I’ve discussed the topic of sponsorship so often with friends that I had to do a search to be certain I hadn’t addressed the topic on this site. I hadn’t—until today.
The word sponsor is having a renaissance. Sadly, the current connotations are far from positive. In certain circles the word is used to define an individual who provides financially for a woman or man in return for companionship and sexual favors. Moving from the bedroom to the boardroom, the word also conjures up images of corporate meddling, a profitable company usurping the core of an organization that is under financial duress in order to broaden its brand and increase public awareness.
I would like to see a resurgence of true sponsorship. In America, we often romanticize the starving artist; a creative individual must suffer—endure poverty—for his craft. That view is, quite frankly, ridiculous. The musician must feed her children. The painter requires a bed to sleep in at night. The writer needs a roof above his head. Should one’s creations appeal to the public, one should be compensated for them.
The work and research of Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston was subsidized by the philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason. Mason’s wealth allowed Hurston to produce folklore classics such as Mules and Men. However, in today’s competitive climate there are too few philanthropists with an interest in the arts, and far too many artists who cannot make ends meet. The patronage of the past is not sustainable. There is also the danger of an artist compromising his vision to appeal to his patron.
Sponsorship would allow for one organization to financially cover the project of another while receiving benefits that are not monetary in nature. It is imperative that both organizations have brands and mission statements that are similar in nature to avoid either organization altering one’s core values for another. It is also important that the companies do not produce the same product to diminish the possibility of one company placing a financial stranglehold on another to eliminate competition.
Perhaps a sneaker company such as Adidas could sponsor a creative troop featuring creators such as Ronald Wimberly, LeSean Thomas, and Khary Randolph. Adidas would sponsor printing costs for graphic novels, and provide funding for launch parties and signings. In return, artists could design limited-edition sneakers, or create a short strip advertising Adidas sneakers that could appear in magazines such as Vibe or Esquire. Honestly, the marketing possibilities are endless as long as there is at least a small overlap in clientele—the lack of which destroyed the partnership between femme-friendly Reebok and the notoriously sexist public persona of Rick Ross.
So, here’s to true sponsorship! And hey, if you’re a company seeking a creator for collaboration? I’m certainly available.