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AIMExpo Says Goodbye to Orlando

You Say Goodbye And I Say…

AIMExpo says goodbye to Orlando

After last year’s buyout of the American International Motorcycle Exposition (AIMExpo) from the original owner MarketPlace Events by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), most market watchers assumed that a) the OEMs that form the backbone of MIC would offer ongoing stability for the still young show, and that b) the event would make the jump across Orlando’s International Drive to the more appropriate, and much larger, North Hall, consolidating the outdoor activities while adding a more expansive venue.

Pack Your Bags. Again.

A month out, AIME dropped the first bombshell, announcing that 2016 would be the last show in Orlando as 2017’s event would hit the road for — the Columbus, Ohio, convention center. Which until now has been best known for hosting Arnold Schwartzeneger’s long-running series of body building championships.

That news hadn’t even completed the first lap when it was announced right before Thursday’s show opening that Columbus was a one and done, and that Las Vegas would welcome dealers in 2018 to a Mandalay Bay event, also in October.

A few select exhibitors hadn’t even finished their chorus of reliable quotes on why Columbus’ “500-mile radius” was key to attracting dealers in order to grow the event (it isn’t, given Peoples Exhibit A, DealerExpo) when the Vegas jump came out of the blue. If there was any question that MIC’s OEMs were wielding their muscle, this relocation eliminated any doubts.

Why It Matters

Why this matters involves pure marketing decisions by the show’s owners, and, like every realtor says, it’s about location, location, location. Powersports (read aftermarket) expos have been tried in Vegas before, and they’ve died in Vegas, even during the red-hot 2000s. OEM dealer meetings, on the other hand, thrive in the desert.

The move has all the earmarks of a purely strategic decision by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki to consolidate their dealer programs closer to home and away from the proximate distraction of Daytona’s Biketoberfest.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed. Orlando remains a major international destination, and both venue and weather remain well suited to the outdoor activities which can’t be offered in a resort hotel facility.

Still, H-D was never a participant, and Kawasaki was a big hole in the lineup this year, after drawing plenty of attention with last year’s massive booth. Ducati was another no-show. Ditto BMW. And so it went.

This year’s swan song seemed almost a little melancholy, like the guy who came alone to the dance and stayed too late. Compared to the previous decade, many of the booths looked like they traveled as overhead luggage.

Warn, Pirelli, S&S, and Avon, among others, didn’t bring the A game of years previous. And speaking of others, Western Powersports, Parts Unlimited, Chrome Specialties, Tucker-Rocky, and Drag Specialties were among the major distributors whose absence, in favor of their own one-off shows for the past several years, severely hurts in the buzz building.

The Magic 8-Ball Says

It could be that the appeal of an aftermarket accessories driven trade show has passed its sell by date. Without support from manufacturers, dealers aren’t likely to make the investment in time and money to visit when much of what they’re selling is already on offer at the afore mentioned distributor sponsored shows. And without dealer support, manufacturers can’t be expected to continue their investment without a decent ROI. And this year’s announced dealer registration figure of just over 2,000 falls, to me, far short of fulfilling that expectation.

AIMExpo will in the future become a new model year bike show by the major manufacturers with some slots occupied by non-OEMs who either lack a distributor hookup, are doing okay with their own dealer direct and consumer direct programs, or just don’t want one.

Nostalgia for the way things were is notable, but unsupportable. Columbus ’17 looks to be the last real expression of the independent powersports aftermarket event.

aimexpo 2015 continues growth curve

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC's purchase of AIMExpo event.

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC’s purchase of AIMExpo event.

AIME Opens Year Three Under New Ownership

In just its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo proved it’s in it to win it, with an exhibitor’s list topping 560, a shortened format making it easier for manufacturers to massage the combined trade plus public components, more OEMs, the revival of the MIA V-twin Made In America® contingent, and another successful round of cross your fingers and hope for yes! the best! weather Central Florida can muster in what we casually refer to as “fall”.

Read more about the powersport industry’s only domestic combined event here, including analysis of format, audience, and the challenges facing retail event marketing in an increasingly online world.

aimexpo 2015 on flickr

AIMExpo 2015

AIMExpo 2015 On Flickr

Now in its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo has grown in size, and 2015 saw nearly 600 exhibitors make the trip to Orlando for the four-day combined trade-retail event.

Included were motorcycle OEMs, off-road vehicles, personal watercraft, aftermarket manufacturers, apparel retailers, and electric vehicles. For a better visual experience view my images on Flickr.

google glass on display

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Google Glass on left, what Google Glass sees on right.

see you see me and then some

My introduction to Google Glass came at Tampa’s 2013 Barcamp at the University of South Florida last September. I sat in on a presentation by Glass Explorer Bruce Burke, one of those 8,000 or so chosen to live with the devices on a daily basis, and watched as he recovered from a failed classroom projector by tethering his Glass to his tablet so we could see what he saw.

“If you just want to make some phone calls, send and receive some text messages, take some pictures, take some videos and get directions, it’s great.”

In the months since Google first announced their revolutionary technology, I’ve been part of the crowd that thought it was cute but lacked real application. No more. The question isn’t what’s it good for, it’s what can’t it do. Can you call up the next Mickey D’s while you’re motoring along? Yep.

“It’s real light information,” Burke said. “If you just want to make some phone calls, send and receive some text messages, take some pictures, take some videos and get directions, it’s great. If you’re looking to create documents, create films and do heavier-weight stuff, it’s not for that.”

google launches massive product release

This past week, Google Glass has unleashed a well primed info pump touting style choices for Glass frames, a precursor to the retail launch that’s rumored to take place this Fall.

Not all the talk was effusive. FastCo Design called timeout on the use of “iconic” in the same breath as what seem to be otherwise ordinary frame choices. Still, the frames came across even if the writing lesson came up short.

Stand by. App development is well under way for the first purchasers wanting to adapt Glass to their particular niche. Surgeons? Sure. Fire and police? Of course. Also hobbyists, as in woodworkers. Service techs of all stripes. Brokers, reporters, and factory workers will also be seen sitting at their desks or at their stations, swiping at their temples and talking to themselves.

It’s not if any longer.

barcamp tampa bay 2013

Barcamp Tampa drew over 800 pocket protected members of the digital tribe to USF Business School

donuts are the key to required endurance

Dawn had barely broken when the digital cognescetti began descinding on the registration desks outside the University of South Florida’s School of Business Administration for the daylong techno conference known as Barcamp. Dawn of the dead, more like it.

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Barcamp Tampa Bay 2013 At USF School of BusinessBarcamp Tampa Bay 2013 At USF School of BusinessBarcamp Tampa Bay 2013 At USF School of BusinessBarcamp Tampa Bay 2013 At USF School of BusinessBarcamp Tampa Bay 2013 At USF School of BusinessBarcamp Tampa Bay 2013 At USF School of Business

Veterans of previous Barcamp events came prepared to deal with the Endless Donut Buffet lest the sugar blues overtake them halfway through a .js preso. Antidote: coffee pipeline direct injection.

First timers – including a non-profit wondering where he might find technology mentors for the inner city youth he counseled – tried to interpret the deliberate disorganization that is the hallmark of Barcamp, with varying degrees of success.

The 2013 edition, while perhaps not as feature rich as previous years, nonetheless offered nearly 800 attendees a broad and varied palette of back end, front end, and outside the lines content, much of it from an entrepreneurial perspective.

apps, plugins, hardware and plenty of code

Apps were big on the agenda this year, including the primo EXMO iOS/Android event scheduler. EXMO is one of those things that having used it once now seems like an essential for any multisession event, conference or seminar.

Still in beta, the little app that could kept up with an on-the-fly schedule update that’s the hallmark of Barcamp, letting attendees focus on what was happening instead of where. It’s the digital solution to the sometimes frustrating analog scheduler Barcamp uses, a bulletin board and post-it notes for attendees to schedule and presenters to signup for sessions.

This year there were some 15 tracks in hour-long chunks that began at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., in a nearly constant state of flux. That’s a lot of speakers to try and keep track of, and EXMO did a great job without the slightest hiccup, subject only to the 10-minute window needed for updating.

Blogging seemed a popular topic this year. My first session was an introduction to SEOslides, a dandy WordPress plugin that, as the name implies, allows bloggers to create a presentation within WordPress that is SEO friendly for every page and which – bonus round – links directly to your blog.

So take that Slideshare. Frame driven, this plugin is easily shareable and that’s a big plus when it comes to stats. A/B testing? Yep, and that’s just the beginning. It easily imports your PDF presentation, so authoring can be done with a variety of applications.

Still in beta, and as might be imagined the free version comes with a few key features disabled. If presentations are a big part of your workflow, the annual buy in is $200 and comes with a ton of extras.

quadcopters ready for takeoff

I’m still not sure what quadcopters had to do with web tech, but if I didn’t know anything about them before I sure do now thanks to Greg Wilson, Adobe’s head of CC outreach.

Greg rounded up a fleet – well, two – of these four-bladed oddities from DJI for a show and tell that included in the classroom hovering and an outdoor flight well above 800 feet.

Fundamentals of flight, advantages for aerial photographers, and a look at the possibilities made for a fun session that makes owning one of these devices tempting indeed.

By the time the last speaker in the last classroom turned out the lights, you could measure the knowledge dished out in tonnage. Barcamp is a rare altruistic opportunity to sample trends and techniques in the most informal of environments while allowing developers, site opperators, and anyone with a passion for digital and a viewpoint a forum to pitch their opinion.

aimexpo powersports aftermarket opens

Professional Display Graphics Were Seen Throughout Event

Biker Community Gives Thumbs Up

After years of discussion about an industry alternative to forever event producer Advanstar’s Dealernews Dealer Expo, the very first edition of the American International Motorcycle Expo opened its doors to a borrowed concept, high expectations, and fingers crossed by promoter Marketplace Events.

Orlando’s mammoth Orange County Convention Center West Concourse welcomed a brand new powersports combined trade only and consumer show that managed to attract three OEMs – Yamaha, Suzuki and Erik Buell – in addition to several scooter brands and an interesting mix of biker related goods and services.

Against the backdrop of a still sluggish economy and an industry devastated by the recession that continues to be pummeled by shifting consumer interests, AIMExpo stretched out over five days, making for an endurance event for exhibitors and a mid-week challenge for attending dealers. What rolled out over those five days will go a long way towards determining the future of domestic powersports business marketing events.

aimexpo set to launch

Powersports Gets New Show

Recent news from Advanstar that the Dealernews February Dealer Expo, held in Indianapolis after moving west from Cincy in 1998 but suffering badly from lagging attendance and exhibitor disinterest since the high water mark in the mid ’00s, will move to Chicago in 2014 means the newly formed AIME consumer show faces a much lower bar to overcome as a cross-channel powersports industry marketing event.

Orlando has enjoyed major motorsports industry success as a destination for years. Ironically, after welcoming thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of attendees since moving the event south, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) expo, held in OCCC’s North-South venue since 2001, returns to Indy this December as part of a SEMA brokered reunification with the International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS, aka, hard core racing).

I’ve enjoyed many industry events in Vegas, Indy, Cincy before and after, and in Orlando – in both the West Building hosting AIME’s inaugural outing and the massive North South venue across the street. Considering Orlando’s in my back yard – midway between where I grew up on Merritt Island an hour south of Daytona and where I now live on the Gulf shores – it’s with some amount of satisfaction that the move I’ve long recommended to the powersports industry has now come to pass.

“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here!”

SEMA registrationI’m proud to identify myself as an advertising and PR professional who attended his first powersports industry event in the lobby of a long forgotten Daytona Beach hotel while studying Journalism and Communications as a PR major at the University of Florida in the late ’60s.

So yes, it comes as somewhat of a rude shock to discover that the critically important marketing professions have been explicitly excluded from the B2B portion of the event by way of a regressive, considered, exorbitant admission fee. In my own home state no less.

“Non-exhibiting manufacturers and service providers can obtain credentials to attend AIMExpo during the exclusive trade-only days on October 16, 17, & 18, 2013 by paying a mandatory $400 registration fee per person.” (Emphasis added)

This, despite the occupations’ marquee status as a major advertised component of the event’s announced educational sessions. Well that’s just stupid. Nothing like slamming the door in the face of an industry you’re only too happy to promote from a short list of insider presenters.

Unfortunately, AIME management seems content to continue to fail to grasp the critical role pr and marketing communicators play in the age of global social media or the technical nuances that go with. Note to organizers: the hot topic in mar-com these days is the merging of journo and pr as creators of much coveted retail content.

  • Exhibit A: Google “AIME” – discover why product and event naming is an art, not a commodity, in an SEO ruled universe.
  • Exhibit B: a Facebook invitation to this pr pro to “like” the event’s Spanish language page. Uh, yo no hablo español.

“Please note: Media credentials will be provided to reporters, writers, editors, videographers, photographers and producers. Advertising, sales & marketing and administrative staff are not considered working media and will not be provided with media credentials.” Ok, got it. Marketers are pariahs. Insult to injury, message received, message understood.

In the all important social media promoted message sweepstakes (including blogs), organizers have said no and no again to any WOM publicity on behalf of their aftermarket and OEM clients – the exhibitors.

For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.

As a content manager for a powersports dealer and other aftermarket clients, say so long to any professional mar-com generated event coverage or mentions. For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.

So with that not so slight slight out of the way, here’s some of what you might expect, might need to know, and might want to discover if you make the trip.

One Booth You’ve Got To Visit

For first time – and nearly all will be – powersports visitors to the massive OCCC facilities on International Drive, here’s a little insight into what you can expect compared to Indy’s mid-winter experience.

Weatherwise, October comes in as our second most active month for major storms, including hurricanes, behind September – which right now is pretty soggy. Just saying, come prepared for the occasional raindrop and although it’s early Fall for us it may still seem like the height of Summer, depending. Here’s what else you might want to know.

GoPro is an announced exhibitor, and based on past experience not only is their booth a blast, it’s the best chance you’ll (probably) have to score an on-the-house camera. They always bring game, and theirs is one of the hippest and smartest booth marketing efforts you’ll see. Free beer’s a definite possibility, but even if it weren’t the show and tell theme makes this big dog and pony a must see.

Where Ya’ At?

When it comes to a place to stay, the sky’s the limit. Metro Orlando is second only to NYC in lodging. One of Indy’s major draws was the ease of pedestrian access between downtown lodging and the convention center. OCCC? Eh, not so much.

Odds are you’ll want to stay reasonably close by on International Drive, and there’re plenty of options to choose from, from lux to how many can we cram in a room.

Who’s Driving!

Nobody drove to and fro in Indy. Make that virtually nobody, as downtown parking was a sparse commodity. Whether you were holed up out by the airport or in more recent years downtown, private show shuttles and the connected airwalks were the way folks got around.

Orlando’s different. Unless you’re staying across the street from the West Building in either of the Rosen properties or the Peabody, best bring your hiking boots.

In fact, even if you did snatch a room at one of those facilities, the walking distance still might come as a shock compared to, say, Indy’s Hyatt.

PRI, to its great credit, put together a fleet of convenient and timely hop on board show buses that operated around the clock during event hours and included the (understatement) popular Beer On The Bus after each day’s close. AIME hasn’t said, but the difference in scale probably precludes anything similar.

If you’ve got a car, you’re in good shape. Parking’s plentiful at the OCCC – $15 at the venue lot. On street? No and no. Otherwise, you’re likely marooned and will have to depend on public transport and private taxis to get around.

What’s For Dinner?

Unlike Indy – very unlike – you won’t find a dense downtown collection of closely connected destinations reachable – weather permitting – within easy walking distance. And also unlike the business oriented downtown Indy vibe, Orlando – make that Florida – is mostly indifferent, what with close to 70 million annual visitors tracking up the front hall.

If there’s going to be one major complaint, it will be the lack of memorable and/or quick dining options. Forget anything like St. Elmo or Palomino, although Tommy Bahama offers an interesting menu – the crab bisque in particular. Orlando is home to the Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) Group, and that means you’ll most likely end up at a theme inspired franchise, take a number, and wait for your server to hustle up touristy drinks and mostly mediocre fare.

If over the years spent at Indy you’d grown accustomed to making a dash, quick or otherwise, outside Expo to grab a burger at Steak and Shake, a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s or one of Palomino’s fabo pizzas, well hang on to those memories. You wish.

I can say this without equivocation: OCCC food is nothing if not expensive, considering it’s mediocrity. You’re pretty much a captive audience while at the event – $15 for the cardboard inspired All American Cheeseburger, fries and a soda may have you begging for mercy after a couple of days.

What To Do Besides

Wellllll, besides Biketoberfest, there’s Disney some miles west or Universal just up the street – where you can grab a Duff beer at the brand new Simpsons’ Springfield attraction. Just around the corner there’s Sea World and dicey off-road adventure can always be had on S. Orange Blossom Trail (not on any tourist map or ticket kiosk). Or you could head 45 minutes east and spend some time hanging out at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for a taste of the kind of food I grew up on, finishing up with an airboat ride around the St. John’s River fed Lake Poinsett.

Then, if you haven’t been yet, continue your journey up to NASA’s excellent Kennedy Space Center (KSC), then out to Cocoa Beach and a run through home boy Ron Jon’s original Surf Shop for a memorable dude experience before heading home.

Welcome to Florida!

disney’s yellow shoes fit cd perfectly

 

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Will Gay Wears Yellow Shoes At Helm of Disney In-House Creative

What’s it like to head up the in-house shop in charge of Disney messaging? For Yellow Shoes creative director Will Gay, it’s just another day in the candy store, where his clients include Disney Parks, Adventures by Disney, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa.

Speaking to over 75 Ad Fed Tampa Bay members and guests, Gay recalled his beginnings as an art director and his fascination with how completely the Wonderful World of Disney, an NBC network pioneer in the early days of broadcast television, engaged the audience.

“I realized that what the audience was watching was just one big infomercial, and then it dawned on me that if people can be entertained they’ll forget they’re being advertised to,” a connection made as he studied how Walt Disney approached the marketing challenge.

Yellow Shoes the agency was the solution to a problem the various Disney brands – which includes eight theme parks – were having running their campaigns independently of each other. The agency’s name reflects the color of the footwear of Disney’s most famous icon, Mickey Mouse.

Gay’s biggest success, the recent Free The Goat campaign, was powered by Disney’s highly developed network of bloggers, a healthy portion of social media, and a popular Twitter #freethegoat hashtag that’s still popping up. The goal, aside from driving attendance, was to directly channel user involvement and to capture the unique metrics of a devoted consumer.

2013 dealer expo lands with thud

Riders Edge captures the mood

2013 event turnout follows disappointing trend

“To me the most important thing we need to do right now is listen to our customers. In order for us to get back on track, we need to talk less, listen more and fully partner with the customers who are the reason Dealer Expo exists.” Harris said. “Our industry has changed. What people need from this show has changed. But, we’ve been somewhat slow to embrace that. That ends today.” – Tracy Harris, Advanstar VP-Expositions

Houston, we have a problem. And we’ve had it for a long time. The buzz coming out of this month’s final forever February Dealer Expo was this: zzzzzzzzz. Most comments run along the lines of being able to talk to company CEOs without a crowd – any crowd – around, as unintentionally confirmed by most of the live (search YouTube for 2013 dealer expo) video already uploaded. (Read more about the issues facing trade shows: Trade Shows At A Crossroads)

While it’s been a few years since I last attended, YouTube reporting now making its way online supports the notion that Advanstar threw a party and nobody came. At least not in numbers unseen since the heyday of the mid 2000s.

move to september in 2014 a hail mary

Next year they’ll move to a (much more sensible, and perhaps fatally too long in coming) Fall event, a perfect time to be in the Midwest. All this follows a series of course corrections that can’t be described as anything other than chaotic.

Adding the IMS public event and a crowd pleaser at that to coincide with the trade only show in the convention center should have produced better numbers but it didn’t. What it did do was lead to small embarassments as many vendors appeared confused as to the difference between trade only, public, and yes dealer price lists. Somewhere, Homer Simpson’s LOLing.

former exhibitor measures event value

Industry watchdog Joel Martin raised his own penalty flag as one of the first to comment publicly on the failure to deliver the dealer head count that is the lifeblood of a trade only event.

What happens next remains to be seen. The overall trend line for trade shows in general continues to head in the wrong direction. As newly added events like AIME elbow their way onto the scene, Advanstars options are increasingly limited but that doesn’t mean they’re dead in the water.

What it does mean is that the powersports industry cannot continue to support the current level of trade only activity at the present level. While hope these days revolves around the private-public EICMA and Intermot models, it’s possible the problems run much deeper than simply throwing open the doors to retail.

pri celebrates 25th motorsports expo

Performance Racing Industry 2012 PRI 25th Trade Show

pri ends orlando run with successful show in sunshine

December’s 25th annual Performance Racing Industry trade show was the first under new owner Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) and recorded a solid three-day run of attendees in search of merchandise.

Just before show open, SEMA announced the purchase of PRI rival International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS), which has hosted a December trade only show in Indianapolis since forming nine years ago. Beginning in 2013, SEMA will combine both shows and move the event to the new convention facilities in Indy. continue reading here




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