A reputation for strong partnerships

30/07/2008 - 22:00


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The value art sponsorship can bring to the commercial sector is often underestimated by the broader business community.

A reputation for strong partnerships

The value art sponsorship can bring to the commercial sector is often underestimated by the broader business community.

Of those corporate players that do recognise this inherent value, however, Wesfarmers is making good use of the rewards that arise through sponsoring the arts, including company support in the community, long-term brand strategy, and staff retention.

Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder said there were great rewards for the company, starting with its reputation.

"It comes back down to reputation and we found that the contribution to the arts has a terrific impact on our reputation. In WA, we have made contribution to the opera, the ballet, and the orchestra, and the recognition that we get from that is fantastic; it makes it all worthwhile," he said.

Mr Goyder believes Wesfarmers' partnership with the arts improves the employer image of the company, and to a larger extent that of the state.

"Secondly, we think that having a vibrant arts community is very important for the whole society. And we think that, as a major employer in the city and state, you need a vibrant arts community to attract people," he said.

"And the third one is our people get a real spin-off from it; because of our involvement a lot of our staff are able to go to performances.

"We've had wonderful things at the art gallery where we had a couple of thousand people associated with Wesfarmers come to the brunches at the gallery and see the exhibitions."

Wesfarmers was named WA's best employer brand by the advertising and marketing industry in the latest WA Business News branding survey.

Mr Goyder said the arts was embedded in Wesfarmers' company culture, which brought an extra dimension to the business.

"It worked really well for us," he said.

Current Woodside and NAB chairman, and former Wesfarmers managing director, Michael Chaney, said there was no conflict between the expenditure of a company on community causes and its overall business operations.

"It is useful for a company. But in order for it to justify supporting the arts there has to be some corporate purpose, some benefit for the company, otherwise you shouldn't put yourself in a position where you're just engaging yourself in philanthropy for the sake of it because you're dealing with shareholders and company money," Mr Chaney told WA Business News.

"A well targeted support for worthy causes is very good for the company's reputation and engenders support in the community for the company and its activities for the company's benefit."

In 2007, Wesfarmers won the Australia Business Arts Foundation Partnership of the Year award, by a four-year deal to commission four new major performances between Wesfarmers Ltd and UWA Perth International Arts Festival.

Mr Goyder, who used to be on the board of the WA Symphony Orchestra, said interest from the corporate sector to be involved in the arts had increased significantly during the past decade.

"It just brings another element to what companies can do and what they contribute; it brings stimulation, enjoyment, I think we're going pretty well in WA at the moment, but we can always do more," he said.


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