Arts Sponsorship -- Advertising in Tough Times

By Tokyo Sinfonia Music Director Robert Rÿker

Advertising in tough times

Performing arts sponsorship is big business. Despite the gloomy economy and impending recession, corporations continue to spend on arts sponsorships.

The performing arts—orchestras, ballet, opera, theater—generally attract sponsorship by some very serious companies and patrons. The more prestigious the arts group, the larger and more costly are its productions; and the larger and more serious are the sponsors who choose to be associated with them.

These are companies and individuals who have the ready counsel of accountants, lawyers and cost efficiency experts. So it follows that there must be some significant rationale to justify such a cost for what appears to be corporate social responsibility with added PR.

Prosperity and longevity for a company rely not only on the products and services it sells, but also on the value of its marketing. So why, and for whom, might it make solid sense to link your company’s public image to the ballet, the opera, the theater or any other number of performing arts organizations?

Producing great widgets, or being super with figures is not enough to ensure prosperity for your business, or even its survival. Applying effective ways to make sure the world knows about your products or skills is key. That’s what corporate marketing, advertising and public relations are all about.

Money spent on marketing and advertising may reach a vast amount of people, but what if the audience feels no sense of attachment to an advertiser’s product?

Money spent on marketing and advertising may reach a vast amount of people, but what if the audience feels no sense of attachment to an advertiser’s product? As an orchestra conductor, I am aware of the typical classical music listener—intelligent, educated, discriminating and reasonably affluent. The audience is with us for two to three hours—there is plenty of time for them to peruse the contents of the printed program and naturally note any banner or advertising displayed inside.

Picture with me, if you will, the people in the audiences for performances I conduct with the Tokyo Sinfonia, and by extension those of other orchestras, ballet, opera and theater companies. The typical listener is intelligent, educated, discriminating, and reasonably affluent.

Those people are with us for some two to three hours. Consider too that they have reason and plenty of time to peruse the contents of the printed program. They naturally note any banner or display advertising.
They are certainly conscious of the sponsor(s) of the program, and the relationship of the sponsor to the orchestra.
Why? Because in part the sponsor’s support makes it possible for us to keep ticket prices to reasonable levels which will allow our audiences to afford to be there.
These are belt-tightening times for families, and tough times for companies. Certain companies will prosper during these times though: companies that provide people with essentials they need or want, in a cost effective way. Companies offering food, clothing, transportation and entertainment of good quality at affordable prices, for example, will inevitably do well.

I believe that this period will work favorably for my orchestra too, for the Tokyo Sinfonia is a uniquely compact, competent and competitive operation.

From constant consumer feedback— comments from our audiences—we know that Tokyo Sinfonia events are perceived to be of high quality, distinctly attractive, and powerfully engaging. Our programs include a range of special products (concert repertoire) and presentation techniques unique in the world. Our concert venues are prestigious locations in the heart of Tokyo. Due to its compact size, moreover, the Tokyo Sinfonia is cost-effective and portable.

It’s the kind of association that benefits retailers such as moderately upscale fashion, accessories and cosmetics companies, department stores and automobile manufacturers. Also, restaurants, airline companies, travel agencies, hotels, wealth management consultants and others serving our upscale audience demographic can find a relationship with the orchestra of real monetary value through branding.

In times of economic downtown, the wheels of commerce keep turning and advertising remains part of the equation. Sponsorship of the arts is more than CSR—it’s a business transaction. Affordable entertainment becomes even more important when the belts remain tight. JI

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