Driscoll Gives Out Goose Bumps

May 16, 2002
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MUSKEGON — He calls it the “goose bump effect.” His job is to make those who feel it remember the companies that made it happen.

When they do, then Pat Driscoll figures he’s done his job as sales and marketing director for Muskegon’s annual Summer Celebration, an 11-day event that has grown steadily in popularity in recent years and now draws more than 700,0000 visitors to the Port City each summer.

Those are 700,000 visitors that Driscoll wants to link with corporate sponsors. His goal is to get them to associate the enjoyment they had at the festival with the companies behind it.

“It’s our job to put goose bumps on everybody’s forearm. It’s my job to brand our business partners on those goose bumps. We want them to remember all of the business partners that made that happen,” said Driscoll, who joined Summer Celebration in February after years as the voice of Michigan’s agriculture industry.

Driscoll was an on-air reporter and anchor, as well as general manager and a former partner, of the Michigan Farm Radio Network, which provides farm radio news and daily reports to more than 30 radio stations across the state. He left the network in July 2000, 18 months after it was acquired by a Grosse Pointe Farms broadcasting company, Saga Communications Inc.

He calls the marketing position with Summer Celebration, and the career change that came with it, well suited for his background in media and marketing (he owned and operated a small public relations firm while working at the Farm Radio network) and building professional working relationships.

“I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I understand what makes those relationships work and I know what everybody is looking for out of it,” said the 35-year-old Driscoll.

A native of Milan, Driscoll began his broadcasting career as a teen-ager when he followed his father, Bob, into the business. Bob Driscoll had joined the radio network in the mid-1970s from the Michigan Farm Bureau and eventually became a partner in the company.

Pat Driscoll began working there when he was just 15, riding his bike to work early in the morning to sign on and operate the broadcasting board. He began handling some on-air duties several months later.

He recalls how his father, who passed away last March, had wanted him to go into another field.

“It was against everything my dad wanted me to do. He wanted me to go out and do something else,” Driscoll said.

Eventually, he did do something else, but ultimately returned home to Michigan and the network in 1989 after living in Nashville, Tenn., for seven years, where he worked for a booking agency and later as a programming, sales and marketing consultant to a five-state radio network group.

Upon returning to Michigan, he became farm director for the Michigan Farm Radio Network, a role that included reporting and on-air duties and maintaining industry contacts. During the early 1990s, he helped to transform the network from an organization that reported commodity prices and market conditions to one that provided broader coverage of the state’s agriculture industry and trends affecting it.

Driscoll became general manager of the 32-station network in January 1993, adding duties in sales and marketing, affiliate relations, satellite distribution, and programming and editorial development.

In March 2000 he became general manager for Saga Communications’ Michigan network properties. By July, four months after his father died and feeling a need to do something different, he had decided to move on and left the network.

“I had been with the networks for some time and I thought it was time for a change. It was time to bring some new blood in,” Driscoll said.

After leaving the network, Driscoll and his wife, Betty, moved into a summer home they own on Silver Lake. Working out of his home, Driscoll set up Michigan AgriCommunicators, an agriculture communications company that would serve as a liaison between the industry and media outlets in the state’s metro areas.

At the same time he began to look for full-time work. An ad on an Internet job site for a marketing director at a Muskegon summer festival piqued his curiosity.

He landed the job and began his position with Summer Celebration in early February, working with businesses to establish sponsorships and partnerships for the festival. Summer Celebration presently generates about $300,000 of its annual $2.2 million budget from sponsorships.

Driscoll hopes to increase that amount through new marketing programs such as “SponsorVision,” a short presentation about corporate sponsors shown “in a very entertaining way” on the large television screens at concert venues before and after performances.

Another marketing program, new in 2001, is “Gourmet Avenue,” an event sponsored by Orchard’s Markets where chefs conducted cooking demonstration and prepared gourmet foods and meals for sale to festival go-ers. In exchange for a generous donation to Summer Celebration, Orchard’s was provided exclusive space on the festival grounds for Gourmet Avenue, which it used to showcase its food products.

Driscoll calls the relationship “a perfect example of how to mesh your business partner” with the event, and promises several new marketing ideas in the future to link area businesses with the festival as Summer Celebration seeks increased financial support and business look for new ways to promote their products.

“It’s all a matter of staying on the edge,” he said.  

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