(annual re-post) Black Sheep of the White Nights

I’m excited about Nuit Blanche tonight.  It’s a really fun concept, and that’s why so many cities around the world have duplicated the dusk-to-dawn festival.  There many different names for it, like “La Noche En Blanco” or “Balta Nakts”, but they all have one thing in common:  None of these cities have named their arts festival after a corporate sponsor.  Oh, except Toronto.

Sponsorship arrangements require good negotiation skills.  It should go something like this:

ScotiaBank: “Hi, we’d like to sponsor your arts festival”.
City of Toronto: “Sure.  Thanks”
SB: “We’d like to put our logo on all printed materials, and be recognised properly for our contribution”
TO: “Sure, that seems fair”
SB: “Um, we’d also like you to name the entire event after our bank”
TO: “No, that’s not really appropriate.  Dozens of other cities across the world host Nuit Blanche, and there isn’t really a pattern of selling the naming rights.”
SB: “Ok, never hurts to ask!  haha”
TO: (smiles politely)

Instead it went like this:

ScotiaBank: “Hi, we’d like to sponsor your arts festival”.
City of Toronto: “Sure.  Thanks”
SB: “We’d like to put our logo on all printed materials, and be recognised properly for our contribution”
TO: “Sure, that seems fair”
SB: “Um, we’d also like you to name the entire event after our bank”
TO: “ok”
SB: “We want to establish a clear communications protocol, that ensures that our company name is used every time the City uses the words “Nuit Blanche”.  For example, when the Mayor Tweets about Nuit Blanche, he should call it by its full name “ScotiaBank Nuit Blanche”.  Essentially we’re asking for corporate brand placement in all and any publicly-funded communications from the City.
TO: “Yeah, cool.  Whatever.”

Picture 5

Click here for the original post I wrote about this in 20o7.  I will continue to re-post this each year until the City changes its policy or until someone can give me a good reason why Toronto shouldn’t be expected to secure funding like all the other cities do.

In the meantime, I encourage people to subvert the sponsorship arrangement by referring to Nuit Blanche in your Status Updates, Tweets and blogs as BMO Nuit Blanche.



7 responses to “(annual re-post) Black Sheep of the White Nights

  1. Air Canada Centre. Telus Centre for Performing Arts. BMO Field. Four Seasons Centre. Rogers Centre. Hershey Centre….etc, etc. The sheeple are oblivious.

    But…here is an interesting take on NYC (from 2002): http://www.gothamgazette.com/commentary/126.schwartz.shtml

    Notice how corporate naming of events at that time in NYC were low key. We sure showed them, eh? :(

  2. david machen woodward

    That IS funny!

  3. dave,

    i appreciate your point; and you’re right. but realistically, how do you expect the city to roll back, now, on this sponsorship agreement? do they say, ‘hey, we would still like the same amount of money you gave us last year, but we’d like to give you less in exchange for it!’?

    and in this climate, in the absence of scotiabank’s somewhat noxious funding, can we reasonably expect the city to pitch in the difference?

    it’s unlikely. we’d just lose the event. which i think would be shame.



    • Hey Asad,

      Good points. I think it could be a gradual roll back. Slowly, the brand name would be removed from things such as:

      The twitter account
      The facebook group
      Press releases
      Newspaper ads

      This could happen over a few years. It would still be “sponsored by ScotiaBank” (just like the other cities), but gradually you would see the “ScotiaBank” brand evaporate from the actual title of the event.

      Would ScotiaBank walk away? Maybe. Maybe not. I think they would look like jerks if they did. And, maybe another company would step in! Supply and demand. I think the event would survive.

      ~ dave

      • Hi Dave,

        That’ s a great point. It’s interesting to divide the different element’s of event’s identity into a scale like that.

        Your idea makes sense. It also made me realize, how much harder it would be to ‘sell’ the event to anyone else, should SB leave. If SB is deeply ingrained in every single aspect of the event – the event itself loses its independent agency.

        And I know what you mean about other events. Scotiabank is the presenting sponsor of Montreal’s Art Souterrain, and check out how they represent it: http://www.artsouterrain.com/

        I’ve got a particular interest in public art and recently, have been really interested in the Nuit Blanche ‘model’. So I’ve been talking to a number of people in and around it, in different cities. One sense I got, when we get into the topic of sponsorship is that a ‘new normal’ is formed every time an event or organization gives away something new (like naming rights, or color scheme, or uniform or event a chance to produce content). That ‘new normal’ is difficult to avoid because, if one organization refuses a set of ‘gives’, the corporation just goes to another organization that will do it. Our cultural infrastructure has become a buyer’s market.

        It would be so important and great to have a list of firm, best practices that were shared across galleries and museums and institutions. But how, to bring such a thing together?

        Thanks again for your response,


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