Sponsorship - a problematic area?

27 September 2010 | By Cause4 staff

The past week has seen significant controversy and chaos surrounding the Commonwealth Games. To add to the general state of unreadiness, there are to all accounts issues concerning the recruitment of sponsors. A recent report carried out by Business Standard suggests that ‘several potential sponsors... did not make a pitch due to the negative publicity generated by the event,’ a view shared by Ogilvy & Mather National Creative Director Piyush Pandey. ‘With all the negativity that has been shown, sponsors have chickened out,’ she points out. Instead the wealth of sponsors and partners engaged in Melbourne (23) in 2006, Delhi has just 10. This has left the Games 71% short of its sponsorship target.

However, is it not just Delhi who are having problems regarding sponsorship revenue, it seems. It is unfair perhaps to provide comparison with the Football World Cup, whose brand has proved resilient to both the economic situation and any potential problems with hosting the event in South Africa. According to Nigel Currie, a director at the European Sponsorship Association, ‘Sponsors paid more for the 2010 World Cup - an 80-percent increase to some US$1 billion.’

However, issues around sponsors are notoriously difficult at present. The global economic climate has left many companies fearful of criticism from shareholders and customers. ‘The big sponsorship companies that we deal with are very sensitive to the fact that they don't want to be seen as frivolous,’ said Natalie Melton, of Arts and Business. Furthermore, an Arts and Business study carried out last year has highlighted particular problems currently faced by Arts organisations. It states that ‘arts sponsorship was most vulnerable (to the decline in sponsorship), compared to charities and sport.’

So where does this leave arts organisations – and indeed many others - currently seeking sponsors? In its blog, Cultural Branding, Arts and Business suggests that it is time to seek a ‘new era of collaboration between brands and culture where a mutual excitement about ideas forms the heart of the partnership, not a contract that sets out how many programmes a brand logo is going to be printed on and how big the logo placement can be on the posters.’ In other words, it seems time to jettison the term sponsorship and replace it with the word partnership and then to engage corporate organisations in collaboration, offering a role as co-developers, not one concerned merely with the buying and selling of services.

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