FROM SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. After a 20-year absence from the Super Bowl commercial mania, Audi returns this Sunday with a 60-second spot in the first quarter. To add to the marketing push, the brand took over a nine-acre estate in Paradise Valley's upscale hills, offering celebrities and V.I.P.s a place to lounge Wednesday through Saturday. Dubbed the Audi Forum, the program also mixes lots of mini-parties and cosponsors.
“When deciding how we could leverage our television ad, it came up that the Super Bowl certainly attracts our target audience,” said Audi business and East Coast communication director Andrew Lipman. The forum concept is not a new one, as Audi has 10 permanent locations worldwide. “Basically, they are brand-experience centers, not traditional showrooms,” Lipman said. “The design is sleek, sophisticated, and on par with what we consider Audi to be.”
The venue, a traditional Arizona home (complete with terra-cotta shingles and creamy stone walls), went through a massive redesign and build-out. “The objective was to create an Audi-esque space out of a Southwestern home,” said Tony Berger of Relevent in New York, who produced the event.
Berger and his team began the project three weeks ago, painting the home's exterior gray and covering some 12,000 square feet of space, including the pool deck. Sponsors such as Marquis Jet and Sony—both are hosting events at the Forum—each have cabanas, which Berger constructed in Manhattan and trucked out to Arizona with lounge-y rental furniture from Taylor Creative. “We took all of our measurements during site visits and did the majority of the pre-build in New York,” Berger said.
The home itself isn't necessarily the glitziest in Paradise Valley, but it was one of the few that offered a golf hole, which was an Audi must. On Wednesday, the brand partnered with NFL greats Ronnie Lott and Donovan McNabb to host a celebrity hole-in-one golf challenge, where athletes and not-quite-A-list actors (Jerry O'Connell and Jason Biggs among them) teed off.
A major facet to the Forum is a satellite location of Hyde Lounge (the Los Angeles nightspot owned by SBE), which opens at 11 p.m. each night. Located atop the property's tennis courts, the space is housed in a 3,200-square-foot soundproof tent. While the interior isn't identical to the L.A. version, it does feature the Brent Bolthouse photos the venue is known for (black-and-white concert shots of bands like Jane's Addiction). “This lounge isn't necessarily indicative of what Hyde in Los Angeles looks like, but it's not really about the design,” Bolthouse, the event and nightlife impresario, told us yesterday, adding that he drives a Maserati, not an Audi. “The point is for us to get the ambience, the experience we offer in L.A. The Super Bowl parties can be overwhelming and packed with people. We're offering a refuge.”
As to why Bolthouse would want to create a satellite location, he said, “SBE is looking to open Hyde in other markets, so coming here, or going to Sundance, only helps to build our brand. And it introduces us to people who haven't been to Los Angeles. A lot of New York movie people were at Sundance, for example, and they were exposed to the Hyde experience for the first time.” SBE recently purchased the Sahara hotel in Las Vegas and will be opening a Hyde location there in 2009, but Bolthouse said he's also considering locations in Scottsdale, San Diego, and Miami.
Other events on tap for the Forum include a Kate Hudson-hosted dinner, a Marquis Jet daytime party, a Tiki Barber-hosted cocktail party tonight, and a Sony Cierge party that took place last night. Access Hollywood is also calling the venue home, with Maria Menounos taping segments there throughout the week.
As for the gray paint, Berger's team is set to start power-washing it off and repainting on Tuesday, as the event breakdown will take roughly four days.