Luxury carmaker Lexus capped its two-month, 14-city "Taste of Lexus" tour by cruising into California over the weekend, giving more than 2,600 consumers in the course of two days the chance to taste the good life--including test-driving Lexus cars--in an experiential marketing campaign created by Los Angeles-based AMCI (www.amcimarketing.com).

Taking over 1.5 million square feet of pavement at the parking lot at Dodger Stadium, the event featured 16,000 square feet of tent structures from Tucson, Ariz.-based Prime Event Group ( www.primeeventgroup.com), including an 8,000-square-foot main tent emblazoned with the Lexus logo.

Using curved wood panels and gobos casting leaf patterns, New York-based Rockwell Group (www.rockwellgroup.com) created a high-end lounge inside the main tent. Here, both current Lexus owners and potential buyers could chat with Lexus "subject matter experts"--no sales personnel were present--about the full line of Lexus models. In a move to draw female buyers, "Spa Lexus" offered hand and shoulder massages, while golf pros from ESPN gave guests putting tips and a computerized analysis of their swing. (Lexus is a title sponsor of the ESPN golf schools.) Also on display was a Team Lexus race car.

Flat-screen TVs throughout the main tent not only kept pumping out live on-site broadcasts with details about the Lexus line, but also kept the crowd moving, alerting guests which queues for test drives were shortest. "In the old model, people sat in a theater for a presentation and then were released to drive the cars," explains AMCI executive producer Tom Burke. But the TV screens add an interactive element and create the "ever-present host," he adds.

From its kitchen tent, British caterer Eat to the Beat (www.eattothebeat.com), part of Global Infusion Group, created "plate-free" food to keep guests going strong. The menu included berry smoothie shooters; smoked salmon and scrambled egg tartlets; bacon, lettuce and tomato tortilla wraps; bacon rosti with maple syrup; jam-topped mini muffins; bagels topped with wild mushrooms, arugula and roasted peppers; and peppered pineapple squares.

The soul of the event--the test drives--offered guests the chance to take the latest Lexus models as well as top competitor cars on a tight, autocross-style drive course. The Dodger Stadium parking lot provided a striking setting, including a dramatic view of the downtown L.A. skyline.

But an empty parking lot is an empty canvas. "With parking lot events, you're an island," Burke notes. "You have to provide every element." The AMCI team did just that with 15 semi trucks that moved all components of the tour from its start in New York in September to its conclusion next weekend in Orange County, Calif.

As soon as they completed an exit questionnaire (collecting info on their favorite parts of the event, demographic details and their perceptions of the Lexus brand), guests departed with a goodie bag including elegant leather portfolios bearing the Lexus logo. "These events are all about brand awareness," Burke notes.

All told, the tour plus ancillary events reached an estimated 34,500 consumers along with offering training for 8,800 dealer personnel--quite a victory lap for Lexus.

Photos by Special Events Magazine