🐍 The Slytherin's Guide to Sponsorship 🐍
I took part in the Bradford Literature Festival's first Cultural Industry Day. My particular 'cold take' for the sponsorship workshop follows below.
The crux of this presentation is - as Cause4's David Johnson put it - "speaking the same language". He was slightly more tactful than I will be. This is not about doing the right thing. This is about how to say what they want to hear. Less Gryffindor. More 🐍.
Private sector sponsorship can be seen as a lucrative alternative to public sector funding. But - and this is important - all that money is spoken for. Often years in advance. These companies know exactly where every penny is going to be spent. And each one of those pennies is ferociously guarded by a department; possibly even an external agency.
So how do you go about prying the pennies loose?
The first argument is that you reach lots of people. The challenge here: you're directly competing against the marketing budget. You'll put their logo in front of a thousand people! For the same amount of money, they can put it in front of ten thousand with Facebook ads. And before you scoff, how is putting their name on a brochure or in the back of flyer any more appealing? There needs to be a baseline - of course - but reach alone shouldn't be the crux of your pitch.
The second is much richer ground: you reach the right people. As an arts and culture body, you can connect with the audiences that sponsors would love to impress. Millennials. BAME communities. Children. (That last feels particularly Slytherin, but it needn't be - think about Change4Life and the good it does with sponsor funding). Other, non-demographic, markets are more easily reached through sponsorship than conventional marketing - teachers, for example.
That will take some research. As will the third: you do what they want to be doing. Every private sector partner has an agenda, and, with research, you can decipher it. Do they have a new brand mission, all about creativity? Are they releasing white papers about innovation? Did they kick off a TV campaign highlighting their local history? Your work could help them prove these points. The reverse is also true. Did they just move their headquarters to Frankfurt? Your work could help them soften the reputational blow.
And, of course, it is the right thing to do. Don't drop this entirely - that, and your own passion, are the big difference between you and a pile of Facebook ads. Use your story as the hook to draw them in, but emphasise how it is relevant to them.
There are also ways to shape your pitch to show how you won't cost much. Again, don't compete with their strengths: their marketing team exists to deliver reach (and brand-specific messages) on a carefully-negotiated budget. Where can you add value? It could be simple. Art in reception goes a long way. Creative workshops for their employees. Your venue for their AGM. David referenced a local theatre company that shared job listings for their clients.
The reverse is also true - what are ways a sponsor could help you that aren't cash? When you log into the wireless at every Caffe Nero, there's a little box with a hot tip from CyberAware. Terrific right-place/right-time media placement that helps achieve the campaign's goals and doesn't cost the partner a thing. That's a behaviour change campaign, butyou can see how a similar pitch for (free) (owned) media could help your Wider Engagement goals.
There are also some functional boxes you'll need to tick.
Show them that you know what you're doing. You have a process, you're staffed appropriately, you evaluate. It is boring, but a bit of Hufflepuff proves you're not a flake. This goes hand in hand with be easy to work with. Reassure them that you're a good way of spending their money.
Which all leads to a nice little pyramid (what's a planner without one?):
Goals / Audience
Value / Delivery / Ease
It is all a bit Maslow. Except, for 🐍's sake, spend most of your time talking about the middle bit.
The sponsor for the Bradford Literature Festival, Provident Financial Group, gave a talk on the same day, and nailed all the pertinent points. Why do they sponsor BfL? It reaches a wide national & international audience; it reaches an audience that PFG wants; it shows off PFG's local roots; it addresses last year's reputational issues; and, yes, it is the right thing to do.
Get: Artistic and cultural institutions
To: Reel in private sector partnerships
By: Talking less about themselves
The Bradford Literature Festival is brilliant, and there are still a few days left. I really, really enjoyed their professional day: training, access, networking, workshops... £7. A stark contrast to the prices of most conventions/workshops/masterclasses. My All-Irony Team will always be captained by the "Building Inclusivity in Publishing" workshop (£199, excl. VAT).
I am obsessed with the death of game worlds. A great piece on the weird 'digital ruins' of Second Life.
Emily Robinson on the nature, and very language, of "progress":
The idea of progress remains powerful. We need to think about what this does, particularly in a context where our means to achieve it, whether individually or collectively, are in doubt. It is no longer clear, for example, that each generation can expect a higher standard of living than their parents... Lauren Berlant has called this a state of ‘cruel optimism’, where our attachment to increasingly unobtainable markers of ‘the good life’ has become an obstacle to self-fulfilment. (RSA Journal)
I'm in Newcastle next week for the NWG Innovation Festival - fandom and loyalty and brands and such. And the dress code is casual.