A note of networking

Mile of Music organizers hope to attract sponsors, add value for area businesses

Posted on Jun 1, 2016 :: Connections
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Mile of music has always been about offering the community a festival of original songs by up-and-coming musicians and established artists — and its popularity is evident, with 50,000 people attending last year.

Mile of Music organizers are always looking for ways to help the festival sustain its success and grow — and that means attracting sponsors.

“Obviously for us, we need the sponsorship support to make the festival happen and allow it to be free for the public,” says Nathan Litt, festival director-operations for Mile of Music. “So what can we do to provide value to the sponsor beyond the logo recognition?”

Festival organizers are exploring ways to add special events for sponsor companies and their employees, as well as create more opportunities for young professionals to connect.

An example of a past activity was a pre-concert reception at the PAC before Mile 3’s First Songs kickoff, hosted by presenting sponsor Tundraland that included all Mile of Music sponsors as well as clients and guests, Litt says.

“One of the things that I observed and heard a lot about were the relationships that were started during that reception,” Litt says. “It brought people together who already have a vested interest in the community.”

Cypress Benefit Administrators, which has been a sponsor since the inception of Mile of Music, brings employee volunteers and shares the festival with clients.

Cypress President Tom Doney, a musician himself, had an early conversation with Dave Willems, co-founder of the festival with musician Cory Chisel. As Doney and Willems discussed the idea of Mile of Music, Doney appreciated the idea of bringing music to Appleton as well as its role in building a creative downtown.

“I think anytime you can increase the quality of life in your community, that’s something that is attractive to people, whether it’s keeping them here or attracting them here,” Doney says.

However, the festival did present some other opportunities. First, it was a chance for the growing Cypress to become more involved in the greater community. And that, in turn, created internal buzz, benefiting company culture.

“As the whole thing evolved what we found was from the very beginning, our employees were really excited about it,” Doney says.

Last year, more than 60 percent of Cypress employees volunteered for the festival, helping direct people to the music bus, aiding with security and working as bartenders in Jones Park, Doney says.

As a sponsor Cypress was given a number of VIP badges that it distributed to local clients. That was particularly useful during the Wednesday night PAC performance, where Cypress had a number of clients present.

The company also coordinated its Elite Broker Program with the festival, flying in about 15 of its highest-producing insurance brokers for educational meetings and a night at Mile of Music.

Another sponsor, VF Outdoor, which makes JanSport products, has sponsored OuterEdge stage, allowing the company to have access to the stage for special events. The company also showcases products at The Annex and its HR team is available to discuss career opportunities, Randy Schilt, VF Outdoor CFO said in a statement.

“As one of the largest employers in the area, we understand that being an actively engaged local citizen is both good for the community and good for business — and we take this responsibility seriously,” Schilt said.

Events like Mile of Music help make Appleton a thriving community, particularly with proceeds benefiting the Mile of Music Education Fund and Creative Downtown Appleton, Inc., Schilt says.

Doney says he was on a plane several weeks ago chatting with another passenger about their hometowns. The passenger said “‘Oh, Appleton, I’ve heard of that, you’re the place that has a really cool music festival,’” Doney says. “Yes, as a matter of fact we are. The word is getting out there.”

Some companies are considering sponsoring Mile of Music as a way to help attract and retain young professionals, particularly as the millennial generation of young professionals values companies with a community presence, Litt says. New opportunities might include a tailored music education activity for families who are new to the area, or activities targeted toward new hires of sponsor companies.

“We really want to provide and book the best emerging talent,” Litt says. “We also want to have the best ideas. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Mile 4 is set to take place Aug. 4 to 7, with more than 200 acts playing 800 sets.