VW to Star as VIP Lounge Act

ATLANTA In what sources are calling a growing effort to reach African-American drivers, Volkswagen plans to take over a popular downtown Houston restaurant and use it as a VIP lounge during the National Basketball Association All Star game there next month.

Cabo, a restaurant owned by two African Americans, will be the VWIP Lounge from Feb. 17-19. Houston hip-hop radio station KBXX is providing DJs and will broadcast live from the site. VW said it would “creatively brand the environment” of the restaurant for the weekend, and co-owners Michael and Anthony Roberson will be present as hosts.

VW also is introducing its new GTI model, which arrives in the U.S. the week before the game. People who test-drive the GTI or any other 2006 model at the event will be allowed to enter the lounge. The company has set up a driving course in an adjacent parking lot. Existing VW owners just have to show their car keys to gain entry.

The promotion includes 24-person buses wrapped in VW graphics that will carry people between the VWIP lounge and Galleria Mall.

Ad*itive, a minority-owned shop in Philadelphia that specializes in African-American and youth marketing, is organizing the event. The shop staged a smaller promotion for VW at last year’s NBA All Star game in Denver.

The carmaker’s new agency, MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, is not assisting with the event. It was planned before CP+B acquired the VW account without a review late last year, a company spokesman said.

VW is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich.