More and more groups and organisations are looking for sponsorship as a vital source of finance. How does it work? What are the sponsors getting out of it?
Lloyds Bank sponsors the School Bookshop Association and Children’s Book Week. We asked Pat Bowman (head of public relations with Lloyds)
`Sponsorship’ is one of the most loosely used promotional words of the age. Some people take it to mean vast sums of money to keep football going and allow the sponsor to put his name on the players’ backs. Others use it to cover private patronage to prop up national and regional cultural activities that are not funded by the authorities as they are in most civilised countries. Yet others use it as equivalent to charitable donations or as an excuse for asking for other people’s cash to pay for activities that should be made to pay for themselves.
What does it mean to a bank? In Lloyds we have reached a clear view, based on some years of experience – and a few failures. Without a tangible end product to sell, we need more than anything to sustain and defend our reputation. We don’t have much of a need simply to publicise our name: after all, we’ve been around for 215 years and we’re in every High Street in the country. So what we seek from sponsorship is to reach audiences that matter to us through activities that are of interest and use to them, and have some degree of social value. As a responsible financial organisation, we do not involve ourselves in fripperies!
The audience that matters most to us is the young. Our future personal customers are the schoolchildren of today; once they have opened accounts, they will seldom move to another bank. Obviously, too, the better-educated young are likely to have a better quality of account. Similarly, it is the better-educated young people of today who will in a few years’ time have influence on commercial accounts.
But business aims are certainly not the only reason for our interest in young people. With more than 43,000 employees in Great Britain alone, and more than half of them under 25, we have a constant need to recruit educated young people.
There are many ways to reach the young audience. All kinds of leisure activities – including sport – appeal to them and provide useful means for sponsors to identify themselves. We have chosen the schools route for many of our sponsorships: a programme of chess in schools and universities; a series of A-level study weekends with eminent lecturers; schools theatre workshops devised with the New Shakespeare Company; a schools public speaking contest with the British Junior Chamber; a Science Forums teaching pack with the British Association; a conservation project pack with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers; the Council for British Archaeology school award; and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which Lloyds Bank has sponsored for five years.
With this approach established as bank policy, to become involved with books for young people was only natural. First, in 1978, came sponsorship of Children’s Book Week, to which the bank now contributes £6,000 each year. The Black Horse and Chiboo the owl stand side by side on all the promotional material and last year scores of local bank managers took part in promotions with schools.
From contact with the Publishers Association – and largely due to the enterprise of Margaret Turfrey, children’s book officer – came meetings with the National Book League to discuss further sponsorships. The School Bookshop Association was a natural choice because it offered Lloyds Bank a clear opportunity to reinforce its direct involvement with education and to make a positive contribution towards literacy and the relationship with books, libraries and bookshops that is an essential part of civilised life.
There is never a shortage of ideas on how a bank might spend its money. In 1979 there were more than 1,200 letters and telephone calls suggesting that Lloyds might like to offer support for everything from a national orchestra to an individual who wanted to cycle across the Sahara. The selection has to be careful, just and related to the bank’s commercial objectives and social perceptions.
That’s another reason why the School Bookshop Association has a little of Lloyd’s money and a strong sense of support for a totally worthwhile activity.