To Concours or not to Concours? That is the Question


The Changing Times of Lifestyle Marketing, Activations, and the Future of Concours

The calendar year for automotive events has become action-packed. There is an event happening, either regionally or nationally, almost every weekend of the year.

Concours d’Elegance events represent a significant part of these annual events and can offer a wide gamut of experiences to participants.

This year marks our 70th concours victory since we first started on the concours circuit in 2008. We’ve been on a golf course over 70 times and never swung a club. So while that hasn’t improved our golf game, it has given us some unique insights about the whole phenomenon of a concours weekend.

Julio Romero and Danny Omasta accepting the Best in Class award at the 2019 Hilton Head Concours. This award makes the 74th concours award for Road Scholars.

According to the website, there are over 41 active national concours events that take place during the calendar year. Concours events now start as early as February and go well into November. There are many events missing from the list, but the website is a comprehensive source for Concours d’Elegance style events in the United States. Pebble Beach and Amelia Island continue to dominate the national spotlight and will be forever safe as the crown jewels of the Concours world. But what does that mean for the rest of the concours world?

As the collector car world continues to mature, the traditional concours world is going through an existential crisis with demographic changes and competition from newly styled events that challenge the establishment. Cars and coffee style events and lifestyle rallies have offered the younger generation a different way to connect with automobiles over the traditional car show weekend format.

Koenigsegg (a Bridge sponsor) shows off their latest model the “Jesko” on the lawn.

It’s no secret that every concours depends on sponsorships to survive and thrive. It takes a lot more than ticket sales to grow an event. There are a number of concours events that are no longer around because of this harsh reality. Automotive manufacturers are often the largest sponsors for a concours event, and they are looking more critically at their marketing dollars. Case in point, the diminished presence at the auto shows like Detroit. Manufactures are obsessed with interactive experiences and obviously want to see a return on investment. That’s why we see so many new vehicle test drives at national shows and the preponderance of lifestyle social media marketing. Concours events require some sustaining star power and wow factor to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing activation climate with sponsorships.

It’s my prediction that we’ll see more consolidation in the concours world in the near future and it will be tougher for regional shows to close the gap with the changing trends. I often hear the younger generation ask if Concours events are intrinsically fun to attend or participate in?

The quick and easy answer to that is yes. Concours events are fun to attend and participate in, if the event is compelling. People want to see and connect with rare automobiles. A concours can be judged quickly by the quality of the cars on the field. To do so, a concours needs serious collectors to bring significant cars to the competition.

The 1952 Type 540 America Roadster in the class line up at the Chatanooga MotorCar Festival.

When we go to a concours, I’m always looking at the overall quality of cars in each class. Are there cars with enough star power that will keep people coming back each year or is just another glorified car show? The collector wants to feel like his financial commitment was worth the effort of competing in a prestigious event and the attendee wants to feel like their ticket was worth the price of admission. In the end, it’s all an interconnected affair that separates the more memorable concours events from the less noteworthy.

Here is a review on three concours style events that finished out our year after our memorable time at Pebble Beach. Two of the events were new experiences for us and one is an established presence on the East Coast.

The Bridge presented by Richard Mille

We were fortunate enough to receive an invitation to attend The Bridge presented by Richard Mille this year. Jeffrey Einhorn, one of the founders of this unique event, graciously invited us to one of the hottest tickets to an event that previously we had not been aware of.

The event is held at the eccentric golf club called The Bridge that is set in majestic Sag Habour, Long Island New York. The property was once home to the great old Bridgehampton Race Circuit and still incorporates some of the iconic remnants of the old track on the course. Most noteworthy, the Chevron Bridge has been preserved on the grounds of the golf course.

This is an invite-only event is a non-judged show. Presented by Richard Mille with other strategic partners, this was exclusive and first class in every way. From the well-planned logistics of the show field, the quality of the cars, to the forward-thinking food station positioned throughout the event, this was a new approach to a car show. Although heavy on the automotive lifestyle vibe, the quality of the cars in attendance in a non- judging format was impressive. Every participant who brought a car did so with the intrinsic appreciation that they were sharing their car and were not going home with a trophy. It was a lovely event that exuded the sophistication and elegance that many concours try to deliver. We did not bring a car and had no obligations other than to enjoy the day. Even so, this is an event that is enjoyable as a participant or attendee and offers a breath of fresh air as a show format. This event very much lived up to its billing will continue to be a hot ticket.

The Chattanooga Motorcar Festival

This was an event that was not on our radar for 2019 but am happy that we attended after receiving an invitation to participate. Presented by the DeFoor Brothers, this first-year event felt more like an established show with a very high level of activation.

Taking place in charming downtown Chattanooga instead of on a golf course, this concours offers a memorable experience. The level of professionalism and committed resources were evident at every level of this event with Volkswagen of America as the title sponsor. Many of the judges were the best of the best, and the event had a very authentic Southern charm to it. The Westin hotel was a great host space for the event and the logistics of the show were very easy to navigate. There were a few hiccups during the early morning staging but the event staff had a great overall attitude and the support of the city was very evident. Another distinguishing feature of this festival is the time trial event that is held in conjunction with the Concours in a different part of the city. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that some of the who’s who of our industry where there on behalf of the festival, including Brian Redman, Keith Martin, Donald Osborne, Alain de Cadenet, Ken Gross, and Wayne Carini to name just a few. Overall, this is a festival that has a lot of potential for the future and slots well into the calendar year of events and is a cool destination spot to boot.

Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival

The Hilton Head Island Concours is a traditional concours that keeps getting better every year. It clearly has established itself as one of the most prestigious concours event in the Southeast.

Hilton Head had the best field of cars to date with many serious collectors from around the country in attendance. Although not the easiest show to navigate logistically, this Concours is very well organized and fun to attend.

The event participant food tent is a highlight of this Concours, and a class win at this event is a notable accomplishment.

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