By Wayne Andrews, Executive Director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC) based in Lafayette County, Mississippi
The arts have always been a reflection of community — creating from the cultural fiber of their environment and serving as the original grassroots marketers.
This connection between community and the artist has been the key to building support. In the technical terms of marketing professionals, artists create brand loyalty and businesses have started to recognize the value of partnering with the arts to reach their loyal customer base.
Check any social media site and you will find a wealth of businesses trying to show their support arts and charitable organizations.
Pepsi has their Refresh Project, CITGO offers to Fuel Good, Maxwell House offers Drops of Good, and Tom’s of Maine offered a nationwide promotion entitled 50 States of Good.
This drive to connect is beneficial as the programs offer access to funds for groups both large and small, while providing marketing a media that expands the reach of groups. Yet, many of these programs although seemingly altruistic, are just efforts by corporate marketing departments to create a program that makes a national company feel local.
Still, these programs have value because they encourage smaller, local companies to think about how to support their communities.
An example is Cathead Vodka in Gluckstadt, MS is a small start-up that began their business with a concept that everything they did was about their community. They took a product rooted in the juke joints of Mississippi and tapped its heritage as part of its mission.
In the creation of their product, Cathead looked at how it would be part of the community and recognized that as they grew, they could help grow support for community organizations. In defining their brand, they looked for partners that would celebrate that theme (they also have “support live music” on the label).
Cathead did not look to make donations, but championed a cause united under their product. Starting with Mississippi, the owners have found partners who they feel are giving to the community and recognize the value of roots of their town.
Upon finding a cultural soul mate, the company pledges a percentage of their sales to that charity. Cathead’s owners, Austin Marshall and Richard Patrick, have found that by following their passions both for their product and in what they support in their community has been a strong business model.
They have been able to not only tap the grassroots and community goodwill of organizations like Music Makers Foundation and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, but have established how they conduct business, thereby growing their reputation along with the community groups they support.
This is the offshoot of large corporate campaigns — actual relationships between businesses and arts groups who mutually support a passion.
This is not to imply that those corporate programs asking us to like their product on Facebook or vote for a charity for the organization to receive a donation are lacking in value. Their value may be that they encourage real partnerships and giving from businesses on a local or statewide scope.
What kinds of unique local business and arts partnerships have you seen in your community?
*This post was originally posted on ArtsBlog