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ANALYSIS: Arts sponsorship paints a bright future for B2B brands

  A performance by the ROH on its  annual
 Royal Ballet Tour
There have been two announcements in as many months of top B2B brands sponsoring prestigious events in the arts. In March, Deloitte signed a five-year sponsorship deal worth £1.75 million with the Royal Opera House and four weeks later mining giant Rio Tinto announced it would be sponsoring the Royal Ballet Tour when it goes to China in June. In addition, to mark its third year as platinum sponsor, Accenture is set to be the season sponsor of the Northern Ballet Theatre's production of Romeo & Juliet in May at Manchester's Palace Theatre.

Peter Thomas, marketing & communications director at Accenture, believes arts sponsorship for B2B brands is a cost-effective way of reaching senior level decision makers. “Research we have undertaken proves the arts are a passion for many chief executives; we aim to have a balanced portfolio of arts and sports sponsorship to match the interests of our most important clients.”

According to figures from not-for-profit consultancy Arts & Business (A&B), businesses invested £171.52 million in arts sponsorship in 2006/ 2007 – an increase of £18.12 million on the previous year.

Colin Tweedy, chief executive of A&B, says, “Arts sponsorship is growing year-on-year – private sector money is starting to challenge public sector sponsorship.”

Increasingly, businesses are realising that sponsoring the arts can have international reach. Rather than only appealing to domestic audiences, more companies are setting their sights higher and gearing sponsorship deals to capture the attention of overseas markets.

  Poster from production
 of War Horse at the
 National Theatre, as
 sponsored by Accenture
Morgan Stanley's eight-month sponsorship of 'The First Emperor – China's Terracotta Army' exhibition at the British Museum has recently come to an end – a venture the company says has already attracted “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from clients, employees and community partners. A spokesman says, “We base our sponsorship decisions on how the event aligns with the brand and its current business focus – this exhibition shows our clients the company is active in China and committed to doing business there.”

Paul Skinner, chairman of Rio Tinto, believes its imminent sponsorship of the Royal Ballet Tour will play an important role in its long-term strategy. “China's economy is expanding rapidly and is an increasingly important consumer of the metals and minerals we produce. We hope to forge closer ties with China by helping to make the tour possible.”

Tweedy predicts the major players for future sponsorship in the arts lie in these markets. “China, India and the Middle East are likely to be major areas of sponsorship and this has already been tapped into by Rio Tinto and Morgan Stanley. More companies will begin to realise the importance of forging international links and political connections for the future prosperity of their business.”

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