Sponsorships have hit the headlines in recent weeks with high profile arts organisations coming under intense pressure to drop partners deemed to have ‘toxic’ reputations. Done right, however, and sponsorships can provide a solid platform for long-term success.

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Awkward stories around brand partnerships have cropped up at regular intervals over the past year. Only this month the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) terminated its eight-year partnership with oil giant BP, while the National Theatre ended its association with Shell amid significant pressure from environmental campaigners, activists and performers.

However, with public funding falling away arts organisations are having to be increasingly wary of potentially toxic partnerships. A 2019 Arts Council survey found that 91% of arts and culture organisations had received some form of private funding over the previous two years, with a total investment of £545m, up 8% since the last report in 2016. Some 39% of this investment came directly from sponsorship.

Shell was one of the National Theatre’s 19 corporate gold members and is thought to have made contributions of between £15,000-£30,000 a year. Through its sponsorship, BP estimates to have enabled 80,000 young people to see RSC performances at reduced rates over the past eight years.

Perched on the Thames in a sprawling neoclassical building, London’s Somerset House has always avoided any partnership pitfalls thanks to a policy of careful vetting that seeks to identify a common purpose and alignment of values between brand and organisation.

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