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Is sponsorship a good investment?

18th Apr 2019
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Tate Britain Art Gallery in London

Whether at the Tate's Van Gough exhibition or at the Master Tournament, the names of various accounting firms have been catching the eye in the last few days.

At Tate Britain at the moment, EY is sponsoring the wonderful Van Gogh and Britain exhibition. Although about half of the paintings on display are by other artists, since the curators are keen to establish the influence that the great Dutch artist had on his successors, not to mention some of his own sources. There are many wonderful exhibits that Londoners will probably never have seen before.

While Starry Night on the Rhône, L'Arlésienne, which is usually housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris might be familiar, there is a beautiful, quiet prison yard scene, not to mention various stunning portraits and even a pair of boots that will please any fans and should convert many others to the cause.

Strangely, EY seem to care little about supporting the brand regarding this fantastic marketing opportunity. Its website is still advertising a Tate exhibition from 2017.

On Sunday, while Tiger Woods was re-establishing himself as a Major champion, at least two of his challengers were sporting prominent advertisements for our industry. The man in black Phil Mickelson has long been an advocate for KPMG, while Rickie Fowler has Grant Thornton emblazoned on his tasteful orange clothing.

A brief exploration of major practices’ websites demonstrates that these firms are not alone. On a much smaller scale, Deloitte sponsors the Women’s Prize for Fiction and PwC is also majoring on the arts, sponsoring young people to go to the Old Vic.

This begs the question as to the benefits that sponsors are trying to derive as a result of plunging what can be millions of pounds into such ventures.

It isn’t difficult to see that if you sponsor Phil Mickelson and he is on the TV pretty consistently for three or four days you will establish greater name recognition and association with a good guy.

One imagines that EY take lots of swanky clients to the Tate, where they have been long-term sponsors, which is great if you like pandering to arty types.

Getting a box at a football stadium is not so much a sponsorship as an opportunity to entertain your clients and, quite often more significantly, yourself.

There is every chance that most readers will never have considered sponsoring anything or anybody, other than their son or daughter’s pony. Persuading your partners to hand out money with no guarantee that there will ever be a return is bad enough when it comes to the marketing budget but for something as amorphous and vague as the benefit to be derived from sponsorship, it is that much harder.

Perhaps the key is to get it right, which is never guaranteed. If you happen to sponsor a sports team that wins a major competition that might well gain immense publicity.

While this columnist was working at PKF, it was the shirt sponsor for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. The day that the team won the County Championship, the firm received an unexpected bonus of coverage on the front pages of all of the broadsheets capped by a few seconds of glory on TV.

In many cases, it may well be that the underlying reason for sponsorship is an attempt to create the right image of a business as being interested in softer things like people and the arts rather than solely the cutthroat world of money.

Many will be unconvinced by this argument and prefer to keep the money in the bank. The big question is whether they will be missing out on business generation opportunities by doing so.

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By TaxTeddy
24th Apr 2019 10:15

My wife (a marketing consultant) has a favourite story about the effectiveness of sponsorship. The client was ecstatic that his company logo was showing on the left-hand sponsorship board when the winning World Cup goal was scored. But he couldn't name which company was showing on the right-hand board. Says it all really.

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