David VanTongeren, director of retail for Ferris Coffee & Nut Co., said while his company has operated its coffee cart during ArtPrize for the past three years and opened a pop-up shop last year to take advantage of the throngs of people visiting downtown during the 19-day art competition, this year was the first year the company has been a sponsor of the event.
Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. signed on to be the “official coffee” of ArtPrize.
VanTongeren said the difference was noticeable.
“There’s been a lot of cross promotion,” VanTongeren said.
He said ArtPrize did a lot of promotion for the "Latte Art Throwdown," which took place at Rosa Parks Circle during the event’s second week.
Baristas from across the country were invited to compete in the competition, which involved using milk and espresso to create designs on the surface of coffee drinks.
The sponsorship also resulted in two ArtPrize coffees.
“We have two ArtPrize branded coffees, a light and dark roast, we are retailing out of our locations and the ArtPrize store. Our coffee is also in Pale Joe, the ArtPrize beer (produced by ArtPrize’s official beer sponsor Founders Brewing Co). So, it’s a nice overlap all around.”
PNC Bank, another ArtPrize sponsor, used its sponsorship to engage over 16,000 K-12 students from 150 schools across Michigan.
PNC Bank has been the presenting sponsor of ArtPrize Education Days since 2010.
Jori Bennett, director of business development for ArtPrize, said PNC’s support has been integral in “building out” the Education Days program over the past six years.
“We’ve seen a substantial increase in student participation over the years,” she said. “That is really a credit to PNC Bank; they allowed us to give out around $30,000 in grants to schools for things like busing. We were also able to give grants to our Education Days partners. They’ve really helped us be able to amplify that program and make it more accessible to students and teachers.”
Bennett said the great thing about ArtPrize is it offers endless opportunities for sponsors.
“When I look at ArtPrize, there are so many things we can do and so many ways for sponsors to tap into our platform,” she said.
Bennett said ArtPrize is using the Austin, Texas, event, South by Southwest, and the Park City, Utah, event, Sundance Film Festival, as models for how it approaches sponsorship opportunities.
“They are both signature events that take over cities where they operate and make an indelible cultural and economic impact,” she said. “Sponsorship is a big piece of where their funding comes from, and they are great examples of how they are working with sponsors to amplify their programming. They are doing cutting edge things with their brands during their events.
“We look at that as a model and way forward for ArtPrize.”
Bennett said sponsorships are essential to ArtPrize, making up 63 percent of the nonprofit’s annual budget and helping to fund the competition’s $500,000 in cash prizes.
“Year after year, we’ve increased corporate sponsorship investment with the ultimate goal of having financial sustainability,” she said.
She said the goal is for sponsors to help amplify the programs and events that are integral to ArtPrize’s success.
“In turn, we work hard to deliver on their key objectives and ultimately show them a great return on their investment,” Bennett said.
While some ArtPrize sponsors have been involved with the event since Year 1, Bennett said new local, regional and national sponsors come on board each year.
She noted Sprint and Switch were new this year and are great examples of the unique opportunities ArtPrize offers sponsors.
As part of Sprint’s sponsorship commitment, the company operated a high-tech, open air cafe-style pop-up lounge, where visitors were welcome to “relax, unwind and recharge” themselves and their mobile devices.
Sprint ambassadors also were on hand during ArtPrize to help visitors get the most out of the ArtPrize mobile app, as well as capture visitor selfies, which were instantly posted to monitors in Sprint’s mobile store.
Switch, which is new to West Michigan, powered the educational STEAM Village at the ArtPrize HUB/HQ soundstage as part of its sponsorship.
The STEAM Village provided experiential stations featuring Switch-funded Planet3 and Code.org software demonstrations, a virtual reality painting experience, Tilt Brush and hands-on tinkering stations — all designed to educate visitors about the importance of technology and the arts in educational programming.
“As ArtPrize begins to grow in awareness across the country, brands are starting to pay attention to ArtPrize as a platform where they might want to activate their brand, which is really great for us,” Bennett said. “We hope to continue our long-term sponsorships but also engage brands from all over the country.”
Bennett said sponsorships will be the “way forward” for ArtPrize.
In addition to sponsorships, 20 percent of ArtPrize’s funding comes from foundation grants.