The Australian automotive aftermarket makes a difference to the lives of individuals and communities.
There are plenty of great stories in the automotive aftermarket so over the next six months AAAA Executive Director, Stuart Charity, will highlight some of these to the readers of Automotive Aftermarket Magazine.

The Aftermarket cares for those facing hard times

You probably know of at least one community campaign or local football sponsorship by an auto repair workshop or parts retailer. But what you may not know, is that community support and engagement is widespread in our industry and has been so for a long time.  The aftermarket cares – for their communities and for their fellow human beings that are facing hard times.  This is not new. Workshops and Parts manufacturers and suppliers have been participating in local community events and initiatives for a long time. There are so many examples of supporting local schools, health and community wellbeing, supporting charities and fundraising for worthy causes.
But you won’t hear about this contribution and what a difference it can make. You won’t hear about it because the aftermarket doesn’t like to boast and because they don’t give of their time and money as a marketing effort.  Community engagement projects and ideas, generally come straight from the employees that care about issues and want to make a difference.  Good companies support this passion.  That’s why these efforts are well received by communities – because the desire to make a difference is authentic and borne from a place of genuine interest and concern. Following is the first of these wonderful stories – Autobarn and Blue September: a powerful partnership for Men’s Health.

Autobarn and Blue September: a powerful partnership for Men’s Health
During its involvement with Blue September, the Autobarn network, store teams, support office staff, suppliers and customers raised more than $250,000 for Blue September.
Autobarn is the leading retail partner of the Blue September cause and its efforts in raising awareness for this important cause saw them considered as a finalist in the recent AAAA Innovation Awards – Community Impact.
Blue September’s mission is to fight cancer in men through a dual strategy of education and driving tangible change through a significant annual fundraising campaign.
In practice, the awareness element of the initiative is designed to help men reduce the risk of developing and dying from cancer by making better lifestyle choices and seeking help sooner rather than later.
Blue September has been running successfully in Australia since 2007 and also runs internationally in Ireland, the USA, New Zealand and England.
In 2016, Autobarn became the naming rights partner of Blue September and is the single biggest contributor through the unwavering efforts of its store network, customers and supplier base.

CRS BS BearChoosing a Cause
Prior to its involvement with Blue September, Autobarn has told us that as a national brand, it had a fragmented and decentralised approach to Community Programs and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Whilst the outcomes of this approach were broadly positive, I am told the team came to the view that a single company focus built on a partnership with one organisation would deliver significantly more impact in the community and deliver a greater, longer lasting benefit.
As such, Autobarn undertook a significant period of research into the type of organisation it wanted to partner with, with it soon becoming apparent to the Autobarn team that Men’s health was an ‘under-supported’ sector. Indeed, during its research, Autobarn discovered alarming statistics in relation to Men’s Health:
•    One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85
•    20 percent more men than women are diagnosed with cancer
•    Australia has the highest rate of prostate cancer in the developed world.
However, it was also discovered from discussion with Blue September that at least one in three cancers is preventable.
Whilst Autobarn acknowledged the gender mix of its customer base, it tells us that it reasoned that every customer at Autobarn was likely in some way to be impacted by Men’s Cancers: Dads, brothers, husbands, partners and mates.

Fundraising for Blue September
Autobarn determined that the two keys to engaging its large national franchise network and unifying them behind Blue September would be keeping it simple for them (and customers) to get involved and giving them free reign to ‘go local’ and have fun along the way.
As such they were sure to keep the fundraising efforts simple. By working with Blue September, the group stuck with the traditional proven fundraising formula of selling Blue September Wristbands, Key Rigs and Bluey Bears.
Across the network, store teams also developed novel ways to ensure sell through was maximised. Some franchisees put in place targets rewarded with personal donations to Blue September whilst in other stores, the simple challenge of selling more merchandise on your shift than their workmates was enough.
CRS 1 Bundaberg 070915 4A weekly ‘League Table’ ranking store sales was published on the Autobarn intranet and healthy competition broke out across the country. In addition, Autobarn put in place store team incentives for the most merchandise sales achieved, the most funds raised and the Best Blue September Event.
Autobarn representatives tell us that they were staggered by the effort and personal expense its franchisees and store teams put in to support Blue September in their stores and communities.
Whilst blue hair, painted faces and store decorations were ubiquitous, the array of support activities and fundraising initiatives were also amazing in their inventiveness and impact. Just some of the activities seen throughout the network included car shows and audio sound-offs, weekly sausage sizzles, swear jars, ‘Blue September branding’ of delivery vehicles, local radio promotions, team bake-offs, blue dress-up days, raffles and prize draws.
This innovative engagement really rings true for me as a true measure of the program’s acceptance and integration across the Autobarn business.

Rewarding Customers and Engaging with the Industry
One of the key highlights of Autobarn’s Blue September had to be the ‘A Night with Red Bull Racing Australia’ activation.
The activity – held at Crown Casino in the lead-up to the Sandown 500 in 2016 – leveraged Autobarn’s sponsorship with Supercars’ preeminent team of the decade and provided the opportunity for customers to win their way to an up close and personal event with motorsport icons Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, Paul Dumbrell and Steven Richards, along with other key RBRA personnel.
Each online sale for a nominated period during July and August was automatically entered into the prize draw and support for the promotion ran the breadth of the Autobarn communications suite spanning catalogues, store point of sale, television, online channels and social media. These methods were also significantly complemented through the use of RBRA’s and Blue September’s own social networks and databases.
RBRA also agreed to update the livery of its retro Holden Sandman into full Blue September war paint for the entire Sandown 500 event running numerous hot laps and photo opportunities during the week – resulting in a priceless promotion for the cause.
Thirty lucky Autobarn customers won their way to Melbourne for the evening, which was also supported by attendance and valuable financial contribution from an array of Autobarn suppliers who purchased tickets for staff and guests.
With the event designed to maintain an intimate ‘up close and personal’ feel the guest list was restricted to 200 guests with stunned prize winners finding themselves dining next to Craig, Jamie and the team throughout the night rather than 40 tables back in a cavernous room. No matter where they were sitting, each attendee was given ample time to capture that treasured selfie with the guests of honour and also enjoyed two sessions of Questions and Answers with the RBRA team taking to the stage.
Also in attendance were Blue September Ambassadors, Derryn Hinch and Mark Holden, who addressed the audience about their own personal journeys fighting men’s cancers, urging guests to dig deep. Silent auctions and rowdy traditional bidding wars for prizes contributed by Autobarn’s supplier network rounded out the evening.
In summing up the evening, Autobarn General Manager – Marketing, Brad Hyde, said “‘A Night with Red Bull Racing Australia’ drew together our customer community and supplier base in a way no other initiative has been able to do, putting the power of a fun and memorable event behind our awareness and fundraising efforts.”

CRS BS CarThe Beneficiaries of Blue September
Funds raised across the Autobarn store network and support offices were directed by Blue September to:
•    The Australian Cancer Research Foundation – The Australian Cancer Research Foundation is dedicated to helping find a cure for cancer through world- class research in Australia. ACRF awards grants of up $10 million per year to Australian researchers who aim to prevent, diagnose, treat and defeat all types of cancer. Since 2010, ACRF has provided research grants in excess of $45 million.
•    Australian Prostate Cancer Research – Australian Prostate Cancer Research is a national research organisation that partners with leading institutions to develop, fund and deliver national research programs.  Australian Prostate Cancer Research are committed and driven to discover the killer cause in prostate cancer, improve patient outcomes and educate people on all aspects of diagnosis, treatment and patient care, thereby empowering men and their families. Thanks to support from Blue September, Australian ‘Prostate’ Cancer Research has launched a world-first online cancer support program for men with prostate cancer. Prostmate is a ground-breaking personalised support system for men and their families dealing with prostate cancer. It provides access to the latest research validated information, personalised support, specialised programs and consultations with prostate cancer specialist nurses and psychologists.

The Autobarn Contribution to The Fight
During its involvement with Blue September, the Autobarn network, store teams, support office staff, suppliers and customers raised more than $250,000 for Blue September.
Brad told me that “Autobarn is proud to be Blue September’s single biggest fundraising partner and in 2016 we elevated our commitment to become the organisation’s naming rights sponsor.
“However, in assessing our engagement with Blue September, we are equally proud of the impact the program has had in terms of educational and awareness outcomes.
“We have been moved and at times humbled by the personal stories team members have shared about their own fights with Men’s Cancers; their own and those of family members.
“These individuals became unifying forces in their stores and local communities, often acing as formally nominated Blue September Champions for their Autobarn Store.”

For more on the Autobarn Blue September campaign, visit