Sponsoring and patronage – from strict delimitation to eventual merging

I remember very well the time when strict delimitation of sponsorship and patronage was the norm, and even celebrated. The commercial support of sports and culture was strictly separated from the patronage-based promotion of value-oriented content. For years, even I was convinced that this delimitation of terms was one of the best recipes for successful sponsorship. Here in Switzerland it was frowned upon to communicate your involvements in patronage, let alone use these for marketing purposes, although a press release of the check presentation was tolerated to some extent.



I remember very well the time when strict delimitation of sponsorship and patronage was the norm, and even celebrated. The commercial support of sports and culture was strictly separated from the patronage-based promotion of value-oriented content. For years, even I was convinced that this delimitation of terms was one of the best recipes for successful sponsorship. Here in Switzerland it was frowned upon to communicate your involvements in patronage, let alone use these for marketing purposes, although a press release of the check presentation was tolerated to some extent.


Today, however, things are fundamentally different. Successful sponsorship involvement has an element of patronage integrated with it, which allows the business to communicate even noncommercial goals – and not as an alibi, but in the sense of true promotion and support. And importantly, the sponsors want to document their social responsibility and good corporate citizenship vis-a-vis certain stakeholder groups (e.g. employees, investors, and authorities). A manifestation of this would be, for example, the inclusion of employees as volunteers in sponsorship projects.


This change was necessary from a patronage point of view. New subject areas such as education, social issues, health, and environmental- and animal protection, opened a door for marketing. More and more businesses are getting involved and want to portray their services as good corporate citizenship to the outside world. Engagement- and sustainability reports are among the aims of this. So, the organizations which take responsibility for such value-oriented projects have opened up and recognized the value of taking action with respect to marketing and communication. And importantly so, because the financing of projects with donations and support services in the public sector has become more difficult, but also because businesses have developed a sensorium for the content-appropriate activation of value-oriented engagements.


From a strategic point of view, this convergence or mutual integration of sponsorship and patronage makes a lot of sense. It opens new possibilities for activation, which also features prominently in social media, since value-oriented engagements and activities hold great potential for storytelling. Today, businesses should use the umbrella term “engagements” and demonstrate in total the support services (sponsorship, patronage, endowments, and other support services) which the business furnishes. The target groups are not at all interested in the internal differentiation within the business (with regard to budget delimitations), but only the business’s societal engagement.

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