MKTG Insights: Life Imitates Art - Sponsor Learnings from TIFF
With nearly 500,000 attendees, TIFF is one of the world's most prestigious film festivals. Screened movies generate Oscar-buzz, the world's most recognizable faces gather each year in a celebration of film, celebrity gawkers dominate the streets, and corporate sponsors are omnipresent. TIFF has become an important property within the Canadian sponsorship landscape. For brands seeking to resonate with a market segment that is culturally savvy, high net-worth, and possessive of strong purchasing power, TIFF can be an attractive investment opportunity. Over the past decade, TIFF has decreased its reliance on government grants, while simultaneously tripling sponsorship revenues. For arts & culture properties seeking to build their brand and increase their community impact, MKTG explores key learning's that have emerged from TIFF's growth.
What Properties Can Learn from TIFF:
Blend Mass Platform with Extended Engagement Opportunities: In making the TIFF Bell Lightbox its permanent home, TIFF understood that while a destination, annual event like TIFF can galvanize the public, year-round programming would drive greater value for fans, the Canadian film industry, and corporate sponsors. TIFF executives crafted a growth strategy that hinged on the organization viewing itself not as an event or a festival that packs up and leaves town upon completion, but rather an important societal institution working towards understanding and celebrating film. Monthly screenings, partnerships with other festivals and cinemas, and industry outreach events, brands can leverage TIFF programming to build shoulders around their investment and drive greater attribution for their marketing efforts. TIFF smartly pursued a dual-pronged strategy in which they combined a mass platform for brands (TIFF festival) with extension opportunities (year-long programming).
All Shapes and Sizes Welcome: The TIFF sponsor roster is home to a diverse list of brands. Blue-chip supporters like Bell, Visa, and Royal Bank activate heavily as part of larger portfolio-wide strategies to invest in unique cultural experiences for their consumers. However, recognizing its positioning in Toronto and overall economic impact (nearly $200 million, created over 2000 jobs), TIFF sees the merits in marketing partnerships with highly localized, smaller brands who seek to align themselves with festival excitement. Local Toronto brands like Snakes & Lattes (coffee shop) have also been activating at TIFF.
Protect Your Turf: Like any marquee event with mass exposure and fan interest, TIFF sponsors have historically faced a number of ambush threats. TIFF represents an example that all other properties can aspire when it comes to protecting partners. By working with city officials to strategically expanding its footprint year-over-year, TIFF reduces potential ambush zones. Further, according to Media in Canada reports, off-duty police officers will be patrolling the area to ensure that only authorized brands will be activating.
However, despite key learning's that can be gleaned from TIFF and the strength of the property, there remains distinct areas of opportunity for corporate sponsors:
Untold Community Story: TIFF is often perceived as a property for the elite. That perception is, in part, shaped by the glamour and luxury of Hollywood, high-end consumer brand partnerships, and low festival accessibility for the general public. It is a narrative reinforced by the way past and current partnerships are activated - many within a thematic of fame and celebrity culture. However, at its core, TIFF is a non-profit and a cultural organization with a mandate to celebrate and inspire Canadian artists. Youth film festivals, camps, and workshops to underserved communities in Toronto are all vital services that contribute to TIFF's community presence. Brands often gravitate to TIFF due to its mass appeal and earned media opportunities; but there is white space for brands to tell an untold story of how film and art can benefit our culture and why they represent a territory in need of investment and financial support. The property's own brand-building initiatives this year have centered around the idea of Toronto pride and accessibility and choice for fans, communicated through the "This is Your Film Festival" campaign.
Area of Need: While professional sports are an unrivaled passion point, consumers certainly do not recognize it as an area in dire need of investment. According to TIFF research, 98% of consumers believe that sponsors are important to TIFF. Arts & Cultureis an underserved area in terms of corporate sponsorships. However, today, it is unlikely that consumers attribute a brand's involvement with TIFF to any sort of higher order philanthropic purpose. There is perhaps opportunity in articulating how sponsorship adds value to the festival itself.
Local Festival, Global Audience: 55% of TIFF media impressions take place in non-Canadian sources (US & International). With films from 70 countries, the international film community appears at the doorstep of TIFF. The event is a showcase of Canada and Canadian film culture to the world. This narrative of patriotism is not presently explored in current TIFF sponsor activation.