The halcyon days of corporate hand-outs are largely long gone, and at the risk of sounding controversial or incurring the wrath of my fellow producers, performers, venues and theatrical companies everywhere, I say good.
Why should a business risk their hard-earned profits on the arts?
I will get the traditional responses out of the way immediately. The arts nurture community spirit, improve wellbeing, stimulate audiences, arouse creativity, provoke thought and, quite importantly, they entertain.
All true, and all relevant but I can almost hear business people shouting at their screens, ‘very nice Nick, but what’s in it for me and my company?
And they are quite correct to do so. The arts have to give back, we cannot be guilty of holding one hand out for money while closing the door with the other. We have to engage our sponsors, show what we can do for them, and prove that investment in the arts is a credible, worthwhile and profitable exercise, not just a begging bowl.
We have to put on shows that reflect well upon the businesses and individuals that support us, and that means speaking with sponsors that will suit the production, not just having a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to get to know them, who are they trying to attract or impress, what do they want from the deal?
As producers, we are guardians of their reputation, and we must do everything possible to make our supporters look wonderful.
Of course we can offer social media support, provide posts and blogs for websites, ‘engage with their clients’ and re-Tweet like demons, give comp tickets, put up their banners and hand-out their flyers.
But we need to deliver on our part of the bargain, to our contribution to the business side of the relationship. We must, must, must offer a return on their investment, whether it’s a tangible increase in sales or a growth in awareness, a client introduction or simply a great night out.
So, when a potential sponsor asks ‘what’s in it for me?’ we can give them actual proof of ROI, not just fluffy platitudes.