“Store within a store”: could sponsorship help to inject more culture into the great sporting events?

The idea of having some kind of retail outlet at a sporting event is scarcely new. But a new survey hints at a major opportunity for arts organisations – and, extending that thought, maybe for sponsors too.

From upmarket cars, fashion items and sports equipment at golf tournaments to the club memorabilia office and the pie shop at the nation’s football grounds, there’s usually something on offer away from the main event, allowing fans to ogle the utterly unattainable, perhaps, or savour a flavoursome steak and kidney.

In the retail trade, the “store within a store” concept has become well-established in garden centres, department stores, airport terminals and the like.

culturestoryBut a new survey commissioned by Cultural Partnerships at King’s College London suggests that there may be considerable latent demand for cultural events to be included as part of more major sporting occasions. Whilst they might (or might not) offer physical goods for sale, it appears that the offer of artistic and cultural alternatives within an overall programme of sporting endeavours would have great appeal.

As Tessa Jowell, MP points out: “One of the reasons that the London 2012 Games were such an unforgettable triumph was the unique blend of culture and sport. Government, cultural and sporting bodies need to continue to work together, both nationally and internationally, to get the maximum benefit for as many people as possible from these major events, so that we look back at London 2012 and the Cultural Olympiad not only as a high point, but as the start of a much deeper engagement between the public, sport and the arts”.

The survey, which sought the views of over 8,000 people over two years, was released last week to coincide with an international conference which took place in London with major event organisers from the UK, Brazil and Japan.

It shows that almost three quarters of us (73%) think that towns and cities in the UK should continue to bid to stage major sporting and cultural events, and two thirds think it is the right thing for local authorities to pursue. Overall, more people say they have an interest in the arts (89%) than sport (83%), and over half of us (54%) believe that major sporting events are enhanced when culture is included in the programme.

There was particularly strong support for culture being included in the Commonwealth (67%) and Olympic Games (62%), and almost half of respondents (47%) believe that cultural events would enhance the FIFA World Cup. Many respondents also felt that culture should be included in other sporting events such as Wimbledon, World Athletics Championships, the Tour de France and the Rugby World Cup.

If this is the case – if this is what the public wants – there are surely many under-exploited opportunities for artistic organisations and sponsors to work together to develop new “arts within sport” ways of taking culture to the people. The inclusion of paying artistic clients – backed by sponsorship – within more sporting events would be a win-win situation for both sides and provide a range of exciting new sub-sectors for exploitation by sponsors.

Taste of London Carnival

Deborah Bull, Director, Cultural Partnerships at King’s College London, said: “We commissioned this survey because we wanted to learn more about what works when we combine the arts with major sporting events, and to understand people’s attitudes so that future international events can draw on the experience and legacy of London 2012.

“What we have learned is that there is enormous enthusiasm for towns and cities in the UK to continue hosting major events, and that people would like to see more art and culture incorporated into sporting events, from the FIFA World Cup to the Formula One Grand Prix“.

Street art, film, public art, festivals, carnivals and exhibitions top the list of the kinds of culture people would like to see included, according to the survey. Most of us would expect a mix of free and paid-for events, and would be willing to pay £10-£30 to attend. Around a quarter would travel over fifty miles to attend an event.

Other key findings:

• More people consider themselves an ‘arty person’ than a ‘sporty’ person (42% vs 37%).
• Most people (60%) attend some form of arts or cultural event at least once a year.
• Just over half (52%) feel that more money should be spent on the arts locally, and a similar number (54%) think that having arts and cultural spaces in their local area is important.
• The most popular types of cultural event attended are film (60%) public art displays and installations (44%), closely followed by exhibitions (43%), street art (43%) and theatre (43%).
• Amongst the key barriers to attending cultural events are high prices (43%), events taking place too far from home (33%), and lack of available free time (25%).

Now whether we will ever see an art exhibition staged next to the pie shop at our nearest Premier League ground is very doubtful. But whether there is an unmet need for more culture at other major sporting events seems beyond question.

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