CAMPAIGNS: Fund-raising PR - Mixing it up in the interest of money

Client: Milwaukee Art Museum (WI)

Client: Milwaukee Art Museum (WI)

Client: Milwaukee Art Museum (WI)

PR Team: Nelson & Schmidt (Milwaukee, WI)

Campaign: 13th Annual Grape Lakes Food and Wine Festival

Time Frame: Sept. 13 - 16, 2000

Budget: Unavailable

For the past 13 years, the Milwaukee Art Museum has hosted a four-day food and wine orgy, known as the Grape Lakes Food & Wine Festival, to raise money for its art acquisitions fund. Nelson & Schmidt has promoted the festival on a pro bono basis for the last six years, using images of wine. A new iteration was needed for this year's upscale food fest.


Construction of a dramatic new addition to the museum by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is underway and is expected to be finished next year.

So, Nelson & Schmidt decided to incorporate the construction activities into this year's festival promotion.

For past festivals, the agency had used wine as a promotional image to attract citizens of Milwaukee who don't mind parting with cash in the name of art. Daniel Nelson, CEO of Nelson & Schmidt, says that wine's image contrasts with stereotypes of Milwaukee as a blue-collar, 'beer and bratwurst' city, largely indifferent to high-minded pursuits like art. So in past campaigns, the agency had used contradictory images of wine bottles - in a taxidermy setting, at the end of a bowling alley and held together in a plastic six-pack container.

This time the agency zeroed in on the construction of the museum's extension and developed an image of wine flowing down a cement truck's chute into a single glass.

The agency says that it wanted to continue to have fun with pairing wine and so-called blue-collar objects. 'The clunky old cement mixer is not supposed to be in the same picture as the wine, so it makes the image stand out even more,' says Nelson.


Posters of the image were displayed in area restaurants, and a promotional package with the image and festival information was mailed to more than 10,000 area residents, most of whom are museum members. The agency also targeted prospective museum members and people who had attended the festival previously.

Media relations tactics included gearing the image and festival information towards Milwaukee papers, two Illinois papers, and local TV and radio programs.


Media hits included a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and mention of the festival's construction and wine image in AdWeek magazine. Nelson says the Grape Lakes Food & Wine Festival also scored hits on radio stations and all the city's TV stations.

So far, the campaign has generated dollars 80,000 for the museum.


Nelson & Schmidt's upcoming fund-raising events include the Lakefront Festival of Arts and the Bal du Lac dinner/dance.

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