There have been static car shows for a hundred years and they’ve not really changed,”Axon claimed. “Our events are bringing cars to life in every sense and from an emotional standpoint – hearing them run, accelerate and trialling the products stirs the emotions.”
Getting close and experiencing products in an atmospheric outdoor setting is also a key pillar behind the new EcoVelocity at Battersea Park in September. The show is put together by Metro newspaper and former British International Motor Show directors Rob Mackenzie and Giles Brown, under their new joint venture International Green Motoring Events business.
The trend towards more environmentally sustainable transport methods has paved the way for a new motor event, which now has the backing of the Mayor of London and Transport for London. Audience knowledge
Echoing Brooke’s sentiments on regionalisation of motor shows, EcoVelocity client planning director Justin Lovric said it could see longer-term opportunities to replicate the event in other parts of the country including Manchester. “We thought our show idea was a good fit with mature urbanites, who are looking for new eco technologies and low-carbon solutions,” he said.
For the organiser of the 16th annual Motorexpo in Canary Wharf, growth and long-term success comes down to location and free visitor entry. Motorexpo was held in June with a bigger exhibitor line-up this year (200) and 400,000 attendees. It has gained the backing of the SMMT and is also being expanded internationally into Canada in 2011.
“During the last 15 years Motorexpo has built up a reputation for showing high-quality exhibits, which in turn bring a high-calibre audience,” Motorexpo marketing director Chris Coleman-Brown said. “Manufacturers naturally expect to get the maximum return for committing to an exhibition, and Motorexpo gives them access to Canary Wharf’s very broad audience demographic. Our audience is interested in finding out about new models from luxury, prestige and mainstream brands, and likes to be able to get close to the cars before making a purchase.”
Whatever the angle, what’s clear from organisers of all these new and existing events is that motor shows in today’s market have to be a good day out.
“The element that was lacking in traditional shows was the interactivity and opportunity to engage with the product,” Axon added. “You’ve got to make it a great day out for the family and audience.”
1. British Motor FestivalCo-located with British Leisure Festival in Windsor; launched as an annual event in 2010.2. MotorexpoHeld in Canary Wharf annually; in its 16th year this year and now expanding internationally.3. EcoVelocityJoint venture between the Metro newspaper and International Green Motoring Event, the former team behind the British International Motor Show. Launches at Battersea Park this September.4. Goodwood Festival of SpeedBranded a “garden motoring party”, this annual event is held in Goodwood after being launched by the Earl of March in 1993.5. Top Gear Festival A spin-off from Brand Events’ highly successful Top Gear Live show series, Top Gear Festivals are being launched globally to change the event into a festival-based experience.
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