• Chantelle Jolliffe

Post-COVID leveraging advice for Sponsors: Lessons learned leveraging Arts and Culture Sponsorships

Updated: Apr 20

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

It is well documented in South Africa how hard the entertainment industry and the arts and culture sector was hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The knock-on effect was felt by brands sponsoring the sector. And while we know that COVID is not entirely behind us yet, we are seeing a shift toward normalcy for our industry. And while variants and waves may continue to impact us, it appears that the darkest days for live entertainment and events are probably behind us.

That being said, lots has changed, and one can't quite go back to what we were doing three years ago. Here's a rundown on the sponsorship strategies outlined by Power Sponsorship - https://powersponsorship.com/most-important-post-covid-sponsorship-strategies-sponsors/ - some of which we deployed on behalf of our clients or saw deployed here in South Africa. They contributed to getting Art sponsors through the worst of the pandemic and should continue to serve the industry in the future.

Have a Plan B, then do it anyway

  • If COVID taught us anything, it's that sponsors either need to have a Plan B or be agile enough to come up with one fast in case something goes wrong. Nimble sponsors found themselves…

  • Refocusing leverage on the remote audiences (because there were no in-person audiences), adding value to that remote fan experience

  • Creating leverage strategies to engage with fans, even when events were cancelled

  • Pro-actively creating new and exciting kinds of content around the properties while not getting super hung-up on production values because we had no choice

  • Whatever you sponsor, especially in arts and entertainment, there will always be more remote fans than fans on-site. Add value to them, and you'll increase your brand impact.

Always on leveraging is key; creating brand and fan benefits for much longer is a win-win

  • It would help if you were looking for exciting angles for content development, and it's more important that it's relevant and compelling than beautiful.

  • In good times and bad, demonstrating alignment with the audience should be a primary function of your sponsorship program. Build that alignment, and watch consideration, preference, loyalty, and advocacy rise.

  • Suppose your leverage plan incorporates all of the scrappy, creative, Plan B things we had to do to keep sponsorships delivering during COVID's darkest days. In that case, that will be a force multiplier for your results in the future. And suppose things do go pear-shaped, and the property's operations are impacted. In that case, you already have a strategy underway that will deliver consistent value to anyone who cares about the property.

Take a fan-centric approach

  • You sign a contract with the property. You get benefits from the property. But if you make the mistake of thinking that's the most important relationship in the equation, you're mistaken. The most important relationship in any sponsorship equation is between your brand and the audience.

  • With an almost total lack of in-person audiences for a good long time, sponsors learned that if they want to engage, align, and deepen relationships with fans, they need to take leverage straight to them, wherever they are. This shift in focus – where you can't delude yourself that you're thoroughly leveraging because a visible crowd of fans and the event are in the same place – forced sponsors to think about those broader fan experiences and centralise them in the plan.

  • Nothing else works if the audiences aren't the focus. And not fan data; I'm talking about actually understanding and driving Sponsorship through the fan experience and delivering real meaning through the Sponsorship. it's not about connecting your brand with the property, but connecting your brand with the fans in a meaningful way.

I love this advice shared on changing how you think about it by adopting this mantra: "Don't sponsor the property. Sponsor the fans." Simple but true.

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