Written By Joe Leary

Photography Alfonso Arnold

Hair & Make-Up Heather Nightingale, Stylist Sarah D’Arcey, All Clothing Supplied by Nordstrom Vancouver

As Manager of Marketing for Brian Jessel BMW, Diana Zoppa faces a litany of duties; sometimes extending beyond the everyday, ongoing brand awareness support behind Canada’s highest volume BMW dealer.


Chief among them is the organization of ‘Cabriolet’; the annual celebratory gala, staged on the sprawling premises of the lavish Boundary Road dealership.

Throughout the years, ‘Cabriolet’ has become among Vancouver’s elite, premiere events; benefitting multiple charities in the early going before solely dedicating itself to an ongoing fundraising initiative for Pancreatic Cancer.

‘This will be my 6th Cabriolet’ Gala,” says Zoppa, who boasts a diverse and impressive background in the area of Marketing and Public Relations that dates back to 1991.

“We changed the format of ‘Cabriolet’ after the first four events….we were following the same format from the past, which was the original car launch, expanded into fashion show, expanded into party; trying to raise money for small charities,” she adds of the yearly star-studded event.

“The first nine years of ‘Cabriolet’ benefitted assorted charities; everyone from Canadian Breast Cancer to Arts Umbrella and every year they selected a different recipient.

‘The ‘Cabriolet’ Gala initially started as a stand-up style cocktail party affair with food and drinks – we’d sell tickets and have all the restaurants involved.

When I came into the picture in 2014 we did the launch for the i8; which was the year that the electric cars came out for BMW and we did an Haute Couture Fashion Show; and a number of elements involved – it was very big.

That was the first year that Brian Jessel and Managing Partner Jim Murray committed to Pancreatic Cancer.

After Brian’s father passed away he became dedicated to raising awareness for this cause; which takes a disproportionate amount of people annually; only offering a 7% chance of survival upon diagnosis.

“When we started Cabriolet many years ago, like many other people we wanted to fight cancer and be part of the solution,” adds Jessel. 

“In 2010 I lost my father to pancreatic cancer so our fundraising became a lot more personal and over the last few years it’s been sad to see how many friends and clients have died from it. 

It is nasty and deadly and 95% of those that get this disease pass on within a year.” 

Fourteen years later, Brian Jessel BMW’s annual ‘Cabriolet’ gala has now raised in excess of $2 Million.

“This is a big undertaking as Brian and Jim make the decision to basically give up the dealership for this event,” says Zoppa.

“What makes ‘Cabriolet’ so special is that it’s like a pop-up party – in a sense – because it’s not held in a hotel ballroom.

It takes place in a huge, gorgeous dealership that gets transformed into a themed evening.

In 2018 we changed the concept to become a seated, corporate event with 40 high-top tables all draped in the themed décor of Cabaret”.

While previous events have undertaken various themes, this year’s ‘Cabriolet Gala’ takes place on April 6 with a Moroccan twist; based on Rick’s Café, the fictional bar made famous in the 1942 Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman classic drama, ‘Casablanca’.   

‘Cabriolet’ galas have brought together a variety of charitable initiatives along with local and international celebrities to the spacious showroom; magically transformed from car dealership by day to a veritable oasis by night and boasting a list of top-tier entertainment over the years that has included such notables as Jay Leno, Cee Lo Green and Barenaked Ladies.

And while the charitable component of ‘Cabriolet’ may be of singular focus in its goal, the execution of such a large-scale event and the accompanying makeover of the entire dealership becomes a massive undertaking, involving precision, coordination, timing and a team of both hired professionals and volunteers to successfully pull it all together.

“It takes 48 hours to completely transform the showroom,” notes Diana Zoppa,    acknowledging the retinue of bodies of everyone from production types to lighting to producers and event stagers; all collectively mobilized and working within a very narrow window of opportunity and timeline. 

“With 66,000 square feet at the dealership to work with you can get pretty imaginative.

The event is held on a Saturday night so that means that on Thursday at 6pm we literally start tearing down and systematically within the process, everything leaves the building; all of the vehicles, the desks; the chairs…..everything being done in stages and all taken out of the building systematically by various zones.

We bring in the Production team for sound, lighting and audio/visual; the décor team comes in and goes to work; there’s an on-site Production Manager; then comes the musical component; the music team; hair and make-up – it’s all about the entertainment now.” 

With tables selling for a minimum of $5000 and offering unlimited beverage from sponsors such as Veuve Champagne and Belvedere Vodka; Four Seasons Hotel catering, plus additional stations providing everything from BOSA Foods to Joe Fortes famous Oysters to Hy’s legendary Jumbo Shrimp; it’s a perfect night of gastronomy.    

The tear down and return to normalcy within the dealership is equally impressive and with each, ensuing iteration of ‘Cabriolet’ in the books, preliminary work then begins almost immediately on successive events.

It’s all part of the world of Diana Zoppa and the highlight to her day-today marketing responsibilities of the top-selling BMW Dealership in Canada.

“When all is said and done we look back on the event and psycho-analyze it and begin to plot out how to possibly top it the following year,” she says.

And as gratifying as the annual initiative serves to further advance the charitable component of her job while planning for the next themed gala, there remains the other part of the equation: Diana Zoppa’s overall role of Marketing Director and there is much to be done, car-wise this year.

“2019 is a big year for BMW,” she adds.

“The New 3 series and X7 will both be out in March, the new LCI version of the 7 is out in April, the Z4 in the summer, 

the new X5 and new 8 series are out!

It never ends. And we love it!”