SEMA Ignited: Growing the Pie

SEMA News—April 2016

Chris Kersting

SEMA Ignited: Growing the Pie

Chris KerstingFor years now, decades even, industry leaders at SEMA have undertaken initiatives to help reach and inspire the enthusiast, the semi-enthusiast and more than ever, the consumer who doesn’t yet identify as an enthusiast. The goal has been to introduce them to cool cars and trucks, the automotive lifestyle, and to spark the idea to use our industry’s great products. Together with our members’ own marketing efforts, we aim to help grow the specialty auto parts market.

Drawing in non-core consumers through broad-message marketing, such as the “Got Milk?” campaign, is a tough way to go because our industry is incredibly diverse. There are too many ways to enjoy cars and trucks and an endless range of products to help people do that.

On the positive side, the media landscape has evolved in a way that has created new opportunities. Today anyone can post photos, videos and share games and accounts of their activities—potentially with an audience of thousands or even millions. Levels of meaningful consumer-to-consumer exposure and engagement now exceed anything that would have been possible just a decade ago.

That realization has led SEMA to engage in efforts to help add fuel to the social media fire. The goal is to make it more likely that more people—enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike—get a chance to identify with exciting automotive lifestyles. SEMA is doing that by creating attractive opportunities so large numbers of people can generate and share inspiring automotive images and videos—and what better location for those opportunities than the annual SEMA Show?

New features at the SEMA Show, such as the SEMA Cruise, SEMA Ignited and SEMA Battle of the Builders, are “platforms” giving a live-action stage to the best our industry has to offer. These events promote and inspire waves of social and traditional media activity—waves that are carrying images, videos and messaging out to millions of enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.

In just its second year, SEMA Ignited had an estimated 16,000 car guys and gals, friends and family in attendance. The best part is, they came with their cameras, creating a titanic media and social media buzz that communicates the art of customizing, a sense of the possibilities, and a new understanding of all the fantastic things that can be done to personalize a car.

It’s important not to underestimate the effect of this kind of communication in today’s world. While the size of the event itself was reasonably significant, the media buzz was far, far larger. The 2015 edition of SEMA Ignited has generated more than 570 online articles thus far, and each of those articles may have had thousands, if not tens of thousands of viewers.

We are also taking steps to show the path to others so that more coverage will occur. The SEMA Battle of the Builders competition is an example. With a bit of star-studded content and a prime-time television special, Battle of the Builders is a way to extend the coverage of cool vehicles and the lifestyle to keep the conversation going all year long. Last year’s broadcasts of SEMA Battle of the Builders on the Velocity channel accumulated more than 3.5 million viewers, and did much more on social media. For example, SEMA also commissioned 10 video shorts featuring the contestants, their cars and their stories, and these videos have been viewed and shared by millions of people online. Additionally, the promotional videos for the show are also a hit—one clip for this year’s broadcast was viewed 1.7 million times in January, even before the TV show had actually aired.

By building these made-for-media events on the shoulders of the SEMA Show, and by leveraging social media as a vehicle for messaging, SEMA and our industry members are able to keep cool cars and trucks in the conversation, in the buzz-making machine that is social media. We see this helping the industry accomplish the goal of sparking consumer excitement and keeping our industry growing. It’s a long-term endeavor, and hard to measure, but when millions are exposed to the best of American car culture, something good has got to be happening.

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