Monthly Archives: February 2014

Are You Taking Care of Business?

What a wonderful evening! Last Thursday, for the fourth edition of our free ‘Cultural Conversation’, business and arts leaders met and discussed the changing landscape of sponsorship in Scotland and the importance of arts and business relationships in the city.

For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a little bit of a round up.

Chaired by Stewart Aitken, AB+ Chair of Board and CEO of Aberdeen International Youth Festival, the event opened up the conversation about arts and its relationship to business.

The presenters for the evening were Tim Smith, Vice President Communications & External Affairs at BP UK, Elly Rothnie, Development Director at National Theatre of Scotland and Carl Watt, Project officer at Arts & Business Scotland, who kindly stepped in for David Watt.

Carl Watt, opened on the changing landscape of sponsorship in Scotland.  He noted that since the financial crisis hit some years ago that when larger organisation took a step back from sponsorship, an interesting development had occurred where SME’s and first time sponsors of the arts had started to recognise the value of sponsorship and stepped in to fill the gap; in many cases very successfully for both the arts organisation involved and the smaller to medium sized business.  He explained the Arts & Business Scotland role against this evolving backdrop and said that one of a number of focal points for the organisation had been to connect businesses that haven’t sponsored in the recent years with organisations looking for new sponsors, encouraging these businesses to get more involved in local communities.

He reminded everyone that sponsorship isn’t a donation, but more of an exchange and touched on the various scenarios of why a company would sponsor an arts organisation. He explained that businesses can use sponsorships to get closer to target markets, to create brand awareness or image association, to appear more innovative and creative, or to improve the poor company image.

He mentioned the importance of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and why businesses like to be associated with arts and cultural organisations. He explained that sponsorships with arts can play a key role in the staff personal development, encouraging them to be more active in the community and supporting the values and principles of the company.

Carl went on to outline ‘the real value of a sponsorship and said it isn’t the amount of money you need, but the value of what you can offer to the company, which is often way higher than the arts organisation expected. He concluded by encouraging arts leaders to define unique selling points (USP’s), to know their audiences and to think out of the box when it comes to what they offer to potential sponsors.

Tim Smith as the Vice President of Communications & External Affairs at BP started by explaining why businesses, and BP in particular, involve the organisation in the community and arts and culture. Some of the reasons were to give something back to the community, to attract talented staff, to give BP staff opportunity for growth by getting involved in the arts and culture, to differentiate BP from the competition and to invest in the ‘bank of goodwill’.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith

Tim talked about the 3C’s that drive the overall BP agenda: ‘Connecting through Culture, developing Capability and building Community capacity’. He then raised the question about what makes a good art and business partnership. He said that it takes a good understanding of each other’s objectives and of what you have for one another, a deep involvement and the establishment of a sustainable relationship.

And to the question of how to make a proposal stands out, he quoted what someone said to him one day when he went to pitch his proposal: ‘ Be clear, be quick, be gone’.

In this relaxed atmosphere, Elly Rothnie, Development Director at National Theatre of Scotland (NTS), started by explaining how her organisation made sponsorships work and gave some quirky examples. Talking about the NTS show ‘The strange undoing of Prudentia Hart’ show taking theatre into pubs and other unlikely venues, NTS managed to secure a sponsorship with Benromach Single Malt Whisky. Through this sponsorship, Benromach gained brand awareness by offering a wee dram of the whisky to the audience while NTS was able to ‘set the audience in the mood’.

AB+ Members in Discussion

AB+ Members in Discussion

Another example that Elly shared with us was the sponsorship by Mackie’s ice cream of one of the NTS shows called ‘The last polar bear’.

This show was billed as the UK’s first piece of carbon-light theatre with actors cycling from venue to venue on bikes, carrying sets and costumes, sponsored by Mackie’s.

This attracted a lot of attention on social media and fitted perfectly with Mackie’s aim to be the greenest company in the UK. Elly said the sponsorship worked on many levels and that the NTS provided Mackie’s with  ‘a great story to tell’, proving that sometimes we all need to think out of the box to develop quirky sponsorships and to show businesses how we can offer things money can’t buy.

After these three great presentations, raising the right questions and providing in-depth and fascinating answers, Stewart invited everyone to take part in a group activity. Working on two cases studies, audience discussed the relationships between business and the arts and cultural sectors.

Tim, Elly and Carl visited tables to offer expertise on sponsorship and business relationships.

This activity led to many discussions and offered lots of networking opportunities for the many AB+ members that were there.  All in all a really worthwhile and interesting evening and lots of excellent feedback from audience and presenters.

AB+ Members Network

AB+ Members Network

Please save the date for our next Cultural Conversation, Thursday March 20 for a lunch and learn with ‘Meet the media’ event.  Venue and timings to be confirmed but we’ll be in touch very soon!  In the meantime if you know of anyone who would be interested in these events please do drop us an e-mail to it is currently free to join our member mailing list.

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