Sponsorship in CSR – Is it effective or a ruse?
15th August, 2016
Some of the biggest players in the sponsorship market are either moving away from traditional sporting platforms or are bolstering their CSR policies with social and cultural sponsorship. CSR used to be about managing areas that a brand could twist in their favour to generate positive headlines and is typically solely focused on public image. It could be said that some brands simply invest into platforms as they think it will make them look like they are making a difference.
With the increased focus on the environment, businesses are invested in embedding the sustainable, charitable, cultural and social sponsorship in their CSR policies. This can bolster their offering and help increase customer loyalty, public perception and employee engagement.
The primary objective of sponsorship in this space is generally not to drive revenue for the brand, but this can of course happen. In essence, these CSR policies are used to communicate to the wider audience that the business i.e. Banks, Oil Companies and Hedge Funds are giving back to the community and the wider ecosystem.
A large majority of CSR sponsorship takes place geographically close to the sponsors HQ. The main reason for this is so the brand can be seen to be involved with its local community and help encourage local or smaller not for profit businesses. Brands will also use these sponsorships to encourage employees to partake in wholesome activities to enrich their lives and ultimately, for effective employee engagement.
But can sponsorship within CSR actually make a difference to public image of the brand, benefit the rights holder and, in turn, help the wider community?
A perfect example of how this can backfire is BP’s recent withdrawal from sponsorship of their 27 year relationship with the Tate Gallery.
From the very beginning the partnership was tainted with regular protests and criticism. It was difficult to see how BP were involved with these institutions other than to try to improve public perception of the company. A company that is seen to only care about profits and continually harm the environment.
It was revealed that BP’s financial contribution to the gallery was between £150k-£330k per year, and their main reason for withdrawal was due to tightened budgets. So, it can be forgiven that the public didn’t really see this as a real reason when in 2015 BP’s CEO was awarded a $1.4m cash bonus! In this case, it also reflects negatively on the rights holder. They have the power whether or not they approve a brand as a sponsor and it must be more than just the money.
For a successful sponsorship to happen, not just within CSR, there must be a genuine alignment and a visible proof the brands involvement is benefiting the rights holder. These sponsorships can naturally unlock unique assets from the rights holder such as providing the opportunity to offer money can’t buy experiences to client’s such as late night gallery viewings, interviews with artists or even just a different space to conduct board meetings.
Once a strong proposition has been created and integrated then the sponsor can start to think about generating an ROI. Otherwise it is essentially sponsoring with the hope it can make a difference to the brands public image.