By Ellen McKoy
MPMC Media Trade Conference Keeps Pace With Evolving Media Demographic
Exhibitor session with media during the MPMC Media Trade Conference.
Creating a business climate that fosters growth and success for its members is at the heart of the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council’s (MPMC) mission. To that end, the MPMC provides a range of resources—legislative and technical support, the Racing & Performance Section at the SEMA Show, seminars at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, and the “MPMC Business Guidelines Manual,” to name a few. But the council is perhaps best known for its annual Media Trade Conference.
The event was launched in 1998 as the MPMC Media Trade Expo—an idea that had bubbled up during the council’s 1997 long-range planning session. To better reflect the program’s format and focus, the name was changed in 1999.
The concept—which still holds true today—provides members with the opportunity to interface with automotive media to disseminate information about the industry’s products and technology and to increase both media and consumer awareness. Over the years, the conference has continued to grow, ranging from 23 manufacturers in 1998 to 100 each year since 2009.
While the format and focus have remained relatively unaltered, the media landscape has changed dramatically. For years, print journalists made up the bulk of the media who attended the conference. Digital media later joined the mix. Now that there are far fewer print publications, conference planners have set their sights on a new media outlet: social-media influencers.
“From the perspective of the Media Trade Conference, we’ve seen a shift in focus,” said MPMC Chair Rob Fisher. “We’ve morphed from being what I call a singular print outlet—what it was 15 or so years ago—to a mix of print and digital, then to print, digital, video and social media, and to now include social-media influencers as well. So we have all these options and different platforms that we, as manufacturers, can utilize to deliver our message.”
Tapping an Untapped Resource
|Exhibitor Flex-A-Lite, pitching products during meeting session.
As the ranks of print media diminished over the last five years, the MPMC select committee took a methodical approach to expanding its audience. Fisher said that the committee asked itself two questions: How do we figure out where the next generation of automotive journalists comes from? And how do current automotive enthusiasts consume information?
As the committee members dove deeper and learned more about the impact of influencers (builders or racers involved in various aspects of motorsports), they put together a list of 10 known contacts and invited them to attend the January conference. The member response overall was positive, but how to grow the number of influencers was a sticking point.
To that end, the select committee reached out to SEMA, which had an existing relationship with the DriveShop, a marketing firm with a network of lifestyle and social-media influencers and the ability to connect automotive brands with their audiences.
“We recognized that we needed guidance from the DriveShop,” Fisher said. “They can track impressions on social media. They can identify influencers based on a set of goals. They were able to help us bring new social-media influencers to the trade conference, and we could track the effectiveness.”
|MPMC Chair Rob Fisher.
The results spoke for themselves. The DriveShop successfully recruited 18 social-media influencers to the event. The total number of influencer impressions from January through March was an impressive 1,415,853, with an audience reach of 1,261,592 and a social-media value of $127,785.
For many of the manufacturers, it was their first exposure to influencers—and vice versa. Based on post-event feedback, both groups expressed enthusiasm about working together, and the MPMC select committee and SEMA staff are already strategizing for the 2021 conference.
“The response to this year’s event was very positive, but the key is education,” Fisher said. “The trick is making sure that everybody is prepared. Manufacturers don’t necessarily know how to [engage] with influencers, and influencers don’t necessarily know how to take advantage of what the Media Trade Conference is all about.
“Our select committee knows what we need to do to ensure that our membership base is the benefactor of this program. To that end, we’ve put together a task force responsible for developing webinars that we are in the process of rolling out and for getting the program up and running. The SEMA Board and staff are completely behind the program and are very excited about it. The 2021 conference will be the best one yet. That’s our goal.”