Companies No Longer Want To Sponsor Simply For The Exposure

The most recent issue of Arts Management Newsletter has a translation of a piece written by Wolfgang Lamprecht about the death of corporate sponsorship.

Citing the number of corporations disengaging from their support of a host of international venues and events, Lamprecht says the days of sponsorship as publicity is past. The value of sponsorships to a corporation needs to be framed in different terms.

Just as many artists are rebuking job opportunities that provide “exposure” as the only stated benefit, so too are companies no longer interested in arrangements that simply puts their logo in front of eyeballs.

Here’s the thing: today, entrepreneurial cultural engagement is less about image or about customer loyalty than it is about the central asset of trust. Our current crisis of confidence cannot be overcome with programs for the needy, nor by logo placements.


Art and culture have the particular advantage that, on the most part, they generate a basic element of trust. Trust and confidence are crucial for securing the stability and legitimacy of the economic system, but they must be produced discursively. The disadvantage of culture lies in the fact that art and culture are viewed as being marginally important and therefore have to fight for their social relevance.

Lamprecht notes that as the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has gained currency, it has expanded to encompass the concept of Corporate Cultural Responsibility (CCR). He takes pains to emphasize that “CCR is therefore part of the social (= societal, not charitable) responsibility of a company.” So conversations soliciting support should focus more on social good and responsibility versus charity and tax benefits.

Of course, this also means that the organization soliciting the support needs to make sure they present an image that embodies cultural asset.

In short, cultural engagement of a company has to follow the belief that the support of arts and culture is not simple fun and communicatively truly brings all that which impact research and marketing departments have so eagerly argued for in the past (image, customer loyalty, employee motivation, etc.). Above all, it is an important contribution to social responsibility that a company should, if not must, provide to maintain a balanced and civilized society, as well to the long-term sustainability of its own success.


The goal remains the same: against the backdrop of a massive lack of trust through saturated markets and products that are similar, corporations are, in the competition for clients, forced to approach their stakeholders differently than by common means. CCR presupposes the desire to stand out from the competition and, particularly in the field of corporate communication, to secure confidence, competitive advantages and verifiable income. The following measures have been defined for CCR: corporate sponsoring, corporate giving, corporate secondments / corporate volunteering, events, cultural commissioning, product-/image placement, cause-related marketing, public private partnerships, impact investments.

My only concern with this approach is that it starts to smack of artwashing/culturewashing and greenwashing. An arts organization can damage their image long term by having an association or accepting a gift from an unsavory individual or company. It would be worse if they were perceived as openly courting anyone who wanted to remove a blemish on their reputation.

Something Lamprecht wrote seemed to suggest this approach should be used with individuals as well as companies.

“…a key advantage of the model described here is no longer the need to decline and perpetuate the terminologically worn demarcations (CCR measures) between sponsorship, patronage, donations, etc. as a prerequisite for entrepreneurial legitimacy of individual cultural support measures.”

If individuals are not widely solicited for support in Austria, I may be misreading this to suggest that the idea of social responsibility should be applied to all efforts to garner support, including individuals. I know from reading other pieces in the Arts Management Newsletter that fundraising in Germany is conducted in a different manner than in the US. It may be similar in Austria where Lamprecht works.

But it is interesting to consider that rather than saying individuals donate and corporations sponsor, a single term and rationale for giving might be used.

Is there any benefit to trying to recast the rationale for why an individual in the US should donate? My impression is that different people are motivated to donate by different arguments. But if you change the message from donate to help a poor child experience art (charity) to donate to help a child develop into a better cultural citizen (social responsibility), is that better?

My suspicion is that “cultural citizen” will work with foundations and governments whereas “charity for the under served” is more compelling to an individual. But maybe I haven’t thought of the right terms yet.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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