Research supports benefits of sponsorship

Recently, Giddy Up has been encouraging us to think about how partnering with arts organisations could be of great value to a business, dismantling some long held assumptions about sponsorship. Internationally too, there are a number of excellent examples of partnership in action.

A transactional sponsor/arts organisation process occurs when money, goods or services change hands is given by a business to an arts organisation, usually for marketing exposure, or to endorse (or be seen to endorse) the arts philanthropically. In return, the arts organisation offers brand placement, hosting or experiential opportunities, access to performances or other benefits. This is the kind of sponsorship deal we may be familiar with.

Many international research and case studies have found that sponsors and arts organisations are looking for a deeper engagement beyond this transaction. This reflects a general shift in society where collaboration and partnership networks can be used to gain an advantage, and the shift in how consumers demand engagement with brands.

Here are just a few examples of the benefits of partnership:

Where both entities collaborate to design and deliver a campaign or experience together. The experience would be unlikely to happen without the other’s creative input. A fantastic example of this is Flick Electric and The NZ International Comedy Festival’s campaign where comedians write and perform in short clips about their experience of power companies. Critical to the success of this campaign was the comedians retained their unique voice and identity meaning audiences were more likely to trust their story as genuine. Another example is Art Dego. Although not a straight sponsorship between arts organisation and business, it is a compelling example of collaboration. Evolving out of a conversation between Gather and Hunt and Artweek, Art Dego combines a one night only curated cutting edge fine dining art exhibition & performance experience.

Inter-organizational learning
New skills are learned from each other. The Royal Swedish Opera’s partnership with their sponsors was distinct in that the staff learning and practices gleaned from each other became a highly desirable outcome for them. An unpredicted outcome was that sponsors found so much of benefit in the partnership they were able to refer other sponsors to the Opera.

Emphasis on activities with social benefits (well-being)
The arts organisation and business together support on a third activity that benefits society or the community. An example of this is the upcoming The Big Hoot – a collaboration between ATEED, Wild at Art and the Child Cancer Foundation.

Benefits for employees
The arts organisation helps broker opportunities for sponsoring businesses employees (and their families) to participate in or create their own artworks. This could range from behind-the-scenes activities, attending events or working with artists to create work specific to that place of business. Hilti engineering staff worked with a theatre maker who turned their stories and interviews into a new piece of theatre performed by professionals at Hilti’s annual conference.

Arts methods for business innovation and training
Arts organisations share creative methods, tools and approaches to encourage new ways of thinking and innovation. Festival management practices from the London International Festival of Theatre were first packaged as case studies for management training, then grew into the LIFT Forum – a workshop for corporate participants that used Festival performances as a starting point for deeper conversation and learning.

The outcomes described above represent an exciting opportunity for arts and businesses to draw on their distinct skills and connections to co-create, take responsibility and ownership of profound, challenging or delightful experiences for audiences/consumers. And to do so in a way that works for that partnership’s unique context.

This way of thinking is distinctively entrepreneurial and naturally creative – something businesses and arts organisations have in abundance.

Angela is in her final year of a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Auckland Graduate School of Business. Her area of research focuses on the development of long-term partnerships between business and arts organisations. She is a programme manager at the Auckland Arts Festival and the producer for A Slightly Isolated Dog.

Disclosure: Brian first had the pleasure of working with Angela through our mutual association with A Slightly Isolated Dog’s Don Juan and Jekyll & Hyde. We admire how Angela’s MBA thesis addresses both how business and the arts share many facets, and as importantly can more productively work together.


InsightsNick Phillips