The Value of Arts and Culture Sponsorship


Photo by Yi Liu on Unsplash

With arts & culture sponsorship becoming more common globally, we explore what makes these types of partnerships appealing to brands. 

Sponsorship presents a range of benefits for a brand, with it steadily becoming one of the fastest-growing marketing communication tools, yet there is a clear distinction between sponsorship and activation across arts & culture and sports properties.

Although investment levels are still a long way off that experienced in other entertainment spaces, data shows that sponsorship within the arts sector has risen consistently over the past 20 years, with non-sport sponsorship increasing by almost 4% in 2022. Brands are now understanding how valuable supporting arts and cultural entities can be, but how does it fare to more traditional sports sponsorship and what are the key differences?  

1. Value 

Sponsorship of the arts is typically viewed as being a more cost-effective form of sponsorship than any other. With the price of sport sponsorship ever rising, particularly in football, more brands are looking to allocate marketing budget in a more sustainable manner across channels which offer a greater ROI. 

2. Tangible Legacy and Longevity 

With the ever-changing nature of sport and the arts and culture scene being more of a mainstay, arts partnerships tend to have sustained, year-round impact, exemplified well by EY’s partnership with Tate Modern and Britain, lasting over a decade. In comparison, sport, although short-term and/or seasonal in nature, does provide fans with more ‘peak’ or memorable moments. 

3. A Meaningful and Bespoke Partnership 

An arts and culture venue will naturally lend itself to the creation of an authentic and bespoke partnership in which the sponsor is able to align with specific programmes with a clear goal, such as Bloomberg’s partnership with the Roundhouse London to uncover the next generation of creative leaders. This trend has been further underlined by the re-evaluation of the sponsorship narrative over recent years by brands seeking to incorporate a deeper sense of purpose that will resonate with a captive audience. Overall, this has the potential to generate strong engagement levels with the brand, coupled with higher cut-through, although sport will always have one key advantage; powerful emotional connections that are forged with fans. 

4. CSR Strategy Alignment

CSR programmes within sport are becoming more important, with teams and organisations now taking key topics such as sustainability seriously, with the Paris 2024 Olympics promising to be ‘climate positive’ and leading rugby and football clubs often having a Foundation in place to serve the local community directly. 

Programmes within the arts can often provide natural extensions of existent brand CSR programmes, thus further strengthening their credibility and impact, whether the aim is to increase outreach into the community or offer a pathway into the creative industry for young people. The partnership between the National Gallery and Santander serves as an example of effective CSR alignment – Santander not only supports the gallery's exhibitions and education programs but also demonstrates the brand's dedication to promoting access to art for all. 

5. Audience Targeting 

A key point to consider is the audience a brand seeks to target. Often, the arts can offer a brand the opportunity to target a truly diverse audience, especially in the case of multi-use venues such as Aviva Studios, which will not only see concerts but also an array of art exhibitions, theatre shows and community programmes. Furthermore, statistics show that arts attendees in the UK are more likely to be professionals with higher incomes.  

6. Dwell Time 

Arts and culture sites have the potential to benefit from their visitors enjoying a longer dwell time, thus brands can engage audiences throughout the day, both from an exposure point of view but also through co-curated activations and product integration. In contrast, sport can be viewed from anywhere and as such the brand can still enjoy many benefits. 

7. Credibility and Brand Reputation 

Given increased levels of governance (as enforced by bodies such as the Arts Council) as well as thorough ethical review processes across all forms of brand engagement, you can be certain that an arts partnership will place you amongst a highly credible network of brand sponsors. In contrast in sport, often due to increased price points and the majority of broadcast audiences coming from other markets, it is the brands with the highest budgets that assume major sponsorship positions. This is exemplified by the prevalence of Betting brands and the emergence of Crypto sponsorships in sport.

8. Share of Voice 

Often, sports sponsorships present a cluttered market, with a higher number of brands partnering with the same property. Thus, brand partners may find that their impact is lost or diminished, however often the reach of such a partnership is greater. For any brand to achieve cut-through, The Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship cites experiential activities that provide fans with genuine touch-points to engage with brands as being the most effective driver for achieving long-lasting brand equity. 

Having worked with major venues such as The Lowry Theatre and Aviva Studios in Manchester and Soho Place in London, alongside a wide-ranging network of Sports property clients, Mongoose has observed first-hand the value arts & culture sponsorship presents. Although sport sponsorship will remain an important and effective facet of marketing strategies for brands, arts and culture sponsorship has undoubtedly become an effective channel for brands targeting more specific audiences and seeking a deeper connection with them. However, the challenge still remains for arts sponsorship to move away from philanthropic endeavours and towards a mature sponsorship model. 

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