Interview | The most attractive things for the sponsors of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival are its high quality, tradition and exclusivity

Date created: 23.04.2016.


Interview was originally published in Art & Business - magazine for sponsorships in arts and cultural fiel  

By: Ekrem Dupanović


The Dubrovnik Summer Festival, a cultural event with a long tradition and prestigious status in the Adriatic region, lost its main sponsor this year. VIPnet, which has proudly held this status for years, withdrew from the contract this year due to reorganization and rationalization of costs.

We talked with Karla Labaš, head of marketing of the Festival, about sponsorship of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, its importance for the funding of the program, the sponsorship strategy and the values that the festival provides for its partners.

Art&Business: The Dubrovnik Summer Festival is one of the largest cultural events in the Adriatic region. Which values of the Festival would you especially highlight? 

Karla Labaš: The high artistic and organizational quality of the event, the correlation between tradition and modernity, a strong local, national, and international identity, the longevity and size of the brand, as well as the exclusivity of the location.

Art&Business: And what are the values that would be of interest to the sponsors? 

Karla Labaš: Experience shows that the things that sponsors value the most with us or find most attractive are: high quality, tradition and exclusivity.

Art&Business: How large is the share of sponsorships in the overall budget of the Festival?

Karla Labaš: Since the financial and economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 the share of sponsorship has unfortunately been declining, but in recent years we have managed to keep the share at a level of 16-20%, while total own income is still higher than 35%.

Art&Business: With what company do you have the longest sponsorship collaboration? 

Karla Labaš: Most of our sponsors have been with us for a long time and are mostly long-term partnerships that last over five years, often even more than a decade. I should note Croatia Airlines, HEP, Atlantska plovidba, OTP Bank, Croatia Insurance and Siemens as loyal and long-standing supporters of our artistic endeavors.

Art&Business: Could you present your sponsorship strategy to us? What makes up the backbone of your partnership with sponsors? 

Karla Labaš: Apart from the usual or standard obligations which we undertake, which include visibility of promotional emblems of the sponsors, and online and media representation, sponsors can count on their management and their guests having access to exclusive events and VIP treatment. Sponsors can be confident that cooperation with the Dubrovnik Summer Festival will strengthen their positive image and reputation, and that it will partly associate them with the strong brand that Dubrovnik is today. So publicity is not the only benefit that the Dubrovnik Summer Festival can provide to its sponsors. The Festival can actually help sponsors in the realization of their other, strategic goals. Our goal is for our existing or potential sponsors to recognize that, along with great promotional activities, cooperation with the Dubrovnik Summer Festival can offer them much greater potential.

Art&Business: How do potential sponsors react to calls for sponsorship? 

Karla Labaš: The name and reputation of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival are so strong that potential sponsors typically respond wonderfully to first contact and show great interest. When it comes to discussing the amounts of the sponsorship packages, the enthusiasm somewhat shrinks, which is understandable. The Dubrovnik Summer Festival is the largest Croatian cultural and arts festival with a total budget of over €1.5 million and with significant international artists, so the production cost of each event is high, which necessitates the high amounts of the sponsorship packages. An aggravating circumstance is that Dubrovnik is located in the geographical ‘end’ of the country, far away from Zagreb, which is the business center. Companies, such as large banks, which want to increase the number of their clients through sponsorship, are faced with the fact that Dubrovnik is still a small market, and we have noticed that in recent years the search for new sponsors is being additionally complicated by the perception of Dubrovnik as the ‘richest’ Croatian town, from which people unjustifiably conclude that we don’t need sponsorship income.

Art&Business: Do sponsors invest in the activation of their sponsorship? Do they use all the benefits that Dubrovnik and the Festival offer or do they stop at the basic agreement and the rights they are entitled to through it? 

Karla Labaš: Sponsors react differently and use benefits from their partnership with the Dubrovnik Summer Festival differently. There are many examples in which much more was achieved than was included in the sponsorship agreement, to mutual satisfaction. Both the Festival and Dubrovnik offer countless opportunities, and how well these opportunities will be recognized depends largely on the pro-activeness of the sponsors. We can’t perhaps allow aggressive marketing because we want to preserve the dignity of artistic creativity and Dubrovnik as a UNESCO World Heritage city in the first place, but all of our longtime sponsors know that well and we share the same opinion on this, believing that more positive and longer-lasting results are achieved with measure and balance. But we can certainly jointly create special, tailor-made activities that will contribute to the strengthening of reputation, satisfaction of the public and customers, and will provide unique, exclusive experiences for the sponsor and their partners.

Art&Business: Could you point to an example of good sponsorship practice of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival? 

Karla Labaš: I could certainly mention a number of examples of good practice, and the proof of that lies in the numerous collaborations that have lasted many years, but the relationship with our longtime general sponsor Vipnet is worth mentioning because for a long time that sponsorship relationship was a true partnership, and I can freely say that these two brands grew together and complemented each other. Together we created new products that contributed to the reputation and the development of both sides, such as a mobile application for showing subtitles in real time called the Vip script. I must emphasize that we perceive each sponsor as a partner and therefore we believe that our cooperation must be mutual, for the benefit of both sides, including mutual participation and sharing at all stages.

Art&Business: There are ongoing arrangements with the sponsors for the next Dubrovnik Summer Festival. What is your strategy for this year? 

Karla Labaš: 2016 is significant for the Festival because the position of our general sponsor has been left vacant after 15 years, due to Vipnet’s change in business strategy and its sponsorship strategy with it. We approach the search for a new general sponsor seriously and strategically, and same goes for the other side as well. It is clear that this kind of cooperation must – both for the sponsors and for us – be a kind of strategic decision and must relate to long-term planning. This is a serious matter, which is the only correct approach, so that both sides are satisfied in the long run and so that they both benefit from that relationship. We don’t doubt that we’ll find such a partner, although perhaps not immediately this year. 


Whole interview is available on Art & Business Mag pages