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Business and the arts

Falling Back to Earth exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang. Photo: Jeff Camden.

Jacinda Tutty, Big business are driving a big shift in arts partnerships, The Courier-Mail, 28 August 2015

Andy Warhol’s colourful paintings and outlandish lifestyle were in part sustained by celebrities such as Mick Jagger and John Lennon. Michelangelo’s greatest patron was Pope Julius II. Even Leonardo da Vinci was bankrolled by the King of France.

History is full of artists with generous and wealthy patrons. But fast forward to the present day and the next generation of creative influencers are being supported be a new breed of benefactors – big business.

Businesses with a keen eye toward burnishing their brands and reputations are realising the value of aligning themselves with the arts, pledging support for artists, exhibitions, stage shows and festivals.

However, where corporations would have once handed over a cheque in exchange for a few free tickets and a strategically placed logo, the bridge between arts and business is becoming a lot more innovative.

“There’s a much bigger expectation on deliverables for a sponsor or partner,” Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art assistant director of development and commercial services Tarragh Cunningham says.

“Traditionally, sponsors were about major exhibitions where they would come in, get their logo on the wall, their name in the program and speak at the opening. End of story.

“But now we’re seeing a lot of longer-term partnerships that are not so exhibition specific.

“They’re more interested in the whole package, whether it’s event planning, networking or social media coverage … it allows the sponsor to think bigger and really see the benefit and opportunities from aligning their brand with the arts.”

Even deciding which arts to support has changed. In the past, corporate big wigs would point their finger at artists or organisations they liked and pledged philanthropic support.

But with an increasing shift towards leveraging brand opportunities from partnerships, the decision-making process has become a lot more sophisticated, often involving rigorous research by advertising and brand specialists.

“The trend is much more towards it all happening through ad agencies,” Creative Partnerships Australia chief executive Fiona Menzies says.

“Branding companies are now saying: ‘This is where you need to pitch yourself, these are the kinds of ads you should be doing, this is what your brand should look like and these are the kinds of things you should be sponsoring and connecting yourself to’. It’s a lot more than just cash just changing hands.”

Businesses are increasingly leveraging their shared sense of style and values with like-minded artistic ventures. For the audience, seeing a brand’s support can often reaffirm their own sense of taste and refinement while the business reaps the benefits of increased brand awareness and a borrowed aura of credibility.

“Its more than just going to a show and getting a bit of corporate hospitality – those days are well and truly past,” Menzies says.

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