The automotive segment has always relied on incentive travel to build brand loyalty and cement relationships. With ample budgets and worldly travelers, and free from the regulatory restrictions faced by pharma and financial, this sector can be more…creative.
Prevue took the pulse of the automotive incentive industry to see what companies are up to.
For the first time ever, last year Goodyear added a CSR component to its annual incentive trip for U.S., Canada and Mexico dealers. The automotive aftermarket dealer program took place in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and ended up winning a Crystal Award from the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence.
The company had recently combined its Latin America and North American regions into one—the Americas—and was looking for a way to connect team members from both, while celebrating the company and giving back to the destination. The choice was to build a playground for a local school that only had a single soccer field to provide recreation for 1,000 children.
The playground was built using recycled tires and participants chose tasks for which they were best suited (from the actual installation to assisting with lunch). The day’s success was reinforced when the winners got to meet a playground full of delighted students.
Longer lead times
The seller’s market has forced automotive incentive planners to book further out than the typical 12 months to secure the luxury properties their winners have come to expect. “It’s a case of supply and demand,” says Tina Gaccetta, vice president, sales and marketing, Aimia US – Events, Aimia Inc. “It’s the only way they can get space at the resorts they want to use on the dates they are looking for.” Though incentive budgets in this sector are still strong, she says, “they might not be escalating at the same rate as the rates at luxury hotels.” She has seen companies whose budgets have not grown being forced to make changes to afford the same level of experience, whether that means reducing the number of days or choosing different destinations.
Disruption and attendee safety
New research from the Incentive Research Foundation and the University of South Carolina estimates that 60 percent of planners have experienced some form of disruption around their events, estimating that almost a quarter have been affected in some way. Attendee safety concerns have even affected automotive dealer incentives, despite the winners being well-traveled and used to visiting exotic locales, and some companies are choosing destinations closer to home because of terrorism and Zika scares.
Car dealerships are often family businesses, and over time the pool of qualifiers has shifted from primarily middle-aged males to their children. The new owners seek active, immersive experiences that play off the destination, rather than the traditional 18 holes of golf. It’s also important that the agenda and the venue reinforce the brand. For one Scandinavian automaker visiting Napa recently, that meant choosing a sleekly designed, high-tech winery instead of a high-end castle for an evening event. Individual time is also important to this demographic, so planners built in a day where attendees got to drive around the countryside on their own in classic cars, then meet up with everyone in the evening.