Incoming American Family Insurance CEO Bill Westrate first joined AmFam in 1996 as an actuary. Westrate will succeed Jack Salzwedel as CEO on Jan. 1, 2022. He discussed the company’s plans for southeast Wisconsin during a Milwaukee Business Journal Power Breakfast on March 12th. You can hear Editor-in-Chief Mark Kass’ sit-down with Westrate during this week’s episode of WTMJ Conversations.
Read a portion of the interview courtesy of eCourt Reporters, Inc.
MARK KASS: Let’s kind of talk about you with some of the things in Milwaukee. Obviously, the most highest profile one is your partnership with the Brewers. We’re a few weeks away from opening day and will be the first — the first time with your name on the stadium. Kind of what do you see happening over the next few months with that partnership? How do you plan to use it? And also, how do you plan to kind of measure the return?
BILL WESTRATE: I think, first of all, I just want to say we’re really excited and grateful to be a part of — part of this, the history and the legacy of the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee. It is — it is such a — you know, it’s quite exciting to see, you know, our brand, our name on what we believe is an iconic stadium, but we also know it’s a stadium and it’s a club that means so much to the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin.
And so it is — it certainly — we consider it to be an honor and we certainly want to well represent that honor in the way we are — we are showing up in the community, but it’s fun to be driving — I don’t know if you drove by I94 recently, it’s fun to see the signs, you know, coming up, the logo starting to be more present on the building. And we’re excited about what that brings, you know, there’s such a — such a great history there. There’s so many, you know, people from Milwaukee and the state, really have great memories of all the legends and the greats, you know, at Miller Park, whether it’s, you know, Molitor and Yount and Uecker, and, you know, Selig, and now Yelich. And so, it’s — it’s certainly exciting to be part of. And obviously, another one of those greats, Hank Aaron, unfortunately recently passed away, and, you know, he’s — he’s just been such an inspiration, not just on the field, but really the way he carried himself with exceptional, you know, dignity and character off the field that we can all learn from as well.
And so, we think about the responsibility to represent that, that history and that legacy. And we’re excited to be part of that, but we recognize it’s a great responsibility. And, you know, putting our name on there, it is definitely much more than just the name. It is — it is an investment in our brand, of course, but it’s also an investment in the Brewers. We think we’re helping them compete more effectively. It’s also a partnership with the Brewers. And, in fact, there’s a large component in this as a community partnership and community investment that we’re doing together.
And some of the — some have seen that we worked with the Brewers, the Brewers Community Foundation to support the Milwaukee Public Schools with their technology needs for low-income students as we’ve gone through this pandemic. And there’s going to be more on that front actually in the next couple weeks in particular to recognize and honor Hank Aaron as well.
MARK KASS: Can you talk about kind of how you’ll measure the return? I mean, obviously, I mean, I get asked this question all the name, you put your name on the stadium, you put your name kind of with the sport, how do you — how do you measure the improvement for your brand?
BILL WESTRATE: Yeah, it’s a — you know, that is not as clean a science as many of us would like. And I will simply say that, you know, at American Family, we’re competing against, you know, large carriers with advertising budgets that are many times ours. Our emphasis and our philosophy around our marketing and our advertising is to emphasize being authentic and inspiring and use, you know, our advertising and our sponsorships and our partnerships to help further that. And we — and provide good value obviously for our policyholders and our customers of
today and our customers of tomorrow at the same time. And we really believe the Brewers, their franchise as an emerging, I think, exciting franchise fits well with American Family, but it’s also the shared values we have between the organizations around the community and the importance of investing in the community and — and serving for them, serving their fans, providing them a great experience. For us, serving our customers, providing them a great experience.
So, a great alignment between brands and we think this is an authentic way for us to show up and represent who we are to current — again, current and future customers.
MARK KASS: I remember having this discussion probably about a year or maybe so ago with — obviously with the current CEO, and that’s Jack, that he was surprised at the first reaction. Because, you know, obviously there was some — I mean, there’s a lot of people in the community still who will always call it Miller Park. Has that changed and have you guys kind of seen that? And kind of how do you counteract that?
BILL WESTRATE: Yeah, I would — I would say, you know, it wasn’t a complete surprise. I think many of us know people who still call it County Stadium, right? I mean, there’s a — that is something that fans are really just — they’re loyal and they’re committed and that’s — and that’s great. And, in fact, you know, we’re fans here, too. And at the same time, you know, Miller was a, you know, fantastic partner to the Brewers over the years. And we consider it a real honor to be taking that baton as another Wisconsin-based company and well-recognized Wisconsin-based company to have our name on the stadium and to partner with the Brewers.
So, it’s a — it’s something that I think will come with time, and I think we’ve already seen some of that. There really is a great connection between the Brewers baseball and the American family, it’s a great American pastime, it’s a great family pastime. And I believe that there’s going to be a great connection for many fans with American Family Field. And yet there will probably always be some who will want to call it County Stadium or Miller Park.