Making sponsorship a work of art can deliver results to your company
Cultural sponsorships in Ireland struggled more during the recession than sports engagements - but they have recovered, with the potential to deliver real value to a corporate backer, writes Allianz CEO Brendan Murphy
It will probably come as no surprise to anyone to hear that the last seven years were quite brutal for Ireland's cultural community - with twin reductions in government funding and budget downsizing within the commercial sector creating a reduction in creative output, not to mention the less-well publicised adverse affect on economic activity.
Throughout Europe, the cultural sector contributes around 2.6pc of GDP, and it is no less impactful in Ireland. While a strong cultural sector delivers on all of the enormous enjoyment, identity and societal benefits we expect, it is also a vital contributor to economic activity and it is therefore in everyone's interest that it be supported and helped to prosper.
With over three decades in supporting a broad range and category of Irish and international, sporting and cultural initiatives, we in Allianz have first-hand experience of the particular difficulties the cultural sector endured throughout the recession.
But adopting creatively to change and becoming more business-like in its approach to both networking and ultimately funding, the sector has emerged resilient and is now in a good place - and fit to deliver on all its stakeholder requirements.
This is not just our view as title sponsor of the Allianz Business to Arts Awards over the last 15 years, but the conclusions of many of the arts and business participants who have actual experience collaborating together, generating benefits to their respective organisations and to the wider community of which they are part.
Their incredibly positive experiences are contained in the recently published Allianz Business to Arts research findings:
• Over 80pc of sponsors would choose an arts sponsorship over another type of sponsorship, because it creates unique events and experiences for stakeholders
• 68pc say arts sponsorship provides more engagement with customers than other types of sponsorship
• The most popular forms of activating sponsorships in the arts, festivals and music include creating bespoke events for clients and staff (75pc); branded signage and printed literature (73pc); staff engagement programmes (58pc)
• Of sponsors surveyed in 2016, 35pc report they will increase their spend
• Respondents were asked to nominate brands they felt were best-in-class in engaging with culture, and Bord Gais Energy, ESB, Jameson and Vodafone are among those identified
The findings are clear: supporting cultural initiatives is not a corporate social responsibility box-ticking exercise. If done well it can engage multiple audiences, increase brand awareness and connect customers to your brand.
But there are trends emerging that are worth monitoring.
Creating unique events and experience is key
Creating unique events/experiences is the main objective cited for cultural sponsorships, followed closely by increasing brand awareness and engaging customers.
When planning sponsorship activation, I recommend sponsors focus on the broader event experience rather than just focusing on the event.
Experience is more expansive than the event alone. It includes anticipation and memories, not just the audience's attendance.
There is an increasing tendency towards a portfolio of relationships and multi-annual relationships
Over 40pc of sponsors we surveyed have more than one cultural sponsorship and 40pc have multi-annual commitments to one partner.
We would recommend that sponsors focus on multi-annual relationships. Long-term tie-ins help create consistency for your brand and the results of the sponsorship should build year-on-year.
Marketing, digital & media activation is under-exploited
Recent years have seen a shift by sponsors toward creating bespoke events. While this will remain an important aspect of arts, festival and music sponsorships, we strongly believe that marketing, digital and media activation of sponsorships in recent years has been under-used.
While media monitoring and the level of customer and client attendance are frequently cited as measures of success, it is clear that very different measures may exist for every sponsor. Best-practice sponsors measure results against objectives which might be set by various departments across the company.
I would recommend planning your measurement activities at the same time as your sponsorship leverage activities, and involving more than one department in the process.
A recent report from Nielsen shows consumers reward organisations that work to support local communities. In fact, the report concluded that 50pc of customers surveyed were willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that have implemented programmes that give back to the community. The future rests on sponsors spreading their support across multiple initiatives with a keen eye on measurement. The cultural sector has empowered itself, and is now a critical channel to reach customers, making sponsorship into a work of art.
Brendan Murphy is CEO of Allianz Ireland
Sunday Indo Business