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Living well on baguettes
And why sponsor the Arts?
We are all the product of our own generation and the values and priorities which shaped it and us. They are important to us and we hang on to them because they helped create who and what we became. It is important to be able to let them go in order to integrate with the next generation. To free ourselves in order to be freed.
If I had a psychologist this is what I would expect them to tell me. And I would do my best. I don’t, but I am doing my best.
There are different ways of evaluating the change of values and, on closer inspection, it may not be the values which have changed but the way they are perceived.
How many national art galleries survive without subsidies? I don’t know the answer but I suspect it’s none. If they are not supported by government, they have sponsors to keep them functioning. Why are sponsors interested in giving money to ‘unprofitable’ businesses? If a venture doesn’t make money, how does it attract financial backing?
“Return on Investment is measured in different ways because it depends on your objectives,” a sponsorship and brand specialist told me. “Art sponsorships are primarily a way to connect with customers and patrons of the arts, but each entity that chooses to sponsor art properties will have different objectives, and ways of deriving financial benefit, even if it’s not on the scale of the mega-sports platforms,” they told me.
“Someone like Standard Bank, who have long supported the arts in South Africa, would probably list their objectives as brand exposure, support for art/culture/heritage, and encouraging the growth of emerging artists,” they told me before pointing out that Johnny Clegg, Sibongile Khumalo and William Kentridge were all beneficiaries of Standard Bank’s support at the beginning of their careers. And look what a better place they made the world.
The Standard Bank website says: “We are a proud supporter of the Arts. For more than four decades, we invested in art as much as in artists, because we believe in making dreams possible through our sponsorship of the
National Arts Festival (NAF), the Ovation Awards and the Young Artist awards.
“These are platforms for creative expression that present an opportunity to connect our customers and staff to their passion points. Our legacy in the Arts is the spotlight on talent, and we recognise and reward creative excellence.”
‘Passion Points.’ That’s a good concept. You can see where I’m going with this, no doubt.
There is a delightful tale about a Parisienne boulangerie. Every day the head baker would create half a dozen magnificent cakes and display them prominently in the shop window. They took many hours of his time and sometimes, at the end of the day, he would give them away, unsold, to homes for the elderly or orphaned. Why did he keep doing it?
“We make 90% of our money from baguettes and croissants,” he explained, “but it is the cakes which the customers love and the cakes which keep them coming back. They can buy baguettes anywhere but they know we must make very good baguettes when they see the cakes.”
As a member of the generation who grew up with first-class and Test cricket as a staple diet, I do take it personally that the world game is hurtling towards a radical new future – but that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that it’s wrong. The world has changed dramatically in my lifetime, often for the better.
What is wrong, perhaps, is the reason for the change – the bottom line. Or rather, the simplistic view of how the bottom line is reached. Not nearly enough research and discussion has taken place to evaluate the likelihood that a global glut of T20 Franchise leagues will continue to produce the revenue some people believe they will.
Amongst all the financial models involving television broadcast rights and commercial partnerships, the ‘personal’ aspect appears to have been overlooked. Multi-year, multi-tournament, multi-million dollar contracts for the world’s best players are all well and good on paper, but will they perform at their best living in hotel rooms for 250 days and catching 100 flights a year?
Will they be sustained as sportsmen and women performing for corporations to the detriment of their countries? Some will, without a doubt. But how many?
The subject of national contracts is fascinating. Every national board outside of the BCCI is still obsessed with maintaining a degree of ‘control’ over their best players. A more dispassionate, objective approach may be appropriate. Let’s take Cricket South Africa as an example. Imagine they identify their best 20 players and invite them to a meeting:
“You are our best players. Many of you can earn two or even three times what we can afford to pay you. But you are likely to earn R15million a year from us and we will take care of you every day, release you for the IPL and guarantee you a minimum of 90 days a year at home. Or you can go freelance, earn R35million and look after yourselves. And we ‘might’ select you for the next World Cup. So, who would like a contract?”
If international cricket could start over, the current ‘structure’ would be ripped up. Unlike football and rugby, there is no governing body. The ICC is the manager of a private members club, not the administrators of a global game. If there was such a thing, they would create non-negotiable windows in the calendar for international, bilateral fixtures, as FIFA does with football.
The governing body of cricket, however, is the BCCI. In a month’s time their claim of 38% of the game’s global revenue will be ratified and the enfeeblement of nine of the 12 Test nations confirmed. Even England and Australia, beholden to Indian revenue, cannot answer back.
We can only hope that the land of enhanced culture, spiritual enlightenment and emotional enrichment will not continue to focus purely on financial enrichment.