The Arts are a terrific opportunity for corporate involvement: access to artists and VIPS, exposure to a well-educated (and generally wealthy) demographic, hospitality for both customers and employees. In terms of return on investment corporate sponsorship is just about the most impactful marketing play a company can make while at the same time appearing altruistic and supportive of community, families, and the greater good.
Fantastic. Now I am going to tell you something else that you already know about your local arts organization.
The public recognition to arts sponsors is trivial, insignificant, uncreative, trifling. And you arts people don’t want to hear it. You do not want to hear about your Ugly Baby. If I walk into your venue and cannot immediately realize that a corporation has sponsored you meaningfully I am puzzled. Imagine now that it was my marketing investment, my $10,000 to sponsor the evening.
My home city of Indianapolis hosted the Final Four of college basketball recently, and town was awash in corporate bling at every corner, including a giant billboard for Coke Zero that actually spit out the beverage for consumption and rolling car billboards promoting some fast food monstrosity known as “chicken fries.”
The best and most effective recognition I witnessed was at a family friendly Three Point and Dunk contest, made for ESPN. A group of volunteers in matching sweatshirts swapped out old school vinvyl banners for each segment of the contest, so that all the participating brands got visible, simple, and high impact recognition for both the 10,000 in attendance and the audience at home. Denny’s cares about athletes but also wants return on investment. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
What did this non-digital, old school activation cost? Very little. Vinyl customized banners are getting cheaper and cheaper with digital production and even Kinko’s can produce full color editions that look great and don’t cost too much.
Why should you care? Why shouldn’t you? Corporate sponsorship is increasingly a fight for general marketing dollars as true “corporate philanthropy” disappears or is focused on niche areas. Vinyl banners are recognizable, tasteful and have high impact. They are inexpensive, easy to set up and take down for a small staff, and make terrific souvenirs for the sponsoring company (or can be re-used for the series, season, etc.).
What then is the hesitation of offering significant marketing exposure to our corporate partners? Why do you want to keep the logos in black and white (and often too small to read)? Why would anyone invest precious marketing resources in this way?
It has to be one of two reasons. Hubris or Laziness. That’s all I can figure. Hubris, thinking our True Art is so precious that it would weaken or cheapen the artistic integrity of our work to hang a banner or two in the lobby. Too often, we are so high and mighty about our product we cannot dream to cheapen it with a corporate association.
Or laziness, that we lack the manpower, budgets, concern or willingness to adapt to a changing market that simply won’t intrinsically see the benefit of a vague and quiet association with “world class performance.” You don’t have $500 to promote a $10,000 relationship? That’s a recipe for going broke, fast.
Sponsorship is changing in the United States. Those dollars are the hardest to win for any organization. Every proposal you advance is competing against exceptional organizations with excellent ideas and delivery. Instead of whining about how hard it is to get sponsors, do something about it this year. Go to the minor league ballpark and see how hard they work to recognize sponsors. What idea can you steal wholesale?
Over deliver. Be creative, bold and fun. Go Big. That Baby deserves it.