Business and the arts
Last edited: September 20, 2012
Posted by Business and Arts South Africa
Business investments and sponsorship in the arts in SA have exceeded R400m in the past year and are expected to grow as more companies discover the benefits of targeting a niche group of clientele.
But industry sources say this figure could be a good deal higher as it does not include leverage or marketing spend, and that it may be slightly distorted by the fact that more than half of this money, R213m (54%), went into music.
A number of SA's big corporate investors say their involvement with the arts lends a particular cachet to the company, as does the associated marketing and branding.
"We have chosen the arts because it is a strong brand-building opportunity for us, and it allows our various business units to leverage these relationships," says Mandie van der Spuy, head of art sponsorship at Standard Bank.
Other than involvement in the visual arts through the highly respected Standard Bank Art Gallery in Johannesburg, the bank is a co-sponsor of the Grahamstown arts festival and the Joy of Jazz and is patron to a number of young artists.
"Our involvement goes back to the 1970s and this has given us a foothold in the arts," says Van der Spuy. "It has given us a strong presence and has been a sustainable investment."
This model has been followed by a number of other major corporations, several of which now have their names linked with some of the premier arts festivals and competitions in the country - Absa (sponsor of the L'Atelier Art Awards and now the naming sponsor of the Klein Karoo Kunstefees); Sanlam (through the Sanlam Arts Collection), Hollard Insurance (support for art research and visual arts sponsor); PPC (sponsor of the 21-year-old Young Sculptor Award, "Reimagine Concrete") and RMB (diverse projects through its Tshikululu Foundation).
Other companies are finding innovative ways of aligning themselves with the SA arts community.
For example, business insurance specialist Etana has gone into partnership with Business & Arts SA (Basa) and now sponsors a mentorship programme.
Anglo American also supports the programme, which allows senior managers and executives from some of SA's top companies to introduce better business skills and expertise into the arts sector.
Etana's Josie Holley says there are now more than 50 active mentors attached to as many art organisations. "We see this as an extremely important relationship and all 18 of our branches around the country are involved," says Holley. The company also pays for staffers to see one local production as a way of supporting SA arts.
Other companies are now appreciating the marketing potential of sponsoring some of the big international theatre productions that have been warmly received in SA. Four years ago Telkom dipped its toes into this area when it helped finance the SA staging of The Lion King.
The show went into extended runs and Telkom was so delighted with the collaboration (with Lebo M and Pieter Toerien) that it didn't hesitate to sponsor another hit, The Phantom of the Opera.
"We were really testing the waters with our sponsorship of these productions and our experiences were very positive," says Telkom's senior marketing & sponsorship manager, Braam Wessels.
Like other major sponsors, Wessels declines to say exactly how much was invested in the productions, but says independent tracking of the investments shows "phenomenal returns".
But investment in the arts still lags far behind sports sponsorship, which according to Artstrack, a research company, stands at almost R4,3bn in SA.
Much of Artstrack's research is conducted on behalf of Basa and made available only to its members.
But some of the data shared with the FM shows that in addition to this R4,3bn, companies spend about R2,5bn on leveraging these deals.
In comparison, of the R400m that goes into the arts, only about R94m is spent on leveraging.
In the current economic climate, as many as 70% of companies say this has affected their budgets .
One reason it's hard to quantify support for the arts is that a number of companies do not have dedicated funds for the purpose but use their marketing and social responsibility budgets .
It is also difficult to quantify the value that the association with the arts brings to a particular project.
But that is about to change.
This year Basa has devised a sponsorship management toolkit which allows SA businesses to measure the effectiveness of an arts sponsorship as a strategic part of any business.
The toolkit was designed by Michael Goldman, a senior lecturer in marketing at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, and has been enthusiastically received by business.
Etana and Telkom are already using it and the kit is said to be one of the most accurate measures yet of the returns on investment.
"This will allow businesses to get more bang for their buck," says Goldman. "It will show businesses exactly what their returns are and with this we can deepen and strengthen [corporate] investment in the arts."