Making Face-to-face Connections on the 2020 Porsche Driving Tour

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Making Face-to-face Connections on the 2020 Porsche Driving Tour

By Annette Gregg | Dec 14, 2020

Experiential marketers face big challenges under the cloud of COVID-19. How can they protect the safety of customers and employees while still creating high-touch brand experiences?

Events planned for legendary auto manufacturer Porsche Cars North America need to continue delivering on its brand promise of exclusive customer engagement, even with the complications of a pandemic. The overall goal of the Porsche experiential marketing team is to ignite enthusiasm for the brand and create lifelong relationships through inspiring experiences.

Ayesha Coker, director of experiential marketing for Porsche Cars North America, developed the concept for the 2020 Porsche Driving Tour, which has been successfully executed in more than 10 U.S. locations. Her team felt people would be ready to gather safely in-person for these small, exclusive experiences—and they were right. All of the events held so far sold out and had waiting lists.

Coker tells The Meeting Professional how the team fulfilled its mission with the Driving Tour.

In-person events are complicated enough these days, and you managed to put together a multi-city Porsche Driving Tour! What is the concept?

Ayesha Coker: Yes, I guess we could have gone virtual with the events, but because we are a car company, we know how much it means to our customers to feel, touch and drive the product. They really can’t fully experience the cars virtually. While we knew some of our traditionally larger events couldn’t happen this year, we thought, “Why not make them smaller and more intimate?” And instead of having customers travel when they may not be comfortable, we can take the cars to them.

What is the general format in each stop of the Driving Tour?

AC: These are invite-only exclusive events for current, past or potential customers. Each driving tour has 30 total staff and customers. They drive the cars for an hour or so, then end up back together for a wonderful culinary experience. The concept works because we aren’t focused on having a large group, but rather our focus is on an intimate and personalized experience.

You’ve already been to 10 cities since July, and they’ve all been sold out. How did you choose the locations?

AC: Yes, and the rest of our locations all have a wait list! We looked at cities that were relatively open for business. We started with St. Louis and Atlanta as our test events. We also always try to support local economies, so we host lunch or dinner at a local restaurant, since we know the restaurant industry has been especially hard hit by COVID. This has helped us gain support from the local destinations. 

From the locations so far, which one do you feel has been a customer favorite?

AC: From a customer experience point of view, Ashbourne Farms in Kentucky was a home run. It was seamless and it conveyed all the aspects of a high-end experience. From the culinary aspect with a private chef to the exclusive access to the farm and its winding country roads, it felt authentic and unique, which mapped perfectly to our brand. It has become the benchmark for our other events.

What have been some of the interesting learnings along the way?

AC: When scouting potential locations, we started by looking for a local restaurant that would be a good venue, but later learned that city centers would be difficult logistically and guests couldn’t experience the drive the way we intended. So we pivoted to prioritize the driving location where guests could feel more peaceful and like a VIP with open roads and courses—like golf courses or ranches. We wanted each event to reflect the local personality and setting. In fact, one of the highest-rated locations was Ashbourne Farms because it really helped the drivers immerse themselves in the setting and experience the cars.

When you and your team introduced the concept of moving forward with in-person events this year, how was it received internally and externally?

AC: The local dealers supported the program and they were thankful we provided this wonderful driving experience during the pandemic to engage with customers. To reassure everyone it was safe to participate, we communicated the duty of care program on the website before the events and made it available during the events as well. Our protocol requires everyone to wear masks the entire time, we have sanitizer stations at all locations and we disinfect all the cars between drives to ensure no customer touches another car they aren’t driving. At the dining experience, all tables are social distanced and we are all paperless.  

Learn about Porsche’s two U.S. Experience Centers, which host groups and feature a track and fine dining.


How will Porsche determine if the 2020 Driving Tour was a success? With a luxury brand, the sales aren’t necessarily immediate. Eventually they will measure by whether customers renew their leases or buy. In the short term, the team measured how guests felt and if the events delivered on the brand promise at the end of the event.

“We want them to feel it’s the best experience they ever had,” Ayesha Coker says. “We are such a niche brand, it’s more about the relationships.”

In the spring, when they developed the plan, the experiential marketing team didn’t know what to expect, so they needed to manage internal expectations. The Porsche Driving Tour was about keeping a consistent brand presence and deepening relationships. They didn’t expect huge participation or immediate return. They had a feeling people were ready to get out by then (summer), and with sold-out locations and waiting lists, their hunch proved correct.


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Each month during 2020, Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA, senior vice president of experience for MPI, interviewed MPI members to highlight some of the best examples of event experience design (or user-centered design) across the globe. Read the other reports via past issues of The Meeting Professional and on the MPI blog.



Annette Gregg

Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA, is senior vice president, experience for Meeting Professionals International.