BMW of North America is expanding its event marketing because 25 percent of last year's participants who drove a vehicle later bought one, says the company's chief marketer.
BMW has relaunched two traveling events that hosted 60,000 participants last year, said Trudy Hardy, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America. This year, the Ultimate Driving Experience will go to two additional cities for a total of 10.
The Ultimate Driving Experience offers test drives -- ranging from 30-minute street circuits to high-speed race track instruction and teen driving classes -- and a culinary evening for customers of BMW's most expensive vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Drive for Team USA will be held at 330 participating dealerships. Competitive vehicles are trucked in so potential customers can compare an Audi, Mercedes-Benz or Lexus with a similar BMW model.
Both events are part of BMW's experiential marketing programs that represent about 30 percent of the brand's annual marketing outlay, said Hardy. Other such programs include auto shows, golf, VIP owner and loyalty events. She declined to provide spending figures.
"It shows [to us] people who turn out and buy -- one out of every four do -- and it has a positive boost on the brand," Hardy said.
BMW holds Ultimate Driving Experience events in large parking lots -- such as at New Jersey's biggest sports arena -- or racetracks and offers:
n An autocross with traffic cones to demonstrate the handling abilities of the 3-series sedan, 4-series coupe, and X4 crossover.
n A street driving event, with a choice of any BMW model except the M high-performance cars.
n An eight-hour driving school with M cars that costs $750 -- slightly less than at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, S.C., next to the factory.
n An evening program at an on-site pavilion with a cooking demonstration by a celebrity chef and dinner. Only potential buyers of the 6 and 7 series and i8 plug-in hybrid sports car are invited.
The Ultimate Driving Experience was launched last year with eight cities. Participants are chosen by BMW and its 339 dealerships. There are two stops in the Los Angeles area and two in the New York/New Jersey region because they are major BMW markets.
This year's stops also are in Miami, Washington, Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas and Chicago. The program started on April 11 and will run through November.