BMW brings M Festival to Canada

The automaker brings high-performance M series aficionados together as its builds its experiential side.

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BMW is looking to connect with social-first thrill-seekers as the automaker brings its M Festival to Canada for the first time.

The event, to be held this weekend at Bowmanville, Ontario’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, will feature different driving experiences showcasing BMW M series vehicles on and off-road, along with professional instructors, food and music headlined by Juno winners Serena Ryder and Dear Rouge.

It’s the first time the M Festival has come to Canada. A mainstay of Nürburgring, Germany, M Festivals have also recently been held in Singapore and South Africa.

As much as the M Festival is about performance, it’s also about building community and bringing brand aficionados together, says Sebastian Beuchel, director of BMW brand management at BMW Group Canada. Some visitors will be driving their BMWs from as far away as Vancouver and parts of the U.S. to take part, he says.

The decision to bring the M Festival to Canada comes as the brand invests in experiential activations, opening up opportunities for product engagement and interaction, social-first experiences and content generation for younger fans, according to Beuchel. The idea is to deliver a tactile experience in which fans and owners can get behind the wheel for track driving experiences and actually feel the cars’ power and performance first-hand. For example, at the M Festival, fans will be able to experience “hot laps,” a 260km/hr track ride courtesy of one of the professional drivers on hand.

According to Beuchel, Canada was the fourth largest volume market globally for BMW M, the subsidiary of BMW created in the ’60s to spur interest in the automaker’s racing programs, and which now manufactures high-performance models. He believes the brand’s racing and high-performance engineering pedigree and history gives it a competitive advantage.

Despite the headwinds facing Canadian auto sales as a whole, deliveries of BMW’s M performance vehicles increased 2% this year (China, the U.S. and Germany are the top three sales-generators across all BMW brands). Beuchel says that encouraging product trial, stimulating brand engagement and generating positive word-of-mouth is a key strategy to keep the trend going.

In 2018, BMW Canada was tasked with positioning its BMW i series of electric vehicles as a leader in electrification and innovation. Beuchel says there is overlap between the company’s i and M series customers, both of which value engineering, whether it’s from horsepower or electrification.

Beuchel believes the cornerstones of the BMW brand are innovation, design and performance and that he, as a marketer, is in a good position to activate each pillar when needed. Last year, BMW announced an AI-based, voice-command personal assistant where drivers can control the regular functions of the car – such as navigation and temperature control – without using their hands.

For the event, 7 Communications handled experiential, North Strategic supported social and PR, Media Experts did media, FCB, the creative and Blast Radius, digital.