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For Colorado store, feels like the first time

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Foreigner performs in the parking lot of Prestige Imports, a Porsche and Audi dealership in Lakewood, Colo. Photo credit: JASON NOFFSINGER

What does a dealership’s successful promotional event sound like?

On Labor Day at Prestige Imports in Lakewood, Colo., it sounded urgent and hot-blooded as the rock band Foreigner entertained a crowd of classic-rock aficionados estimated at more than 500 in the dealership’s parking lot.

The event raised more than $3,000 for Grammy in the Schools, a Grammy Museum outreach program aimed at high school students interested in music careers. The concert also thrust the Porsche and Audi dealership near Denver into the spotlight in terms of publicity, via the concert and related local radio and TV exposure, said Jeff Silverberg, the dealership’s general manager.

In addition, a 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and a 2017 Porsche Macan — both featuring vinyl wraps with the Foreigner and Prestige Imports logos — were prominently displayed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in nearby Morrison, Colo., , where Foreigner played a concert that evening. A choir from local Bennett High School that entered a contest sponsored by a Denver classic-rock radio station won a chance to sing background vocals onstage at Red Rocks during the band’s final encore song: the 1985 hit ballad, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

“I think the event did a lot for us,” Silverberg said. “We did a live interview in my office with Kelly [Hansen, the group’s lead singer] and Phil [Carson, the band’s manager] on The Mountain 99.5 radio station.”

The dealership put up posters around the town, “and our 155 employees spread the word, too,” he added. “And we outfitted the kids in the choir with Foreigner/Prestige T-shirts we had made to sell as a fundraiser at the concert.”

Prestige Imports General Manager Jeff Silverberg with Foreigner members, from left, Jeff Pilson, Bruce Watson, Chris Frazier and Kelly Hansen. Photo credit: JASON NOFFSINGER

That was yesterday

How did Prestige get a 1970s and ’80s hit-machine band — currently on a 40th anniversary concert tour and credited with recording 16 top-30 songs and selling more than 75 million albums — to play at the dealership? It was, in the words of another well-known band, a bit of a long, strange trip that started in February with an article in Automotive News.

At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, Hansen had laid out an unusual proposal: The band would appear at dealerships near any of its concert venues in exchange for raising funds for the Grammy program. (The band also appeared at Sterling McCall Honda near Houston in mid-August, according to Vanessa Menkes, who handles publicity for the band.)

“We’ve been working to raise awareness about the lack of funding for school music programs,” said Hansen, who in a short preconcert talk told the crowd that a public-school choir provided his first opportunity to perform. “So we’ve been having high school choirs sing ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ with us to raise awareness about the issue. It’s a win for everyone. The choir gets something out of it, the dealership gets car buyers to come in and we get to raise awareness about music funding in schools. Plus I’m kind of a big car guy myself.”

Silverberg was shocked when he received an email from Carson, which was in response to an email Silverberg had sent explaining why the dealership — which sold 1,853 new and used vehicles in 2016 — would be a great place for Foreigner to play. “My head practically spun round when I saw the email,” he said. “Phil said the band was playing at Red Rocks on Labor Day and we should put something together.”

Silverberg declined to disclose how much money the dealership, which is owned by Braman Dealerships, of Miami, spent on the event. But he said it required building a stage, printing posters and T-shirts, renting a sound system and hiring photographers, among other things. Porsche footed half the bill.

Can’t slow down

To raise money for Grammy in the Schools, the dealership sold T-shirts for $10 each. Foreigner donated 300 CDs that sold for $10 each. In addition, the band signed autographs for $10 a pop. “The band could not have been more wonderful,” Silverberg said. “They didn’t stop until every T-shirt, CD, guitar and record album was signed.”

The dealership raffled tickets to the Red Rocks show. Foreigner donated $500 to the high school choir for being selected to sing with the band, said Kelsey Johnson, the dealership’s marketing coordinator.

The concert included a local opening act, the Tyler Walker Band. Hansen also led the Bennett choir through an onstage rehearsal at the dealership. After the concert at the dealership, the group received the rock-star treatment: rides to Red Rocks in six new Porsches, a mix of 911 Carreras, Panameras, Cayennes and Macans. “They really went the extra mile,” Hansen said. “It was a really well-organized and enthusiastic event. Plus, they let me drive a 911 to the show.”

Silverberg said it’s difficult at this point to quantify how the event will affect the dealership’s bottom line. But he says it attracted a lot of customers who don’t normally come to the dealership’s promotional events. “Maybe they won’t buy a Porsche or Audi today. But they’ll remember that they had a great experience at a car dealership,” he said. “And they also think we’re pretty cool because we put on a rock concert.”

Hansen says the offer to play at other dealerships still stands. “A lot of things have to go into it [logistically] to make it work,” he said. “But we have this catalog of music — this presence — and if we’re able to use that to somehow give back a little bit and have some fun, why not?”

The biggest takeaway for other dealerships? Go big or go home, Silverberg said.

“With a little work, you can pull it off,” he said. “We were kidding around with each other for the longest time that Foreigner was going to play a concert here. But three weeks ago, they actually came and played here. You can’t be afraid to dream big.”

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