Random Ephemera

BMW Dealership Supporting the Arts, A Whopping $20 At A Time

A few weeks ago, Advantage BMW Midtown launched a fundraising campaign for Houston Young People for the Arts. For each person who swoops into the BMW location at Gray and Caroline streets and takes a no-strings-attached test drive, the swanky dealership will donate $20 to the nonprofit organization, up to $1,000 total.

According to HYPA, who helps to manage the Theater District with the Houston Downtown Alliance, the money will allow the organization "to continue to bring awareness and access to Houston's thriving arts scene."

Though it kind of sounds like a good deal, doesn't $20 seem like chump change for a BMW place? Instead of making 50 people take VIP test drives, why not just gift the $1,000, which would be a significant amount for most arts organizations? And what the hell is a VIP test drive?

Art Attack phoned the program's contact person, Michael Powell of BMW Midtown, to find out.

After we introduced ourselves and the purpose of the call, Powell says, "This is for the Houston Young People's Society, right?"

Close enough.

Powell goes onto explain that a VIP test spin gives an ordinary Joe a no-obligations opportunity to drive (and get his or her photo taken inside of) one of the dealership's sweet rides.

Approximately a month in, Powell says that "four or five people" have signed up for a test drive, but nobody has actually taken one. That means zero dollars have been raised.

Why not just pony up a grand instead of going to the trouble of recruiting the 50 people? "I like your idea," says Powell. "That's a good idea."

Powell then referred us to Sajeev Mahta, BMW Midtown's social media specialist who worked with HYPA to put together the initiative.

Mahta explains that the $20 dollar figure was "mutually agreed upon" between HYPA and BMW Midtown, who has been a title sponsor of HYPA for two years.

He also says interested folks must first make an appointment. "That just helps to keep it manageable, especially on Saturdays, which is when a lot of people would be able to come into the dealership," says Mahta.

Also, instead of telling the sales force to mention the campaign to prospective car buyers, they're going to rely on social media-centric word of mouth.

Moments after hanging up with the dealership, Mahta e-mailed Art Attack. "A HYPA member just tweeted the dealership that she's coming in for her test drive. So it is working."

Mahta says that in order to try and raise the $1,000, the fundraiser's end day will remain flexible.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen