Bethke: Subaru “deals in love.” Photo credit: Jon DiFrancesco
If Subaru is a brand built around love, and its motorsports division, Subaru Tecnica International, is based on uninhibited performance, then think of Boxerfest as Subaru’s own Woodstock.
Soaking rain included.
The daylong event, held in June in the sprawling parking lot of FedExField outside Washington, D.C., kicks off a season of festivals across the U.S. that allow fans of Subarus, souped-up and otherwise, to share their passion for the brand and its quirky vehicles.
Boxerfest got its start in 2014, following the footsteps of similar Subaru festivals such as Wicked Big Meet in the Northeast and Subiefest in California.
Robert Champion, event director of SubieEvents, the company that manages those events and others, said the festivals are “super grassroots” and can trace their beginnings to Subaru enthusiasts simply wanting to get together with their vehicles.
“All of these events are primarily volunteer-run by Subaru enthusiasts,” Champion said. “It’s very genuine in that regard.”
For Boxerfest’s first year, the local Subaru zone office helped get the event off the ground. But after that, it became clear that the event was something that Subaru of America wanted to be part of.
“We’re a brand that deals in love. We’re a brand that deals in a strong connection between the owner and their car,” said Alan Bethke, Subaru of America’s senior vice president of marketing.
The event, he said, was “an opportunity to do more than what a traditional ad would do. … No. 1, you have owners there. No. 2, they want to be there. They want to consume Subaru content, messaging and anything about Subaru. They’re hungry for it.
“By having us go there,” he said, “we’re fueling their passion.”
Boxerfest takes advantage of the parking lot’s vast acreage, filling it with pop-up tents, vendors and other activities for the attendees. Of course, dogs are allowed.
“We have a lot of owners of all types of performance products that show up there, or people who have personalized their vehicles,” said Dave Sullivan, marketing strategy and product launch manager at Subaru. “They can range anywhere from a 10-year-old WRX to even some of the newer vehicles.”
And when Subaru got more involved at a corporate level, the automaker brought rally car drivers from its racing teams, set up displays and showcased historic models, some of which had been sold only in Japan.
Subaru “brought legitimacy to the event,” Champion said, noting that the automaker also helps with marketing and promotion on its social media channels.
Again this year, Subaru treated Boxerfest attendees to special-edition models making their first public appearance. In 2017, it was a BRZ tS and WRX STI Type RA. This year, Subaru showed off the Series.Gray for the WRX and WRX STI.
The skies above Boxerfest were gray, too. It rained heavily for 14 hours, Champion said. There was even a temporary evacuation at one point.
But more than 3,600 people showed up, and many returned after the evacuation was over.
Said Bethke: “You have all these people that are there in any and all-weather conditions, braving all kinds of elements only because they love one thing: their Subaru.”