The evolution from sponsorship to partnership in New Zealand

Sponsorship can be traced back to the first Olympic Games, where wealthy citizens and local governments provided financial support to build awareness of their cities, and successful athletes were rewarded with prizes.

Sponsorship continued in this way until 1984, when the Los Angeles Olympics redefined sponsorship to the world by selling the Olympic symbols to brands.  With 43 major sponsors stepping forward, the Olympic Games made a profit of US$225million.

From donations of money, to in-kind giving, sponsorship has evolved worldwide. As we move into a new age of technological advancements, we are also changing the way in which we give.

New Zealand’s history of giving
Early beginnings of sponsorship in New Zealand can be seen through exploring how art galleries were founded. In the early 20th century, donations of art and funding was a typical way these galleries were operated, and those that donated or funded would usually have the gallery named after them.

Since then, the world of sponsorship has expanded further than individuals sponsoring one-off art galleries or exhibits. Companies began getting involved with large scale events, community projects and causes as a key part of giving back to the community, as a foundation to corporate responsibility, and brand awareness.

Sponsorship and giving has become a regular part of life in New Zealand, and through the emergence of platforms, technology, and social and cultural changes, the way in which individuals and companies give is changing shape.

The rise of digital platforms
In New Zealand, $100m has been raised to date through crowd funding platforms. The platforms encourage business and individuals to pay it forward (and to varying degrees participate) in sponsoring projects. The platforms provide a democratisation of engagement where we can support what matters most to us either individually of in collective. It also taps into the sharing economy (think Airbnb and Mevo).

Payroll giving is a further form of selecting and supporting registered charities. It is presently underutilized and time consuming for employers. It could be better marketed.


The emergence of social enterprise
Over the past few years, the emergence of social enterprises has changed our not only our giving, but our way of life. As a growing concern for younger generations, people are increasingly only willing to work for, and purchase from companies who align with their values.

Social Enterprises take many shapes. They include aggregating funding to selected causes such as payroll giving facilitated by One Percent Collective, or connecting consumers with buying power to businesses to demonstrate and share their values with platforms like Conscious Consumers.

The cultural shift that has come from the emergence of social enterprises reminds us that it is not a binary choice between doing good for the environment, community or causes, and doing financially well.

The next wave to engaged partnership
As expectations of social responsibility change, sponsorship needs to evolve from the standard donation of money or time, to meaningful and engaged partnerships. Engaged partnerships thrive where on a mutually respected peer basis each party can offer the other an insight or expertise that the other could not easily obtain.

A meaningful and engaged partnership goes further than aligning values between the sponsor and the organisation receiving sponsorship. It provides the opportunity to engage employees and customers in selecting partners, contributing to and enjoying new experiences with aligned community parties. 

Naturally, there may be some challenges as we see the shift from sponsorship to partnership, specifically power imbalance as noted in the 2017 Cause Report from JB Were, “To overcome the potential power imbalance, NFPs need to better value the knowledge they bring to the relationship and develop an understanding of how they are helping the ‘for profit’, while also enhancing their own mission.”

We hope to see the shift from sponsor to partner increase, as this is a great opportunity to create more meaningful relationships between corporates and community organisations and not for profits. When we see this shift begin, we “will start to see corporate support both grow and shift from largely sponsorship to partnership.”

InsightsBrian Steele