‘The Sponsorship Handbook’ flags at the start that sponsorship is a “relatively young marketing discipline” and that the industry may not yet have enough published examples of best practice and successful case studies to validate its worth. Compiled by two leading sponsorship professionals, the book is an entreaty to learn from their experience and not repeat their mistakes. Written in an accessible style, it’s split into two main sections: one for sponsors and the other for sponsor seekers (arts fundraisers would be well-advised to read the ‘opposing’ chapter to gain an insight into potential supporters’ ways of thinking). Sponsorship will never be forthcoming just because money is required; there has to be an exchange of benefits which are mutually beneficial, and this book showcases some of the best.
Although most of the examples used are not from the arts sector, there’s still much to learn, including the use of creativity in sponsorship to reach target markets. My favourites included sponsored in-flight snacks to target business people, and a beer amnesty at music festivals whereby other brands brought in by festivalgoers – and therefore warm – could be traded in for ice-cold Carling. The sections on evaluation techniques, particularly the asset checklist, deserve to be well-thumbed, and the handy icons highlighting key information would make it useful to dip into as a reference guide once the initial read-through is completed.
However, the over-riding message of this book is that sponsorship is becoming ever more sophisticated in this multi-channel world. Whether all arts organisations – and indeed their sponsors – are ready for that seismic shift is debatable. The book discusses the negative impact of unsustainable ‘vanity sponsorships’; in the past we undoubtedly benefited short-term from, say, a dance production being sponsored simply because the chairman’s wife happened to like ballet. The authors suggest that, on the whole, the sponsorship industry has moved through those days, and now works to robust methodologies. But, in my experience, many arts companies, outside the biggest names, are still overlooked for precisely the same reasons: the sponsorship manager favours rugby, or seeing money going into school literacy programmes or gardening for the disabled – worthy causes though they are. Vanity sponsorships still persist; only nowadays decisions often work against us.
Outside the major conurbations – or arguably just outside London – corporate sponsors often do not have a detailed strategy or comprehensive research into their target markets, so my suggestion is this: buy a copy of this book, read it and then send it on to your hottest prospect. Sit back and let it percolate. Approach them in six months and you’ll probably have more success.
Sarah Gee is the Managing Partner of Indigo Ltd and has directly raised over £50m for arts organisations over the past 15 years, most recently leading the fundraising campaign for the refurbishment of mac Birmingham.