Becki Smith, then Director of Marketing and Development at The Roses Theatre, used Audience Finder on a daily basis, as a core fundraising tool to attract corporate sponsorship. By explaining the quality of the arts sector’s data, segmentation, and audience insight, Beckie illustrated the platform’s ability to help solve the business marketing needs of prospective sponsors. The Roses Theatre consequently went from being seen by funders as an outstretched hand, draining resources, to a solution worth investing in. The result was greatly increased income through corporate support for The Roses itself and a changing corporate attitude to the arts across Gloucestershire.
The Roses Theatre’s marketing and fundraising department found itself constantly on the back foot approaching corporate sponsors, seen as permanently on the ask, dependant on handouts to survive and the victim of its own desperation messaging. It needed to find a way to change its brand perception and increase credibility in the eyes of potential sponsors by speaking their language, being able to talk in terms of market penetration, reach, return on investment and so forth. Using Audience Finder, The Roses marketing team found that it was able to quantify the benefits of sponsorship to potential investors, not just abstractly stating that it can help increase brand awareness, but actually being able to specify how.
Once they had identified and packaged up varying levels of sponsorship options across the building (e.g. naming the auditorium), the programme (e.g. sponsoring live screenings or family performances) and the literature (e.g. purchasing advertising space in the brochure), the team was able to turn the ask on its head, offering an opportunity rather than making a request.
By combining its own box office data with Audience Finder’s mapping tools and Audience Spectrum groups, The Roses built behavioural and geographic profiles of its audiences for each sponsorship option – who, for example, attended their live screenings, how often, and from which areas? The theatre could then identify businesses serving communities in those postcode ranges and approach them as prospective sponsors, demonstrating a thorough knowledge of their potential customers’ behaviours, engagement habits and marketing responses, derived from Audience Spectrum’s Pen Portraits. They were able to present formal proposal documents to individual businesses, explaining that sponsoring The Roses in a specific aspect could help them to increase their brand awareness to X number of audience members per year, within X geographic areas, and to a customer base that exactly matches their own target market.
Audience evaluations showed that, as a result of targeted communication techniques informed by the Audience Spectrum profiles, customers were able to demonstrate their awareness of specific businesses having sponsored The Roses. Whereas previous sponsorship initiatives had rarely resulted in repeat business, this ability to establish impact inspired a greater appetite for repeat investments and longer-term sponsorship commitments. In the year of its capital campaign alone, the theatre’s corporate sponsorship increased by 30%. Moreover, the successful shift in fundraising practices caught wider attention and The Roses’ Director of Marketing and Development was able to present at The Gloucester Business Show, raising the profile of the arts sector as a meaningful area for investment, countywide. By quantifying her approach, Beckie was able to talk the corporate language of the delegates in attendance, challenging stereotypes and changing perceptions for the benefit of the Gloucestershire arts community at large.
While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.
Unpredictable and changing circumstances are making it difficult to plan any festival this summer but we are a resourceful lot in the cultural sector.