Bringing Sponsor Activations to the Arts & Culture Sector

By Gene Carr, Founder & Paul Miller, VP Sales – Non-Profit Ticketing

In our last post, we introduced the concept of the “sponsor activation,” which is becoming more commonplace in commercial venues, but less so in the arts. In this post, we’ll give you more detail on how to think about a sponsor activation at your organization — and how it differs from a traditional sponsorship.  

The key element of an activation is that it offers benefits to all participants — the patron, the sponsor, and the arts organization. 

Patron Benefits

  • Gives them access to something they would not otherwise have access to (a reward, participation, a photo, or an object).
  • Gives them something to keep.
  • Gives them something to share.

Sponsor Benefits

  • Gives them visibility with your audience, which happens now with traditional sponsorships.
  • Gives them leads. This is the important new element — they get the names and email addresses willingly provided by participating patrons. 
  • Gives them the ability to track their results and generate an ROI that can be the reason to continue working with your organization.

Organization Benefits

  • Engaging with your patrons in a new manner.
  • Identifying willing patrons to help spread your organization’s message on social media.
  • Providing measurable benefits and increased ROI to the sponsor.

With that in mind, let’s make this tangible with an imagined scenario that meets the criteria described above. Let’s say you are staging the musical Oklahoma!, sponsored by Homerate, a local mortgage company. They have been sponsoring one show each season for the past few years, at a cost of $10,000. For recognition, they got their logo on all the promotional materials, placards acknowledging their gift at the entrance doors, and a full-page ad in the program. Let’s say six thousand people attend the production over four weeks. 

Our Oklahoma! Activation: “Claim Your Homerate” Photo Opp

An area in the lobby is set up with a photo backdrop or piece of unused scenery/props from the show. Props can include a pitchfork, black jacket, wire glasses, anything that would work to remind you of the famous American Gothic painting. A photo booth is set up whereby a photographer takes a photo of participants and automatically sends the photo to them once they enter their email address into a tablet. The photo is sent to the participants with a call to action to share it on social media and tag or mention the account of your theatre and Homerate Mortgage. Participants who share and tag are entered to win free VIP tickets to an upcoming show.

Patron Benefits

  • Gives them access (a fun, unexpected moment at the show and a chance to win a prize).
  • Gives them something to keep (the photo gets sent to their email address).
  • Gives them something to share (the photo can be shared across social media).

Sponsor Benefits

  • Gives them visibility (a logo on the photo or in the background and clear branding at the activation).
  • Gives them data (email addresses of participants and connections on social media through tagging).
  • Gives them a reason to continue (250 email addresses and 25 social media mentions are worth much more than just 6,000 pairs of eyes).

Organization Benefits

  • Engaging with your patrons in real time (they get something more than just a show — they get an extra experience and souvenir that they’ll remember). 
  • Identifying willing patrons on social media (when they post, make sure they follow and then advertise to their friends).
  • Providing measurable benefits and increased ROI to the sponsor (demonstrate continued value and incentive to keep doing activations with better prizes and more elaborate ideas).

This example is meant to get you thinking about how sponsor activations could work in your organization. This is an emerging and new area that is sometimes called “fan engagement” — and goodness knows, the arts need as many engaged fans as possible! 

If this is of interest to you, and you’d like to learn more or hear about other examples, do get in touch!

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