The SEMA Show: Now Reaching Consumers

SEMA News—January 2014


The SEMA Show: Now Reaching Consumers

Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO As a trade-only event, the SEMA Show requires attendees to demonstrate involvement in the automotive aftermarket in order to gain a badge. Although there are instances where guests and VIPs are allowed to visit the Show, the vast majority of the more than 126,000 attendees are members of the industry. And yet data indicates that the SEMA Show is more than ever before boosting consumer perceptions of automotive culture, the idea of customization and interest in the latest model year’s offerings of cars and trucks.

The SEMA Show has long attracted coverage from the enthusiast media, centered on racing heroes, the newest performance technologies and tuner-culture builders, such as Chip Foose. As a result, there is high awareness among the core group of enthusiasts who fix, repair and modify practically every car they own.

More recently, general news outlets and broadcast TV have become regular parts of the mix of more than 2,900 credentialed media that cover the Show. Their audiences are ordinary consumers and enthusiasts alike—drivers who can become energized buyers of all things automotive.

The media outlets represented at the Show increasingly look at the event as a crossroads for trends, fashion and pop culture. A considerable amount of mainstream coverage is generated as major manufacturers are now collaborating with the SEMA industry to leverage innovative products and vehicle styling trends introduced at the event. For example, GM produced a Satellite Media Tour and got strong results on mainstream broadcast outlets in 210 markets around the country. Toyota’s web-based Dream Build Challenge reality series generated millions of views for the company’s vehicles, involving brands such as Oakley and Skullcandy. This kind of exposure reaches consumers in the outer rings of the bull’s-eye—people who might not ordinarily see customized vehicles and who would only rarely consider adding accessories.

The advent of social media is another reason why the SEMA Show now reaches far more consumers than it did, say, 10 years ago. Our digital audits show that a tremendous spike in average daily social media coverage occurs during the SEMA Show and immediately afterward. There have been more than 35,000 SEMA Show videos posted on YouTube since November 1. Nearly 11 million people saw the content from the SEMA Show Facebook page during the week of the Show alone. And these are only a few examples. This consumer-facing conversation exposes the concept of aftermarket accessorization and exciting new vehicles to all kinds of car owners.

Much of this consumer chatter is now generated by consumers themselves. For example, SEMA Show features such as the SEMA Cruise—an open-to-the-public exit parade viewed on-site by thousands, all of whom seem to have video cameras in hand—generate vast numbers of social media impressions that reach casual enthusiasts and consumers alike.

In the end, even though the SEMA Show is a trade-only event, we see the Show growing as a global influencer of consumer perceptions around cars and car culture. As an association devoted to helping our member businesses grow and prosper, SEMA will continue to look for ways to reach consumer markets on behalf of our members. Given the new media landscape combined with other opportunities we are exploring, we think the prospects for greater penetration into enthusiast and non-enthusiast markets are better than ever.

—Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO