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DINING Dining and Nightlife

Keeping the Vibe Live

When you show up to a massive event like Vail Snow Daze or Spring Back to Vail, two of Vail’s signature events, it’s easy to overlook all the work that goes into such  large productions. The stage is set up, the artists perform, the audience flows to and fro, getting beer and food from 
vendors and dancing to the songs they came to hear.

What you don’t see is all the behind-the-scenes effort that went into making these events such smashing successes. And that is what makes Highline Sports and Entertainment so noticeable in the world of event production: When it really matters, they’re not really noticeable at all. They make it look easy, like just another big concert in Vail. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why the company’s founder and partner, Jeff Brausch, thinks Highline is so good at what it does.
“It’s more important for us to make sure that the brands we’re working with are the point,” Brausch says. “To be in this business and to work with so many different brands you’ve got to stay out of the spotlight. It’s their place and you’ve got to take your ego out of it and give other people the credit. We’re sort of the engine that powers these live experiences but we want to be in the background.”
Brausch’s business partner with Highline Sports and Entertainment, James Deighan, agrees. “We are seamlessly integrated into a lot of events so people aren’t aware that they are Highline events.”
It’s one of the few businesses in which the harder everyone works, the less it looks like anyone is working at all. And, indeed, a lot of work goes into the production of an event like Spring Back to Vail or Snow Daze.
“What goes into an event is months, sometimes years, of preparation, from infrastructure to marketing the event to selling sponsorships to the PR side of things,” Deighan explains. “There are so many facets rolled into an event and it’s our job for the public to not see what goes into that. It’s our job for you to show up at Spring Back to Vail and say ‘Oh, look at this, it’s perfect, everything’s good.’”

The History of Highline
Formed in Vail in 1996 by Brausch and his brother-in-law Scott McCormick (who left the company in 2004) to help local athletes find sponsors for competition in sporting events, it took only a short time until Highline began producing its own athletic events in the valley.
“We wanted to produce mogul ski events on Vail Mountain more for the reason that all our friends were competing in mogul events, and it was cool,” says Brausch. “Then it was just sort of a natural progression from there and once we were a couple of years into it, that became our goal: to produce iconic events.”
Deighan, who at that time owned his own business called Zota Gear, became a sponsor for some of the Highline events taking place in the valley. Eventually Deighan sold Zota Gear and, in 1998, went to work for Highline selling sponsorships for events, and for the past 15 years, he and Brausch have been steadily growing the company into a world-class, marketing agency with a client list that boasts such names as Rolling Stone, Red Bull, Johnson and Johnson and Anheuser-Busch.
“We pioneered, then soon became experts in experiential marketing,” Deighan says. “We bring brands to life.”

Making it All Happen
Since planting roots in Vail, the branches of Highline Sports and Entertainment have stretched onto the national stage. Besides producing local, well-known events like Spring Back to Vail, CarniVail and Snow Daze, the company now produces large-scale national events like the NCAA Basketball Awards Show at the Final Four, the NFL Silver Ticket Tour (a series of major parties in 12 different markets during NFL games) and the CBS College Sports SEC Tailgate Tour.
“What makes us different is attention to detail and always striving to be best in class. It’s a never ending pursuit,” Brausch says. “I think it’s continuing to push new and fresh ideas and never be complacent or satisfied with where you are now.”
Deighan says that Highline consistently beats out national competition to produce events because of the company’s personal attention and focus. Instead of just earning the business of clients, Highline also works hard on keeping that business. They are there from start to finish – not passing the client off to other agencies or companies so they can turn their attention to another customer. It’s a very hands-on approach that both partners say is crucial to the success of Highline.
“It’s been very steady and very stable growth,” Deighan says of Highline’s maturity from a small-town operation to a national agency. “We’ve always been very, very careful not to let it grow too fast or too big … Jeff’s been very good at managing that and giving direction to all of us as a company making sure we’re not taking a client just to take it on with big dollar signs in our eyes. It’s not just about the money, clearly if it was we probably wouldn’t be here in Vail still, we’d have moved to a big city.”
And that’s one thing that both Brausch and Deighan are very proud of: the fact that they’ve never even considered abandoning the town and community in which Highline began. Brausch says that Vail was a great place for Highline to cut its teeth in the business and that he’s grateful to be tied to such a great community.
“The standards here for events are very high, people expect world-class things here so to be able to hone your skills here is critical and, honestly, there’s no other place in the world I’d rather do an event than in my own backyard,” continues Brausch. “Just seeing how much satisfaction the community gleans from these events is really rewarding.”
For Highline Sports and Entertainment there will be no selling out.
“Jeff and I made the decision years and years ago that we were going to stay here regardless, no matter how big we get, no matter how many big national events and tours we’re producing, we’re going to stay here in Vail. Vail is our home, we love it here and it’s also the reason why we continue to produce local events with such passion,” Deighan says. “We grew up as a company here in Vail. We’re pushed very hard by the community to up our standards and up the standards of the events on a regular basis.”

The Future of Highline
At 15 full-time employees strong and boasting a portfolio of 100-plus clients, there seems to be no slowing down for Highline Sports and Entertainment! The question is: Having grown from infancy in Vail and finding a way to balance a large, national clientele while staying true to the town in which it started, can the company still continue to grow without imploding due to its own over reaching and sheer desire to never rest on its laurels? Not a problem at all, according to Brausch.
“We’ve always had a slow-burn model,” Brausch says. “I don’t ever see us becoming a super-sized agency but I think we’ll double or triple in size in the next few years. It’s exciting.”
That seems very ambitious, but there’s no inflection of doubt in Brausch’s voice..
And while there’s always money to be made off of American’s love of sports, entertainment and revelry, the real motivation for Brausch seems to be his passion for being the best.
“I think you have to be passionate about what you do every day and we are,” Brausch says enthusiastically. “I’m proud to say that we haven’t sold out, we’re still doing it for the same reasons … we love to see the results when people continue to purchase tickets and enjoy our events. It’s about putting smiles on people’s faces. I think that’s the
really cool thing about what we get to do. We’re really lucky that we’re creating experiences that people remember for the rest or their lives.”
What you don’t see is all the behind-the-scenes effort that went into making these events such smashing successes. And that is what makes Highline Sports and Entertainment so noticeable in the world of event production: When it really matters, they’re not really noticeable at all. They make it look easy, like just another big concert in Vail. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why the company’s founder and partner, Jeff Brausch, thinks Highline is so good at what it does.
“It’s more important for us to make sure that the brands we’re working with are the point,” Brausch says. “To be in this business and to work with so many different brands you’ve got to stay out of the spotlight. It’s their place and you’ve got to take your ego out of it and give other people the credit. We’re sort of the engine that powers these live experiences but we want to be in the background.”
Brausch’s business partner with Highline Sports and Entertainment, James Deighan, agrees. “We are seamlessly integrated into a lot of events so people aren’t aware that they are Highline events.”
It’s one of the few businesses in which the harder everyone works, the less it looks like anyone is working at all. And, indeed, a lot of work goes into the production of an event like Spring Back to Vail or Snow Daze.
“What goes into an event is months, sometimes years, of preparation, from infrastructure to marketing the event to selling sponsorships to the PR side of things,” Deighan explains. “There are so many facets rolled into an event and it’s our job for the public to not see what goes into that. It’s our job for you to show up at Spring Back to Vail and say ‘Oh, look at this, it’s perfect, everything’s good.’”