Corporate presence within the arts and creative industries is no coincidence.

The multimillion-dollar industry is supported by the likes of ASB, Westpac, Vodafone, Allpress Espresso, Ockham Residential, among others.

The most recent - and biggest - example of business sponsorship of the arts can be seen with the opening of Auckland's ASB Waterfront Theatre.

On day one of the September opening, the $36 million Theatre had been entirely paid off. Gordon Moller, theatre chairman and an architect on the project with BVN of Australia, said Auckland Council had contributed $10 million, ASB $5 million, Foundation North $5 million, AUT $5 million, the Lion Foundation $1 million and Creative New Zealand with Lotto $5 million together.


But he said a long list of others, including many individuals, had been tremendously generous in contributing the money to enable the venture to be so successful and fully paid off.

Sponsorship of the arts has evolved over the last 15 years, says Richard Howarth, general manager of sponsorship coaching firm Gemba New Zealand.

"If we think back to 20 or 25 years ago, sponsorship was primarily used as a way of communicating brands - it was logos and slapping brands on things - but what we're finding now is businesses have become a lot more savvy and smart; they've figured out they can use sponsorship in a number of ways - for more than just brand awareness."

Sponsorship offers a number of opportunities: positioning a brand, rewarding customers, creating credibility, advertising, feel-good factors, and both tangible and intangible gains.

It's built on the basis of aligning brands and audiences, he says.

"Sponsorship is the most powerful and emotional form of marketing there is.

"If you use what people are passionate about, then you're guaranteed to grab their attention - for longer; or you can really get to tap into something they care about."

Common examples of art sponsorship can be seen with Vodafone sponsoring the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Allpress Espresso partnering with the Silo Theatre Company.


From 2012 to 2015, overall annual arts revenue increased from $71.37 million to $98.42 million. Annual revenue from philanthropic and sponsorship sources rose by $4.48 million from $13.41 million to $17.89 million - an increase of more than 33 per cent.

The private sector accounts for a total 17 per cent of all sponsorship and philanthropic funding in the arts sector.

Ockham Residential co-founder and director Mark Todd.
Ockham Residential co-founder and director Mark Todd.

Creative New Zealand senior manager of arts policy, capability and international, Cath Cardiff, says the industry had started to see a new group of investors coming forward.

"For a while it seemed [the industry] was going through a bit of a dip ... but we're certainly noticing there are some interesting new players who are finding it worth their while."

Ockham Residential is among this new wave of investors.

The Auckland-based property developer has been a sponsor of the New Zealand Book Awards for the second year in a row, and hopes to do so indefinitely.

Fast food franchise Hell Pizza also sponsors the Book Awards.

Co-founder and director of Ockham Residential, Mark Todd, said the firm jumped at the opportunity to take over sponsorship from New Zealand Post.

"I was alerted to the fact that the New Zealand Book Awards had lost their sponsor, and so we actively sought it out as we knew they were in the position," he said.

"Me and my business partner, Benjamin Preston, have a strong interest in education. Reading is a core aspect of education and writers' creativity and independent thoughts are another key thing we believe in - it's healthy for society to have questions, debate, contemplation and written reflection."

People relate to businesses that they can see are doing good in the community.

His thoughts on business sponsorship of the arts: "It's a genuine win-win."

"[Being involved in something outside business] helps relieve the narrow-minded focus that you can often get ... when you're just a strictly commercial business," he said. "Even if I was a total cynic I would still do it because it's really good for your business profile and credibility; and hence its ability to trade profitably and trade well."

Ockham Residential sponsors Ngā Rangatahi Toa, social entrepreneur Sarah Longbottom's trust, which helps excluded youth get back into the workforce.

It also has its own education-based trust, The Ockham Foundation.

Todd says he finds Ockham's partnership with the arts "personally satisfying".

"We sponsor the New Zealand Book Awards because they are highly aligned with the values of our charitable education foundation - critical thought, independent thinking and prospering a sense of social justice amongst students - and who does that better than writers? So we're very, very lucky to be involved," he said.

Involvement with the New Zealand Book Awards and philanthropic projects comes with a range of benefits, Todd said.

"People relate to businesses that they can see are doing good in the community."

The Vodafone season of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Photo / Stephen A'Court
The Vodafone season of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Photo / Stephen A'Court

In 2011/12 cultural organisations received $384.6 million, of which 17 per cent, or $65.1 million, was from the private sector alone. Of the $65.1 million, $26.5 million was from trusts and foundations and $21.6 million from corporates.

Creative New Zealand's Cath Cardiff says the arts and cultural sector had a lot to offer to sponsors.

"Sponsorship of the arts is no different to any other form of sponsorship - a sponsor is looking for value, looking for a return - and that value can be computed either in dollars or it can be in other ways, and that's what I think arts and cultural organisations offer sponsors whether they are big or small."

Aside from the obvious marketing and advertising benefits there are a number of intangible profits. Some of which Todd has experienced firsthand.

He says it has helped with the company's credibility and trust, among other things.

"It's good for staffing, sales, credibility, your morale, it helps with negotiation, it helps you get in front of the people you need to get in front of - there's a whole range of tangibles that do have a financial value they have brought to our business as well," Todd said.

If you're [a business] looking for sheer access to customers and databases, then you'd be mad not to consider it.

"For us credibility and trust is huge. Buying apartments in particular is a high-valued purchase that people don't make very often, so trust pays a huge part in people's decision-making process."

Attendance at art galleries, theatre and cultural festivals in New Zealand is higher than that of any sport - apart from Rugby Union, research by Gemba Group reveals.

While New Zealanders' interest in sport has increased 10 or 11 per cent over the past four years, interest in arts and culture has increased by 23 per cent in the same time period.

Cardiff: "If you're [a business] looking for sheer access to customers and databases, then you'd be mad not to consider it."

She says sponsorship of the arts can be big money, but is largely dependent on the size of the event or activity.

"For a company that's producing ongoing seasons of work, for instance the Royal New Zealand Ballet or the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, then I think the benefits are considerable," she said.

"The arts and cultural sector generally has a lot to offer to sponsors - it depends what their offering is of course.

"A museum or an art gallery has a different offering to an avant-garde theatre company or a major cultural festival, but at the same time they all offer the ability for that company to associate itself with something that is fresh, innovative, which has links to a culture and identity, and links to our ability to be a growing, sophisticated society with some very, very creative people at its core."