Arts sponsorship

Arts organisations need to take a more businesslike approach to secure funding, however, creativity and lateral thinking still play a vital role.

p Catie Low

THE spate of corporate collapses of late has served as a timely reminder of the arts’ reliance on the private sector in the face of an ever shrinking public purse.

Combined with the tourism slump triggered by the September 11 attacks in the US, the sector is facing some very tough decisions.

However, the days of approaching the private sector with cap in hand have almost disappeared.

For smart arts organisations partnerships are about developing a business case that provides real value for the arts organisation and the private sector

Craftwest executive director Lynda Dorrington said a business case approach had the net result of placing a value on an arts organisation.

“The end product is to put artists into the community in a self-funded way and that needs to be demonstrated by arts organisations,” she said.

Partnerships are not restricted to major corporations or big business, some of the most innovative partnerships involve small, creative businesses.

“I think arts organisations going for funding need to think in a far more lateral way – they have to demonstrate the value (of the arts) to other sectors in the community,” Ms Dorrington said.

While sport has been far more successful in attracting big name sponsors, the commercial arrangements that go hand in hand with these types of partnerships don’t always translate easily to the arts sector.

Many arts organisations struggle to fit a commercial arrangement into their profile.

“A lot of arts organisations think that’s not what we do … it’s their perception of what they are,” Ms Dorrington said.

“It’s a win-win for both parties … we’ve partnered with the Department of Industry and Technology, which is outside our normal sphere, yet it will result in an export product line.

“We’re a bit different because we’re designed to work on the edge between art form delivery and potential manufacturing link.”

And sponsorship arrangements are not just about identifying valuable partnerships – longevity is an important part of the equation.

Arts organisations need to form long-term partnerships that allow both parties to genuinely look to the future and map out a long-term strategy, rather than working on

the old handout basis, where contracts and funding agree-

ments are renewed annually.

V3 manager WA Shane Crockett claims market research into the role women play in major purchasing decisions is driving investment back into the arts sector.

Sport, however, has remained dominant in a marketing capacity because of the potential for mass exposure on television.

“Sport has always had to give value through television and the arts have always been stung by that,” Mr Crockett said.

“The arts community is starting to realise you have to factor value in beyond the sponsorship and getting product rights so there’s actual value.”

Essentially, arts organisations need to look at sponsorship as a business-marketing tool rather than as an act of corporate citizenry.

Market research has identified that women represent a significant proportion of major purchasing decisions.

Toyota have responded to this research and altered its marketing strategy to focus on this substantial slice of the market.

“They’ve also taken a lot of advertising in women’s magazines and moved into the arts world,” Mr Crockett said.

Figures release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal investment in the arts has increased significantly over the past three years, from $29 million in 1996/1997 to $118.5 million in 1999/2000.

The 1997 figures were just cash support and there are some differences in the methodology used but even so there’s a substantial increase in business support for the arts.

Australian Business Arts Foundation deputy executive director Brian Peck said support for the arts was a major way through which businesses could demonstrate corporate responsibility.

“The arts play an important role in the community and in building a civil, sustainable society,” Mr Peck said.

“And at a practical community level the arts can enhance educational outcomes, foster skills and improve race relations.”

Australian Capital Equity art curator John Stringer believes talented art producers are not necessarily skilled when it comes to marketing their work.

“Companies have large human resources as captive audiences and if you can get the two things (business and the arts) together, success is very likely,” Mr Stringer said.

“I could envisage a situation where a company positions itself closely with a performance body and the result is staff get invited to performances and rehearsals.

“I guess what it comes down to is who within the company or on the artists’ side should be making the connections.”

It’s all about developing a catalyst that can access people and push the promotional wagon.

In the field of visual arts, Mr Stringer maintains that commercial galleries are an example of this mix.

However, Mr Stringer also has played an important role in a group called the Collectors Club.

This small nucleus of people – all well informed in the visual arts –have helped individuals set up art collections.

“We’ve set up a body to show people their way around the gallery circuit and give them an entree to those areas,” Mr Stringer said.

“The long-term benefit as I see it is, if you live in a big place like New York, the wonderful collections all come from the private sector.”

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