It’s a fact that culture is still underfinanced in Romania, although official data shows that the Ministry of Culture’s budget has increased by 51 percent since 2016, meaning RON 766 million. It’s also a fact that each year, more and more companies decide to sponsor the cultural sector. Why? Business Review tried to find the answer by speaking with veteran brands when it comes to financing the Romanian cultural scene: DHL, JTI, Mastercard and Staropramen.

The cultural scene is blooming in Romania, national and international cultural happenings are taking place in increasingly more cities, not to mention the amplitude that the already known cultural events have – bigger events, world-famous legends and outstanding setups. Cinema, music, theatre, performing arts and independent creative creators: everything is in the spotlight nowadays, and everyone is trying to make the best out of their cultural product. Although the official data isn’t as positive as the charts below indicate, each festival has its target public and people travel exclusively to be part of the events.

Building trust

What does an ideal partnership with a cultural project looks like? Being one of the journalists constantly present at nationwide cultural events, I sometimes laugh with friends from the communications industry that only MARCOM specialists read the banners and posters of an event to see the sponsors and partners. However, it’s clearly more than that.

“I think that an ideal partnership could be defined as a long-term relationship in which the parties help each other grow, develop and become better. It’s a sincere commitment to achieve greatness together by giving something back to the community. There was a year when Sibiu International Theatre Festival was organized under the motto: ‘building trust’. Maybe this should be the motto of every successful partnership. We are talking about trust in each other, trust in our impact on society, trust in the power of inspiring people. (…) Being an active actor in society represents one of the pillars of our business, not something additional to our activity,” says Gilda Lazar, director corporate affairs and communications, JTI Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria.

Ana Iftodi, marketing manager of Mastercard Romania underlines that her company has a rich tradition of supporting cultural events all over the world, offering priceless experiences to fans from a large range of interest areas. “Each edition, we focus on offering the participants’ memorable moments, together with the most innovative payment technologies. In 2015, we launched the Mastercard Priceless Surprise concept, through which we make people’s dreams come true. (…) On the other hand, by providing festival participants with modern, safe, fast and innovative payment solutions, we make sure they can enjoy the spectacular atmosphere of the festivals relaxed and without cash-related worries. We manage to do all of these wonderful things due to the fact that for both us and the organizers, the main objective is to generate quality time and create special experiences for the participants.”

Teodora Agafitei, the brand manager of Staropramen, said that the support showed for cultural events comes from their wish to contribute to creating a complete cultural story. “That means that the audience is connected to the artists and truly understands the cultural act. People and tastes are the ones that define us, and we like to create connections that go beyond a single theatre play, a concert or an exhibition. We look for continuity in the relation between public and art, and we are very interested to see what will happen next to the people we connect with. (…) These are the things that unite us with a great cultural project.”

From the logistics point of view, basically the ones who help to make magic happen, challenges are inevitable. “Firstly, we choose partnerships that deliver in a number of areas. Then, we appreciate the opportunity to showcase our market-leading logistics capabilities, such as our transporting of musical instruments to and from the Enescu Festival, for example. We also choose partnerships that allow us to engage our employees, customers and the wider community, in order to promote our association with what generally are some of the most interesting projects in Romania. We believe these partnerships help us identify synergies in terms of our shared values, including passion, perfectionism, a can-do-attitude, team spirit and discipline,” explains Daniel Kearvell, the managing director of DHL Romania.

Rise to the challenge

However, does everything go smoothly during the implementation of a cultural project? The unanimous answer given by the companies as to the successful cooperation between culture and arts on one side and success on the other side is that, together, they serve the cultural act.  “Firstly by creating it and secondly by developing the frame that gives it scale. The way we perceive this relation affects the way we collaborate, and this reflects on the image that the public has. Both on the cultural act and on the business, in the same ratio. If we start with a common belief, and we align our goals, then it would be easier for the public to see the real benefits this collaboration has,” explains Agafitei of Staropramen.

On the other hand, Ana Iftodi says that most companies choose to support already-known projects, events and artists, with a strong background, as they gain a higher visibility through such a partnership. “It is important to always be open about new projects and collaborations and be ready to offer consumers the best experiences and moments, instead of just directly exposing them to your own products and services.”

“The main obstacle is also the best challenge: to choose from a variety of projects the ones that best suit the vision of the company, the ones that promote the same values, the ones that could make a difference. To make the best of our collaboration, cultural institutions and private companies need to identify common grounds, objectives and understanding, not just look for immediate benefits,” concludes Gilda Lazar.

Currently, the Romanian Government offers a limited deduction of sponsorship to no more than 5‰ of the companies’ turnover in the given fiscal year, but no more than 20 percent of the tax on profit.