Citizen Staff Writer
In a year when many arts groups are sweating out the current financial shakeup, the Tucson International Mariachi Conference is breathing a little bit easier, thanks to a new partnership with Cox Communications.
For several years now, the conference has been letting the public know that it was on a slippery financial slope. According to Daniel Ranieri, CEO of La Frontera Inc., the social services organization that the conference benefits, “(2009) was the year we would have run out of money.”
Instead, Cox will be supplying $50,000 cash per year for the next three years, plus a huge advertising partnership totaling some $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations.
The conference will be able to purchase marketing from Cox “in a deeply discounted way,” according to Ranieri. Cox will promote the event through all of its media around the state. It will produce shows about the conference and La Frontera to air on its cable channel and Web site, as well as produce sizable promotional spots for the event and its other sponsors.
Although it easily could have, Cox did not insist on being a named sponsor for the event (as in the Bank One Tucson International Mariachi Conference of some years back). Instead it’s looking at the arrangement as a chance for the conference to provide added market value to other sponsors, and thus attract a title sponsor as well as smaller partnerships.
It’s great for the conference in other ways, too. Through Cox’s interactive media, conference management can now get additional feedback from the public about the types of acts they’d like to see on the bill for the Espectacular concerts.
“It really turned the light on for me,” Ranieri says. “Why not have more strategic relationships?”
It’s a win-win situation. The conference gets cash, a broader advertising footprint around the state and a leveraging tool to attract other sponsors. Cox gets the goodwill such an arrangement produces, a clear sense of its role as a leader in the community and access to a steadily increasing market, in terms of the largely Hispanic audience that attends the events.
“I feel like the stars have lined up for us on this,” Ranieri says.
For Lisa Lovallo, Cox’s vice president and systems manager for southern Arizona, this arrangement with the mariachi conference is part of a broader approach to community relations for the communications giant.
In the TREO strategic planning meetings over the spring and summer, Lovallo saw an opportunity for Cox to get more involved in the community “to see if we can help.”
The mariachi conference’s international reputation, its educational component that serves 1,000-1,500 students a year and La Frontera’s work around the state added up to what she terms “a perfect storm of elements” to make Cox want to pitch in.
What the conference needed, she says, was not just a check but a business plan and a true media partner to help increase ticket sales, attract sponsorships, package and sell its assets and broker new partnerships in the community. With a representative on the conference board, Cox plans to be involved all the way through – not just at events, but at the meetings afterward to assess what went well and what could go better.
It’s an infusion of the type of energy and direction that TIMC has long needed, and one with potential to help the mariachi world’s long-standing model achieve the prominence and success it deserves.