Your sponsors are your new communication channel

One thing that was pretty interesting at Culture Business Paris 16 this year was a presentation by Nicole Newman, Development Director & Project Director at the English National Ballet.

Nicole has increased philanthropy and sponsorship by 300% in the last 3 years she has been working with English National Ballet. Given the fact that the Ballet doesn’t own a venue, tours in every city in England and doesn’t have “big” dancers names (well, at least at the time), the challenge for Nicole was to look out for innovative solutions and ideas. She has focused on what were the English National Ballet’s assets :

  • flexible talent: the dancers are indeed flexible, but they are also interested in anything that can fast-track their young careers,
  • content: for the corporate sector, the marketing battle is now on the content field. Offering content to this sector is indeed a strong competitive advantage.

“Sponsor a dancer”

That is how Nicole has come up with the concept of sponsoring a dancer.

Indeed, that is something money can’t buy, a dancer showcases talent and trsnformation – and can appealing to any company in the private sector, English National Ballet dancers are flexible and available (the Ballet has 67 dancers, it’s quite easy to pick one) and finally, as said earlier, the ENB dancers are young and hungry for anything that can promote rapidly their career.


This concept has finally struck a cord with several companies.

First of all, Lexus has realised an ad (part of the Channel 4 Drama) with dancers from the Ballet. The company has simply paid a fee to use the image of the ENB and its dancers and has renewed this ad (and hence the fee).

This was the very first partnership of that kind for the English National Ballet. According to Nicole, it could have become a more holistic partnership. Lexus has wanted onely high-ranked dancers, this why the ad stars only Lead Principal Dancer and Artistic Director Tamara Rojo.

A similar thing has happened with Backes and Strauss which has wanted to pair only a celebrity -again, Tamara Rojo, which they have in 2014.

Tamara Rojo - Ambassador for the Victoria Collection by Backes and Strauss - DR

Tamara Rojo – Ambassador for the Victoria Collection by Backes and Strauss – DR

The English National Ballet has been quite uncomfortable with that because, as said earlier, the Ballet has 67 dancers and wants to promote them all. Finally, in 2015, Backes and Strauss has agreed to support three (unknown) dancers and the Ballet has helped the brand to create the storytelling around that. The artists help to promote the brand, anywhere and anytime they travel and have increased their confidence in themselves as valuable dancers and have developed new skills as models!

Behind-the-scenes at a Backes & Strauss photoshoot with Shiori Kase, Jinhao Zhang and Laurretta Summerscales © Johan Persson

Behind-the-scenes at a Backes & Strauss photoshoot with Shiori Kase, Jinhao Zhang and Laurretta Summerscales © Johan Persson

But the partner that has been the most engaged with several artists at the English National Ballet is Sweaty Betty, with the following core message “Inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”.

Sweaty Betty - English National Ballet

Sweaty Betty – English National Ballet

Not only the brand is working with several dancers but they have worked collaboratively with them, to understand what they like wearing in order to arrange products with them. And finally, Sweaty Betty has also created lots of content around that partnership with posts, videos and lots of PR:

Target new audiences with new sponsors

These partnerships with luxury brands has helped increasing box office ticketing by 55% and sponsorship by 150% according to Nicole Newman in the last 15 months!

The key learnings in this experience?

  • Focus on your strength and what you can offer
  • Stay aligned with partners whose image and brandy story you are confortable with
  • Your content / story / partnership has a value, don’t under-estimate it
  • Use your partners in a collaborative way, they will be your best ambassadors

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