Size of market
The automotive sector accounted for 9.5% of the Top 50 agencies' UK event-based turnover in 2013, according to C&IT's State of the Industry Report.
Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet continue to top the rankings in Consumer Reports' annual Car-Brand Perception Survey in 2014.
Around two-thirds (66%) of the Top 50 agencies work for automotive clients with TRO, BI Worldwide, Grass Roots Meetings & Events, Lodestar, Imagination, Smyle, TMB Events, TMG Events and Adding Value all working with major car brands.
It has been another strong year of growth in the UK car industry and the automotive events market is equally buoyant with many brands reporting growth in budgets and the number of events held.
MG Motor UK sales & marketing director Guy Jones says: "We are running more events as our product range and dealer network has expanded and so have our sales," he comments. "You will see us at a wide range of events targeted at reaching MG buyers. We are also having a major event to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the brand at Silverstone race circuit on 21 June."
In addition to an increase in experiential activity, overseas conferences and incentive travel are starting to make a comeback.
As part of its sponsorship of the home nations football teams, Vauxhall ran an incentive travel programme for retailers around the World Cup. Head of marketing operations at Vauxhall Motors, Keith Michaels, says: "It's the first time we have moved away from personal targeting to a group incentive on this scale for some time, but it is purely driven by the rights we get as sponsor of the England team."
TMG Events, which works for brands including Peugeot and Nissan, has seen more incentive activity. "We did one major incentive for an automotive brand last year, and one smaller incentive at the start of this year, and have just been given the green light for an incentive in the US later this year," says marketing director Guy Dunwoody.
Another trend is increased procurement involvement.
"We are finding ourselves in pitches with six to nine agencies and it is taking a long time to get decisions, which means shorter lead times," says TMB Events partner Nigel Green.
Budgets will remain under pressure as "every last penny has to be justified", says Dunwoody.
Creativity and innovation remain top concerns for automotive brands as they look to create events that stand out from their competitors. "They always have to outdo last year's event and what the opposition is doing," says Dunwoody.
TMB's Green agrees: "The premium car brands are growing their market shares and there are a lot of manufacturers going after the same markets so competition is high. Experiential activities are top of the agenda."
MG's Jones says the brand will continue to "transfer spend away from showroom/dealership-based events and use experiential activity to engage with the public where they already are, as opposed to trying to get people to come to car showrooms."
Incentives will continue to come back gradually, although the automotive market is unlikely to return to pre-recession levels of spending on these events. "We are also working on a couple of launches and seeing a lot more activity around electric vehicles," adds Green.
Top automotive stories on citmagazine.com
January 2014: Jaguar terminated its three-year contract with Grass Roots Meetings & Events, which it hired in May 2012 to deliver B2B and B2C experiential events. This came just a month after Jaguar's event manager Marcus Wall left the brand after 14 years.
January 2014: Peugeot appointed Adding Value to deliver its National Business Meeting in 2014 after a pitch with incumbent Smyle. The National Business Meeting is the brand's flagship annual event for dealers, after-sales, parts and service and internal staff.
February 2014: Volvo recognised experiential and live events agency Line Up as a top global supplier at the prestigious Volvo Quality Excellence Award at a ceremony in Gothenburg. Only 22 companies from a preferred indirect suppliers list that runs into tens of thousands are given the award.
July 2014: Bentley and Lamborghini held an anniversary celebration at the NEC in Birmingham for invited guests including existing and prospective clients to celebrate the brands' ten years in Birmingham.