The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Mar 04, 2013

Winning sponsorships in the arts

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Laura Bruney, Arts & Business Council

Over 60 arts executives and corporate representatives gathered at the Adrienne Arsht Center this week to explore collaborations at the Arts & Business Councils Miami Arts Marketing Project program on corporate sponsorship.  In today’s economy and corporate landscape both sponsor and beneficiary must be sophisticated and savvy in how they create partnerships that work for both.  Sponsorship can be a valuable way for companies to engage with the arts, their patrons and audience but the real and perceived value to business is essential.

The day started with a case study of a unique and successful partnership between One Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the leading luxury real estate firms in South Florida and the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO). Mayi de la Vega, Vice President of the real estate firm discussed the project. Sotheby’s was opening a large new space on Miami Beach and wanted to make a splash. Based on their love of art and their close relationship with foundation executives, the ONE CIFO Project was born. ONE CIFO, a collaborative fundraising initiative, features an elegant gallery space in One Sotheby’s. The space showcases the work of emerging Latin American artists that have been nominated for a CIFO grant by the foundation's internationally recognized curators, artists and art professionals. The rotating exhibitions bring traffic and visibility to the real estate company and provide the opportunity for them to meet prospective new clients. The artists and the arts group have a prestigious space to showcase and sell their work to a unique and to build new collectors and members.  One Sotheby’s and CIFO listened to each other and designed a project that benefits both - a winning scenario.

Brett Friedman from Agency 21 was one of the programs featured speakers. His firm does sponsorship for the prestigious South Beach Wine and Food Festival. He talked about creating value in sponsorship packages by listening to your partners. Unfortunately, many arts organizations do not highlight the key benefits they offer to business when seeking sponsorship. Many of the proposals from arts organizations are well thought out and have a good sense of style but there is often something missing in terms of the value proposition. Too many are cookie cutter packages and not enough are customized to each potential sponsors marketing and corporate objectives.  Mr. Friedman stressed the value of a sponsorship is that it can achieve results for corporate clients that cannot be achieved from other forms of marketing.  He talked about sponsor opportunities with the festival and how they have grown and changed through the years. He also talked about underselling a sponsor – think beyond money. What other resources and assets might a business share with its nonprofit partner and how can that benefit both.

The one word lesson from the day was “listen”.  How can your arts group be an active listener:

  1. Ask prospects questions.
  2. What are their goals in partnering with your group.
  3. Explore the tangible and intangible benefits they might receive. Value is the key.
  4. Discuss the event and consider how you might work together. In addition to dollars, what other assets does the business have that they might share – marketing, promotion, in-kind and other
The most important part of active listening is the end result.  By listening you can tailor each sponsorship and customize benefits based on what you learned from talking to the client. Program facilitator Sonia Terboss from Creative Connections emphasized the importance of doing an Assets Evaluation of each of program, performance or event. The evaluation can help your group focus on your unique resources and how you can package them for business. What benefits have a value to business? Here are a few that were mentioned by the workshop panel:  opportunity to promote products or services and generate sales, chance to cultivate new customers or penetrate a demographic market, option to invite existing clients to special events, promotion that drives traffic to their business or their website, strategic branding partnership with your group, media coverage and ability to boost employee morale and retention with involvement in the event or program.

Successful collaborations create a win – win situation for both.  Ms. Terboss calls it a win – win – win. The arts group wins by getting sponsor dollars and other donations, the company wins by meeting its goals and the arts audience wins by staging better programs and events.

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