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There have been hints, sneak previews and a lot of conjecture about what to expect when the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) makes its migration from a winter auto expo to a full-on festival this coming June.

Press previews are June 9 and 10. Public days run June 13-20.

We learned a lot from Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, during his presentation at the latest DBusiness Breakfast. Rod stated plainly: “The game has changed.”

That means the venerable auto show had to change, as well. Where once as many as 50 vehicles would make their North American or global debuts at the Detroit show, automakers will take the wraps off fewer than half that number in June. Auto shows around the world are seeing that same change as automakers unveil new vehicles using tactics like social media and public festivals.

Change happens, and in the case of NAIAS, change means being able to take full advantage of the nicer June weather and all the city of Detroit has to offer, such as Hart Plaza, Campus Martius, the Detroit River, a number of nearby parks and of course, the city’s unique automotive heritage.

The show will stretch way beyond the floor of TCF Center, out into those far-flung venues, as well as Detroit’s city streets. Expect ride and drive opportunities, entertainment, food trucks, demonstrations… and lots of cars.

Even the Charity Preview will morph from an indoor, strictly black tie, formal occasion to a two-tiered event where there’s an option to attend in more fun clothes at a lower cost event with entertainment outdoors.

The weekend before the actual auto show begins the public can “ohh” and “ahh” over 150 Italian and British beauties on the streets near the Detroit Opera House during the first Motor Bella.

Rod gleefully declared the all-new auto show will be a “Disneyland of Mobility,” with so many attractions attendees will want to visit several times during its run.

So, while the game has certainly changed for the auto show, it’s also a whole new game for businesses who see the vast opportunities for leveraging the show’s expanded footprint and features.

For some of our auto clients, along with clients located in Detroit, we’re knee-deep in planning out their auto show activations and presence. If you’re still working through how your business can get in on the action, think about Motor Bella, which runs June 5-8, and how Italian and British themed promotions and handouts would work well. Show goers would be happy to swap their auto show tickets for discounts at your business and might appreciate a fan with your company’s logo, or even a coupon printed on it, as they try to cool off waiting in line outside for a ride in a robocar.

The bottom line is the streets of downtown Detroit within a mile or so of TCF Center will be streaming with people out for not only a good time, but a good deal. Missing out on all those eyeballs would be as unfortunate as a Corvette stuck in first gear. It’s much more fun to be in the thick of it enjoying what Rod Alberts said will be totally “experiential.” The game has changed at NAIAS, which means there are more ways for businesses with solid strategies and strong support….to win.

Contact us to learn more about how Franco can support your business during the June auto show.

Tina Sullivan is Franco’s executive vice president and chief operating officer and leads the firm’s automotive practice. Contact her at [email protected].