"...Because communication done well can be called art and because art is a beautiful form of communication that goes beyond any prejudice and constraint. Because It’s Art Darling, It’s Art!"

It’s Art darling, it’s Art !

by Anca Ungureanu


Company vs. Artist or Company and the Artist

Why do we fight for art? Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, being confronted with the proposal of suspending the financing of cultural projects during the Second World War in order to use the money for financing the army, replied eloquently: “If we don’t fight for art, then what do we fight for?”

Artists, curators, art critics and, generally, everyone who is involved in the creative process set out on the assumption of total independence from the economic realities of the moment, a necessary stance to support an independent and authentic speech.

On average, this premise is contradicted by the reality of implementing a project in public space. The needed financial support is, at large, provided by private companies and government institutions, this type of mechanism being functional especially in countries with an adequate cultural agenda. Taking into consideration the specific economic context, how should the initiators of cultural projects address the problem of financing so as not to imperil the project’s independence and, at the same time, to respect the values promoted by the sponsor? What do companies actually expect from those who seek their support and why are they motivated to get involved? Do they have economic reasons or is it about the image/brand joint venture?

Andy Warhol – Dollar Sign

These are a few questions that I will try to answer, tackling 4 points that I consider to be key for the relationship art project creator on one side and the sponsor on the other side.


Why companies do get involved in art?

I believe that art and culture are seen as a strategic resource that can bring and immense value and can generate new ideas that could be considered as the foundation for innovation, economic and social sustainable growth.

The conclusions of a 2013 OECD Study state that, even though there are no clear proofs of the impact that education in art has on the level of someone’s skills in general, the main reason why people should continue to study art is because of the effect it has on developing the creative mind in general.

I am not talking here about craft or technique, but about soft skills: attention to details, the need to exploring or think, the need to collaborate for a specific purpose, or the persistence in getting something done. The study also shows that the ones studying art phenomenon, either students or artists, also play an important role in the innovation process inside OECD countries (art graduates are frequently involved in design and product innovation for example)

There are 2 ways through which corporations invest in art: acquisition of art for their own art collections or sponsorship for art projects. Since the beginning of the 90’s, different studies have tried to highlight the companies’ motivations, and 2 important reasons came up: to build brand awareness and to diversify the investment portfolio.

2. ROI

What’s in it for the sponsor and how he uses the contemporary art project?

For a company, the difference between the art investment and art sponsorship is the existence of the tangible asset: the art itself. Its value on the long term can grow, while the investment in sponsorship relates more to the image and values association, and it involves extra investment, to communicate that particular project sponsorship for the general public.

The ROI in this case is difficult to be calculated, and it involves a really long period of time. The last thing a sponsor looks for, is to be a logo on a poster or a flyer. Of course this is important, too and it remains an important instrument for promoting the partners, but there are much more important things that matter. First is the simple association with the artistic and cultural act itself. Through that, the sponsor is communicating common values such as: the support for young talents, artists, the innovative approach and support for the artistic education of the society in general.

The most important things the sponsor gets is the good reputation. The ROI in this case can be measured through brand equity and reputation studies, recently through the “Passion index”, that can indicate in which ways such a platform can contribute to the brand’s image, likeability and visibility.

The most difficult thing is to link this to the customer preference or propensity to buy. The Sponsor actually uses the cultural platform to promote its own values to its customers and partners and also to the large public. Only a long term association, it can project in the public’s mind, the good image that the sponsors wants to create, which has to be a positive one, of course, and at the end of the day to put that brand on people’s shopping list.


How should Sponsors be approached?

The initiators of the art projects should balance 2 seemingly contradictory ideas: not to compromise the independence of their cultural act while at the same time respecting the values of the brand that is giving them the money. Before thinking who might sponsor your project, do your homework, search, search and search again. Don’t send out emails here and there, just because you’ve heard the company has money to invest. See who fits your project.

Always be aware of the “NOT” factors:
– art & culture projects should not have a strong political or ideological message that could be perceived as an initiative of the sponsor, since the companies that invest in this, would like to remain independent from any of the parties. If they do, think before sending it out.
– art & culture projects should not be aggressive and subversive regarding the social, economic and political realities, since the sponsor would like to remain independent towards any of these perceptions.
– art & culture projects should not send out any messages that are clear calls for violence.
– art & culture projects should not manifest a false community engagement, meaning not to respect the promises that are stated in “the reason why” they need the money. In order to reach their social objectives through the community investments projects, companies would like to work with generators of art projects that already took over the responsibility towards the community’s development. So think why you are doing it, what’s your community purpose? And if don’t have one at least be open about it.


What are the companie’s evaluation principles of the impact of art projects.

Well that’s not an easy task, especially since most companies in these days, look for projects that are more focused on the immediate needs of the society, or at least the medium term needs, have clear objectives and an evaluation mechanism.

Therefore companies want to see an improvement towards the evaluation of the impact of art projects. Studies demonstrate that companies don’t allocate more that 20-25% of their sponsorship budgets to art projects and in the last years this figure has dropped. Therefore companies are asking the art sector to develop new evaluation tools to measure the impact on the general public.

Because the funding sources are fewer and fewer, I believe a little bit of entrepreneurial thinking for the art entrepreneurs would be recommended.

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