Sponsoring the Performing Arts - the Legal Considerations


'Dream Dance' workshop from Rae Piper on Vimeo


As part of the Lincoln Inspired Festival 2014, the Chantry Dance Company delivered a workshop in which the participants were guided in creating their own modern ballet piece based on the subject of dreams. The piece seen in the video was created by the dancers in just 2 hours! You can read all about it in "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance" 10 May 2014 Terpsichore. As I noted in Chantry Dance Summer School 2 Aug 2014 the company does great educational and outreach work bringing dance into prisons and care homes as well as theatres. Ballet Cymru does great work with Gloucester Dance (see "'Stuck in the Mud' doesn't mean you're stuck" 25 June 2014 Terpsichore). Valuable educational and outreach work is also done by Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Much of this work depends on sponsorship by businesses and individuals and companies in the performing arts are making efforts to attract such funding. Last September, for instance, Northern Ballet held a breakfast meeting for business leaders and professionals in Leeds (see "The Things I do for my Art: Northern Ballet's Breakfast Meeting" 23 Sept 2013 Terpsichore), On 26 Aug 2014 Chantry Dance will hold their Making Connections event for business leaders in Grantham.

So if you are minded to sponsor Chantry Dance or some other company in the performing arts what do you get for your money. Well first there is the warm glow of doing something that is good in itself - though that does not pay staff wages or corporation tax. Rather more bankable is the approbation of your customers and industry. A feeling that one good turn deserves another which may result in higher revenues. Then there is the advertising to a captive audience if your business name or corporate logo appears in programmes and on advertisements, tee-shirts and other merchandise. If you are in food or drink maybe your snacks or beverages are promoted in the theatre bar. Possibly the production or theatre is named after your company. Now that could be very effective marketing.

If you want to sponsor a company, theatre or event it is essential to secure your branding.  If you have not already done so seek advice on registering a trade mark for all the goods and services that you intend to sell in the UK or other country where the sponsored event is to take place. Sometimes it is not possible to register a sign as a trade mark because it cannot distinguish your goods or services from those of your competitors or for some other good reason. If that is the case there may be other intellectual property rights upon which you can rely such as a design registration, copyright in the artwork or simply the goodwill or reputation that accrues to your sign in the market place. For more information on the topic see my "Introduction to Trade Marks" 9 Oct 2013 IP South East).

It is also essential to make sure that the company or other organizer that you are sponsoring can enter and be bound by a sponsorship agreement.  Ask to see the company or other organizer's memorandum and articles of association. Remember that if it is a registered charity there are likely to be restrictions on the business that it can carry on. Be sure to carry out the same sort of credit and other background checks that you would make of a new supplier.

Sponsorship agreements will vary considerably but make sure that any event that you are to sponsor will take place and seek indemnities, guarantees or insurance in case it does not. Set down the conditions upon which your trade mark or designs are to be reproduced stipulating, wherever possible, the quality of the printing, paper or textile on which the sign is to be reproduced. You may also wish to impose conditions on the hygiene and appearance of the retail outlets, particularly where food and drink are to be dispensed. Last but not least you want to satisfy yourself as to the health and safety of the venue. Nothing could do your brand more harm that appearing in a stifling, uncomfortable or dangerous auditorium.

Despite everybody's best efforts it is inevitable that disputes will occasionally arise and it is important that these are resolved discreetly, cost-effectively and as amicably as possible. The courts are not the best forums for the resolution of sponsorship disputes because of the resulting publicity. Mediation followed by arbitration are the best way of keeping such disputes private and resolving them quickly.

It goes without saying that both sponsor and spondee should seek high quality, specialist professional advice before entering a sponsorship agreement.  Members of out chambers can offer advice on tax, charities and company law as well as intellectual property to all parties in such transactions. If anybody wishes to discuss this article or any other issue relating to sponsorship, entertainment or sports law he or she should not hesitate to call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or complete my contact form. I am also on twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, G+and Xing.

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