Case Study: Toledo Jeep Fest

On August 13, 2016, an estimated 40,000 people invaded downtown Toledo to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Jeep. It was Toledo’s biggest single-day festival in decades. The inaugural event gave Toledoans the opportunity to celebrate one of the community’s great passions – its love of the Jeep brand and vehicles.

Jeep is fundamental to Toledo’s heritage – after last weekend’s activities, people have a better understanding of how that came to be and why it will continue for years to come.

The Jeep brand was created due to a military need for a tough, lightweight vehicle that could quickly get troops and equipment across the battlefield and serve as a mount for everything from machine guns to stretchers. In 1941, Willys-Overland won a significant United States Military contract to design the Willys MB, a four-wheel drive utility vehicle that was manufactured throughout World War II. Willys would eventually trademark the Jeep name and go on to build millions of Jeeps in Toledo. Today, Toledo is the only place in the world making the iconic Jeep Wrangler and is also the home of the Jeep Cherokee. The plant currently has about 5,100 full-time employees.

The first-ever event included a Jeep parade through downtown Toledo, an All Jeep Car Show at the SeaGate Convention Centre, various Jeep history and military programming, live music, two beer gardens, nearly 20 food trucks, kids activities, and much more.

Thread Marketing Group, working with the Toledo Jeep Fest Steering Committee, provided overall event strategy, day-to-day tactics, media relations, social media strategy and implementation, marketing and graphic design support, sponsorship coordination and much more.

“This was a great opportunity for Thread to partner with our community and show our own Jeep pride,” said Judy McFarland, Thread's CEO.  “Every service within our integrated agency was involved in bringing this first-time event to a very successful conclusion – even in the rain!”

Public Attendance

While the event was expected to attract approximately 20,000 attendees to northwest Ohio, on game day downtown Toledo hosted about 40,000 people from around the Midwest and as far away as California and Canada. Some local officials speculated that it might have been the biggest downtown event since V-J Day.

Event Participants

More than 1,100 Jeep enthusiasts registered and showed off their private vehicles. Jeeps of every model, color, shape and size were showcased in the 2-hour parade. Every model year from 1941 to 2016 was represented in the procession.

Throughout the day, attendees had the opportunity to view historic Jeeps in the SeaGate Centre and lining the streets, including three rare prototypes: 1941 Bantam BRC, 1941 Ford GP, and the 1941 Willys MA. The 1973 Super Jeep CJ-5 was on display as well. It was created as a result of the lack of aluminum wheels needed for the CJ-5 Renegade and was one of only a few hundred built. Another big draw was Omix-ADA’s 1946 Willys CJ-2A farm Jeep equipped with unique farming equipment (a rear towing boom, Newgren buzz saw table and a side arm mower bar on the driver’s side).

Key Partners

Toledo’s key players rallied around the idea of the first-ever, free community Jeep festival. The Steering Committee relied heavily on partnerships with UAW Local 12, the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, the City of Toledo, the Lucas County Convention & Tourism Bureau, and others.

Sponsorships & Donations

More than 60 organizations – including title sponsors Dana Inc. and Mercy Heath – supported the event with cash and in-kind support, which totaled more than $300,000.

Economic Impact

Destination Toledo, the area’s visitor and convention bureau, estimated the event generated between $2.7 million and $3.4 million in economic activity.

Beyond the local impact, the event allowed Toledo to tell its story around the country and the world.

Media Impact

Toledo Jeep Fest generated more than 160 news stories across traditional, broadcast and digital mediums, which reached over 80,000,000 people.

Social Media

There’s no other way to put it: Toledo Jeep Fest made as big an impact on social media as it did on the streets of downtown Toledo and in the mainstream media.  This is especially impressive when you consider that this was a local event with a narrow topic that took place during the Olympics and a Presidential election.

  • The hashtag #ToledoJeepFest was trending nationally at #3 on Twitter the day of and after the event August 13-14, 2016.
  • Hashtag statistics show in the timeframe from August 8th-16th there were 1,049 tweets that included #ToledoJeepFest, reaching 1,289,039 users and making 4,729,609 impressions.
  • The week of the event (August 9-15), over 90,000 people were reached on Facebook with over 42,000 reactions, comments and shares. For the entire event, the overall engagement rate was more than four times the industry average.
  • Live stream video of the parade start had a reach of more than 20,330, and also had 396 reactions, 123 shares and 48 comments. The average live stream video typically generates a reach of approximately 10,000.


Toledo Jeep Fest Infographic



The Toledo Jeep Fest event lead Whitney Rofkar commented, “I’m incredibly proud of the work completed by the Steering Committee and my team at Thread Marketing Group. To think we pulled this off within only three short months … it’s a wonderful accomplishment and an unparalleled experience.”

Jerry Huber, Chairman of the Toledo Jeep Fest Steering Committee, looked back at the experience and said, “This marketing effort was top-notch. The Thread team did an incredible job of oversight management for the entire effort, a task that only a few will ever understand. This successful event will be long remembered in the Toledo area by thousands of folks who participated and enjoyed the Toledo Jeep Fest.”


Topics: case study, Company News, event, Public Relations, Social Media, White Papers

Jana Ballard

Written by Jana Ballard

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