The amount of money that Audi of America Inc. spends on events is finally going under the microscope.
Now that Audi has hired a U.S. events agency, the automaker is 'going to start documenting everything, where we haven't been able to do that before,' said Maria Nahigian, Audi's event marketing manager.
Nahigian took the events job in April, when the marketing role for overseeing sponsorships, promotions and motorsports was split into two. Events are becoming a bigger factor in many automotive marketers' efforts because they are considered the key to customer relationship marketing. And measurement has become for marketers to justify spending money on events.
Nahigian said events represented 8 percent of Audi's 2000 total marketing budget, up from 3 percent to 4 percent in 1999. She would not give specific event spending figures.
According to Competitive Media Reporting, Audi spent $73.9 million on measured media last year and $23.3 million through the first quarter this year, excluding events. Automotive marketers say nonmeasured spending, which includes events, can run from about 10 percent of measured media spending to equaling measured media spending, depending on the size of the automaker.
Goal is efficiency
In May, Audi signed on event agency VSI Holdings Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to make event spending more efficient, Nahigian said. Audi also plans to start advertising its events in media such as local newspapers.
'If this (VSI Holdings relationship) works, we can take the various performing arts or lifestyle activities (that Audi sponsors) and tie into advertising,' Nahigian said. 'We've never been in a position to do that because there hasn't been enough consistency as far as what we were doing and where we were doing it.'
Nahigian explained how VSI will measure events. 'We would say, `This is the invitation that went out, this is the number of attendees, this is the event that took place, these are the dealers that participated, these are the activities that were involved around the opera (for example), and this is what type of publicity (we received).' '
VSI will present a report after each event, including photos, video and press clips, said Kelly Lodish, national event manager at VSI.
The agency has provided four regional Audi-dedicated staff members. In addition to measurement, VSI will find some new event opportunities for Audi. The division currently sponsors events including polo and jazz.
Audi dealers help pay for some events in their area.
'Depending on what it is, dealers contribute (funds) locally case by case,' Nahigian said. 'If the dealers are interested, then they'll come in on it.'
Dealer Adolf Stammler is eager for the factory to sponsor another event in the Boulder, Colo., area.
'A few years ago, Audi sponsored an equestrian event and had local dealers involved,' said the owner of Stammler Imports Inc. 'It drew our kind of customer, and I got some traffic.'
The event also helped build loyalty with customers, he said. Stammler hopes Audi will sponsor a ski event in his area next.
'The skier customer fits right into our profile - well-educated, well-to-do, likes the outdoors,' he said.
Audi's relationship with VSI may not be confined to the United States. The division uses two other event agencies in Canada.
'Our goal is to have everybody under one umbrella,' Nahigian said. 'I see that happening within the next year or so.'
VSI has the capabilities to take on Canada, Lodish said. 'We would just have to add a couple of people there,' she said.
Audi does not host or sponsor events in Mexico.