American Family CEO explains strategy behind Brewers stadium naming rights deal

Considering how to brand other areas in and around the stadium

Miller Park
Miller Park

Last updated on January 27th, 2020 at 12:33 pm

American Family Insurance has shifted its branding strategy towards sports marketing over traditional media in the last 5 years, chief executive officer Jack Salzwedel said today in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee.

The Madison-based company recently signed a deal to rename the Milwaukee Brewers’ baseball stadium to American Family Field, a 15-year contract that begins in 2021.

American Family Insurance chairman and CEO Jack Salzwedel speaks at the 2020 Economic Trends conference.
American Family Insurance chairman and CEO Jack Salzwedel speaks at the 2020 Economic Trends conference.

“We found that adjusting our media spend to include sports marketing, sports partnerships and other entertainment partnerships has allowed us to have a lift in our aided and unaided awareness,” Salzwadel said.

That lift, Salzwadel added, isn’t replicated to the same extent when marketing with traditional media, a change in marketing strategy for the company that has occurred over the last 5 years, he said.

“When you compare that to what it would cost to get that lift in other media, it’s a very cost-effective way to do it,” Salzwedel said. “There’s been a real shift in terms of the effectiveness of traditional media.”

The property and casualty insurance company’s naming rights deal with the Brewers is one of the company’s largest marketing deals, but it’s not the only.

In the last decade, American Family has developed several partnerships with entertainment venues like Summerfest and with sports teams and iconic athletes including the Seattle Seahawks, J.J Watt, Derek Jeter, Brad Guzan and Steve Stricker.

“You have a brand ambassador that has a million or two million followers, that person tweets out a couple of things and there’s an instant impact to the brand,” Salzwedel said.

Salzwedel, who spoke at BizTimes’ Economic Trends event on Friday, said digital media marketing has surpassed traditional media spending like TV, radio and billboards for the first time in 2019. He expects digital media spending to outpace spending in traditional marketing channels by double digits over the next decade, he said.

“We’re convinced this is the right direction to go and the numbers show that it is and we’re excited about the new naming rights deal here in Milwaukee,” Salzwedel said.

American Family is also in the process of deciding how the insurance company will brand other areas in and around the stadium. The process will more than likely take a similar course to the naming rights deal, which involved input from season ticket holders, fans and stakeholders across the nation, Salzwedel said.

“There’s the opportunity to brand those differently than American Family,” Salzwedel said. “And I know there’s been some work done already to pay homage to Bud Selig, Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and whoever it might be,” Salzwedel said.

Get our email updates

Brandon Anderegg
Brandon covers startups, technology, banking and finance. He previously worked as a general assignment and court reporter for The Freeman in Waukesha. Brandon graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s journalism, advertising and media studies program with an emphasis in journalism. He enjoys live music, playing guitar and loves to hacky sack.