Can the Corporate and the Creative go Hand in Hand?
Could a relationship
between business and the arts result in benefits for both? Fellows and
Associate independent correspondent Laura Brown investigates.
Art has a power to shift mindsets, inspire emotion and pull
on the heart strings. For many cities and communities their unique culture is what
enhances their brand and attracts visitor. Think of the giants roaming
Liverpool for Sea Odyssey in April or Lumiere in Durham; awe-inspiring and engaging events whose creativity attracts crowds with money to spend. It will
be even more apparent as the Cultural Olympiad continues, ushering cultural
events across the length and breadth of the British Isles.
Yet lavish events might be a thing of the past. Reduced
income streams and funding, smaller staff and a smaller vision; many in the
arts are looking to businesses to help support them in the future. The truth is that the partnership can offer as many benefits to companies as it can to arts
Increasingly, communities are looking to promote their whole
offer, and that includes business as well as the arts. Sharing skills and
expertise across sectors can only strengthen the offer, rather than diluting
Arts and community events are an opportunity to reach a
wider and new audience as well as developing a corporate social responsibility
programme that helps spread expertise within the locality.
The government described 2011 as the “year of corporate
giving”. Public funding for the arts, including heritage, theatre, visual arts,
music, community projects, opera and dance was cut. The strategy to ensure no
drop in artistic provision was to increase
philanthropy, for business to plug the gap, essentially.
However, Arts and Business, the charity which aims to
connect cultural organisations with donors, said that in 2010 – 2011 companies
gave £134 million to the arts, down £10 million on the previous year. However,
overall investment including money from private individuals, trusts and
foundations increased by £28.5 million to £686 million.
For some businesses, investing in the arts and developing a
partnership with the cultural sector is part and parcel of their approach.
Unilever, HSBC and Travelex, for example, have each partnered with institutions
like Tate Modern, the British Museum and National theatre.
So what are the benefits it brings?
Arts and Business argues that it
helps corporate institutions reach a sophisticated and targeted audience. The potential is there
to reach a new marketplace, one who might be engaged in more cultural pursuits
but still might benefit from a business. The charity conducts regular surveys
from organisations who invest in the arts. Their reasons for doing so include
Corporate Social Responsibility, marketing – i.e., profile raising, staff
engagement and charitable giving and investment, for example corporate art.
In terms of reaching new audiences and expanding into new
areas, like those frequented by arts and culture, organisations can help to develop
new partnerships and new ways of thinking. Creative organisations are often
used to getting the most out of their ideas with smaller budgets, an approach
that can always benefit the business sector. Corporate firms usually have a
good and proven track record in growing profits, something the arts is in need
The suggestion is that corporate investment in the arts, for
whatever motive, is beneficial for both sides. And yet it is dropping, leading
to the idea that either business is not convinced by the benefits of investing
in the arts, or that the benefits actually do not exist?
The recession and credit crunch have inevitably had a
negative impact on many businesses. If the percentage of arts giving is
tracked, it mirrors confidence in the economy; businesses feel they are doing
well, they increase arts donations and collaboration – they feel the pinch and
giving drops. This suggests that cultural investment is seen as a luxury, not
something that when budgets need to be cut should remain a fundamental part of
Business has to continue and thrive, if they are not
receiving the perceived benefits of arts investment, why should it continue
when the money available drops? If there is a real benefit for business in
investing in the arts, is the onus on the arts to prove it? Developing creative
partnership ideas, suggestions for collaboration and projects as well as a
method for measuring a return on investment and engagement, should arts be
approaching philanthropy in a much more structured way? One respondent to the
Arts and Business survey said, “we only engage in bespoke projects which will
help solve a specific business need, and the current economic outlook is unlikely
to impact this strategy” adding “investment in the arts will have to produce
more tangible business rather than be a community exercise...
marketing/sponsorship will be more important with the current situation.”
For cultural intuitions, investment in the arts is not seen
as a luxury but a must-have. For it to turn into a fundamental for business, the
current giving figures suggest that they still need convincing. Yet both sides
have faced battles in terms of the bottom line over the past five years. For
the benefit of both, arts and business can no longer be separate. Offering
business a new strand that is less corporate and more engaged with the
community on its doorstep can strengthen a brand and help showcase skills and
expertise. CSR is not simply about offering donations, but is more about
collaboration and partnership. It makes both sides of the coin more sustainable
and ultimately successful.