Insurance sponsorship, strategic philanthropy

Sponsorship has raised unprecedented interest in recent years, especially with the arrival of big companies in this field. Numerous establishments, namely banks and insurance companies have set up their own foundations and museums while financing social and cultural projects.

There is need at present to reflect on the craze exhibited and which combines charity, passion for art, generosity, societal commitment, communication moves, business,…

Sponsorship, definition

Insurance sponsorshipImage TEFAF © TEFAF. Photo Pieter de Vries

Sponsorship may be defined as financial or material support given, without anything in clear return, by a corporate or an individual to an activity of general interest such as culture, sport, environment, research, humanitarian assistance,…

The etymology of the French word “mécénat” for sponsorship refers to Caius Cilnius Maecenas(1), a politician of ancient Rome. More widely known under the name “Mécène”, he became famous for having dedicated his wealth to the advancement of arts and literary works. The word “mécène” has ever since remained attached to his actions.

The difference between philanthropy and sponsoring

Sponsoring stands as a direct tool to fulfill corporate communication objectives. It has been designed to highlight the company’s brand and flagship products. In this sense, it is considered as an advertising investment.

Unlike sponsoring, sponsorship or philanthropy is considered to be a long-term means of communication. It does not yield any direct return in the form of financial or advertising nature. It is rather designed to promote corporate institutional image without putting it in the center of the interests advertised. Philanthropic companies therefore appear in a relatively discrete fashion around the event or the action highlighted.
Oftentimes, corporate sponsorship, unlike sponsoring, permits tax deduction.

Sponsorship historical background

Le mécénat n’est pas l’apanage d’une région particulière. Il s’est développé sur tous les continents et à toutes les époques. Les puissants se sont toujours entourés d’hommes de culture. Ils ont, en fait, perpétué et développé le concept créé au cours de l’antiquité par Mécène.

In Europe

The golden age of sponsorship dates back to the 16th century with the advent of Renaissance, a period associated with the rediscovery of literature, art and philosophy. It saw the light of day in Italy thanks to numerous philanthropists who were generally princes or influential personalities.

The latter were fond of being around artists, poets, literary men, musicians and architects, inviting them to their royal courts, generously accommodating them in return for their services.

Among the greatest philanthropists, there is the statesman from Florence, Lorenzo de Medici(2), who sponsored numerous artists such as Michelangelo(3), Sandro Botticelli(4) or Léonardo da Vinci(5).

His daughter de Catherine de Medici(6), who later became regent of the kingdom of France, is regarded as one of the most fervent protectors of art in the 16th century.

mecenat entrepriseWallace Collection © sailko CC BY-SA 3.0

In France, the reign of king François the First(7) has contributed to the important development of arts and literary works in his country. The latter had ordered numerous works and invited Italian artists, including Benvenuto Cellini(8) and Andrea Del Sarto(9).

Across the Channel, the kings of England were not immune to the passion of art and to the duty of sponsorship. King Charles First(10) was one of the greatest philanthropists of the British monarchy. Passionately fond of art, he invited several Italian artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi(11) or Dutch painter Daniel Mytens (12).

Throughout the years, several private initiatives in sponsorship had seen the light of day in England. Influential personalities dedicated their fortune to serving art, just like Marquis d’Hertford who opened in 1875 his castle and his collection to the public. Lady Wallace(13), the last heir holder of 5 500 works had donated her heritage to set up the famous London “Wallace Collection” museum.

Still today, the Queen of England is investing huge amounts in sponsorship programs. She has one of the world’s most beautiful and prestigious collections of art works.

in United States

Across the Atlantic, the practice of sponsorship is quite recent as it dates back to the 18th century upon the independence of the American States. In this liberal country, sponsorship initiatives are generally private. Expenses of some American wealthy people exceed public expenditure. In 1913, the Carnegie Foundation(14) gave more funds to education than the federal State(15).

In Russia

Russia had had its share of famous philanthropists in the 18th and 19th centuries including Ivan Chouvalov(16) , Pavel Tretiakov (17) and Margarita Morozova(18).

In Africa

business sponsorshipA griot in Diffa, Niger © Roland CC BY-SA 2.0

In Africa, sponsorship activities date back to the 13th century, in the prime of Malinke Empire which developed in the western area of the continent, across the Sahel. Back then, literature was an oral practice. The griots(19), depositaries of tradition, were tasked with the preservation of memory of the clans and its transmission via musical practice during ceremonies.

Storytellers, musicians and praise singers, the bearers of words are generally attached to influential families to seek protection. Eight centuries after its beginning, the griot tradition has remained alive maintaining its vibrancy in the region.

In the Middle East

In the Middle East, sponsorship dates back to ancient times, way back to pre-Islamic era. In the sixth century of the Christian era, poets used to travel from tribe to tribe in search for allies and protectors. They would make praise or satirical (Hija’) poems depending where their interests lay. Imrou’l Qays(20) was a master of that trade.

The sponsorship practice reached its peak during the Omayyad’s dynasty, between the 7th and 8th century. Then Abbasids took over between the 8th and 13th century. Back then, the Royal courts of Damascus and Baghdad used to host literary councils where poets, philosophers and artists would meet.

business sponsorshipAl-Mutanabbi statue in Bagdad ©Jake Muller CC BY-4.0

Among the most famous Arab philanthropists, we can find Sayf Al-Dawla(21), founder of the emirate of Aleppo. A literary man, he advocated the scholars like the philosopher Al Farabi(22) and the poets Abu Firas Al-Hamdani(23) and Al-Mutanabbi(24). Thanks to his poetry, the latter had been appointed governor of Sidon (currently named Saida in Lebanon).

Meanwhile, sponsorship had spread throughout entire Andalusia, particularly in Cordoba, Granada and Seville. Abd-Al-Rahman II(25), the fourth Omayyad Prince of Cordoba, was among the most scholarly heads of state of his era. His passion for art coupled with peace of the emirate enabled him to develop and introduce numerous eastern practices in the field of arts, science and culture. His royal court attracted scholars and artists from all Middle East like Ziriab(26). The latter had introduced the Oud (Arab Lute) in Andalusia.

Sponsorship today

Once deemed as a philanthropic act or a luxury of the fortunate ones, sponsorship has changed its shape today, with larger objectives comprising art, generosity and business.

mecenat entrepriseLe Sprengel Museum Hannover © Doktorchen CC BY-SA 3.0

This metamorphosis which started in the United States led private actors to get out of their strictly economic role and fulfill their duty toward society. Ever since, industrial and financial institutions of all sizes have set up charitable foundations, financed projects of common good, opened museums and held exhibitions of culture and arts.

The State encourages sponsorship

Often considered to be the first protector of arts and literature, the modern State has gradually disengaged from that role leaving the ground wide open for private initiatives.

A series of provisions have therefore been enacted in order to foster corporate involvement in actions of general interest. Several laws pertaining to the advancement of sponsorship have provided tax reductions and even exemptions for sponsoring companies. These tax benefits have been designed to attract private funds towards arts and culture, especially at times when public spending for this kind of activities went down.

Sponsorship at times of crisis

Today, in spite of the economic uncertainty and expenditure restrictions of all kinds characterizing the environment, corporate infatuation with sponsorship has not slowed down. New foundations are being set up everywhere around the world.

The survey entitled “Crisis and management of general interest by the corporate” conducted by Isabelle Petit (IPAG Business School)(27), has shown that in difficult circumstances, corporate world does not wish at all to be self-centered and to confine its attributions to strictly economic roles.

On the contrary, some of the loss-making companies strive to strengthen their social undertakings during those difficult times. The aim is to convey a prosperous indestructible corporate image.

Sponsorship in France

In France, corporate sponsorship accounted for 2.8 billion EUR (3.4 billion USD) in 2014. Constantly on the rise since 2010 (+40%), it seems to continue to attract more companies that are keen on fine-tuning their brand image, helped in the process by a favourable tax system.

Growing number of foundations

A survey(28) jointly conducted in 2014, by Ernst & Young and by the association IMS-Entreprendre pour la Cité (endeavor for the benefit of the city), showed that banking institutions and French insurers are among the companies most active in corporate sponsorship. The number of entities set up displays an annual increase of approximately 18%, attaining roughly 20% between 2012 and June 2014.

 20102012Aa at 30/06/2014
Recognized charitable foundations617626633
Corporate foundations293313337
Sheltered foundations 9019721 076
Scientific cooperation foundations 313742
Partnership foundations 122325
University foundations272727
Total foundations 1 8811 9982 140
Total endowment funds 8521 2221 719
Total foundations and endowment funds 2 7333 2203 859
Source: «Panorama of foundations and endowment funds set up by corporates»

Corporate sponsorship per size

The bigger the company, the higher its corporate sponsorship contribution gets. Half the funds and foundations of the polled sample(29) in the afore-mentioned survey is provided by large companies, followed by middle-sized ones.

Corporate sponsorship does not only attract large companies, the SE(30) investing in it are more and more numerous. Their share of the deal remains nonetheless minor with only 5% of foundations established compared to 44% for medium-sized companies and 51% for the large ones.

insurance sponsorship SE: small enterprises
ME: medium enterprises
LE: large enterprises
Source: «Panorama of foundations and endowment funds set up by corporates»

In the United States, the number of corporate sponsorships until May 2015 amounted to nearly 1 521 052 charities(31). The total amount of donations attained in late 2014, 358.38 billion USD(32), that is a 7.1% increase in comparison with 2013. The sources of these funds are as follows:

  • 72% are donated by individuals, that is, 258 billion USD, a 5.7% increase in comparison with 2013.
  • 15% are given by other foundations, that is, 53.75 billion USD, an 8.2% increase in comparison with 2013.
  • 8% come from gifts and bequests, that is, 28.67 billion USD, that is, a 15.5% increase in comparison with 2013.
  • 5% are given by private companies, that is, 17.91 billion USD, a 13.7% increase in comparison with 2013.

Distribution of total donations per beneficiary sector

insurance sponsorship Source: Giving USA 2015, The annual report of Philanthropy

Sponsorship in insurance companies: a strategic tool

Part of the corporate world, insurance companies have made recourse to corporate sponsorship as a means of communication. This approach has made it possible for the business to get out of the conventional framework of commercial advertisement and to polish the company’s image.

Corporate sponsorship can be beneficial to insurers on many grounds:

Corporate sponsorship, a tool of external communication

Sponsorship is designed to achieve social enhancement of the company by exhibiting a clean institutional image, distant from commercial considerations. This means of communication enables the company to be endowed with a positive image, granting it a supportive and humane image.

insurance sponsorship

In order to carry out this policy successfully, the company may rely on various means of external communication:

  • Graphic communication associating the company’s logo and name with the communication aids of the sponsored campaign.
  • Public relations initiatives: inauguration meetings, private visits of the exhibition or to the sponsored event, meetings with personalities that represent the beneficiary entity,…
  • Media fallout following a sponsored initiative.

Corporate sponsorship, a tool of internal communication

Another objective of internal nature: corporate sponsorship contributes to staff cohesion by mobilizing them around a project of general interest that is worthwhile. This approach is likely to send a sense of pride and belonging that will gradually be instilled in the company’s culture.

Eventually, corporate sponsorship fits in well with the idea of solidarity-based insurance. The investment of insurers in common good, through sponsorship, enables them not only to discharge their first duty of solidarity, but also and most importantly to forge links with their own environment. Such initiatives will undoubtedly not change the end purpose of insurance which remains first and foremost profit making, with the exception of the mutual sector. But these actions provide the advantage of granting insurance companies sustainable economic benefits, a contribution that insurers seem to have grasped.

Sponsoring insurers (non exhaustive list)

Large reinsurers

CompanyFoundation/Assistance programArea of operation
Swiss Re(Switzerland)Swiss Re Foundation
  • Encouragement of social companies
  • Relief to victims of natural catastrophes
  • Environmental protection
Munich Re (Germany)Munich Re Foundation
  • Education
  • Scientific research, especially on the impact of globalization
  • Prevention of catastrophes
  • Protection of the environment
Hannover Re (Germany)Hannover Re Foundation
  • Support to art thanks to the acquisition of paintings and contemporary sculptures lent to the Sprengel Museum (34) . The foundation owns a collection of nearly 300 art works.
  • In 2014, the foundation acquired the “Another Twister” sculpture by Alice Aycock
SCOR (France)Fondation SCOR pour la science Annual awards granted to best academic projects in actuarial sciences in various European countries.
  • Scientific research, especially in actuarial sciences and risk management.
Berkshire Hathaway
(United States)
The Charitable Foundation
  • Awareness-raising on spousal violence
  • Assistance to children with special needs, mainly night children
  • Assistance to veterans and to members of their families
Partner Re (Bermuda)


  • Financing a scholarship program «Partner Re Scholarship program»
  • Partnership with charitable organizations such as«Native Energy» and «Swiss Climate Foundation»
  • Education: Help to Bermudan students in order to pursue a career in the field of business(35).
  • Environmental protection

Worldwide insurers

CompanyFoundation/ Assistance programArea of operation
Allianz (Germany)Allianz Kulturstiftung
  • Art
  • Culture
  • Education
AXA (France)Fonds AXA pour la Recherche
AXA Atout cœur
Axa Atout cœur is supporting the program entitled «Maisons des familles»: Building dwellings for vulnerable families.
  • Scientific research, especially in the management of environmental, socio-economic and health-related risks.
  • Sport
  • Health
  • Education
  • Humanitarian assistance
Generali (Italy)  The Generali Foundation
  • Art (collection of contemporary works, organization of exhibitions…)
  • In April 2014, the Italian insurer signed a partnership with «The Museum Der Moderne Salzburg».
Zurich Insurance (Switzerland)Zurich Foundation
  • Economic and social development
  • Protection of the environment
  • Promotion of scientific research in insurance and risk management
  • Fight against poverty
  • Humanitarian relief following natural catastrophes, the outbreak of pandemics or wars.

African reinsurers

CompanyFoundation/ Assistance programArea of operation
Zep Re (Kenya)Financing the «Naretoi Girl Child Program» program
  • Health and nutrition
  • Fight against poverty
  • Education
Ghana Re (Ghana)

Financial assistance to the students of the university of Ghana (SFAO).
  • Education
Old Mutual (South Africa)Old Mutual Foundation
  • Humanitarian relief
  • Socio-economic development
  • Promotion of sports and music
Sanlam (South Africa)Sanlam Foundation
  • Socio-economic development
NSIA (Côte d’Ivoire)NSIA Fondation
  • Education:
    • Support to children’s schooling.
    • Construction of schools in underprivileged areas.
    • Scholarship granting to prize-winning
    • students keen on pursuing education abroad
Wafa Assurance (Morocco)
  • Partnership with the Fondation Marocaine de l’Etudiant (the Morroccan student's foundation).
  • Granting scholarships to high school students graduating from social protection institutions (EPS) in the kingdom.
  • Education
Saham Assurance (Morocco)Saham Foundation : Every year, the Foundation Saham rewards about ten projects within the framework of the «Prix de la Fondation pour l’Entreprenariat». (Prize of the foundation for entrepreneurship)
  • Health: Facilitating access to health care for poor populations.
  • Employment: Encouragement of entrepreneurship
STAR Assurances (Tunisia)
  • Sponsoring the program entitled «Esprit Incubator» (incubator spirit) of the higher private school of engineering and technology (ESPRIT)
  • Official sponsor of Carthage international festival
  • Official sponsor of Carthage movie days (Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage)
  • Support to innovation and to the creation of new projects
  • Sport
  • Culture
COMAR (Tunisia)
  • Culture:
    • Support to literary production.
    • Rewarding the best fiction creations produced between April 1 of current year and March 31 of the following year
  • Sport

Middle Eastern insurers

CompanyFoundation/ Assistance programArea of operation
ADNIC (United Arab Emirates)
  • Health: Holding educational seminars moderated by health professionals.
  • Encouragement of innovation initiatives.
Oman Insurance Company (United Arab Emirates)Blood donation campaign for the benefit of regional hospitals.
  • Health
Qatar Insurance Company (Qatar)Official sponsor of the “International Traffic Medicine Association (ITMA)”.
  • Health

Jordan Insurance Company

(JIC) (Jordan)
  • Support of the foundation for the fight against cancer "King Hussein Cancer Foundation"
  • Official sponsor of «Injaz», the program for the promotion of entrepreneurship
  • Health
  • Promotion of entrepreneurship and private initiatives.

Sources and references

(1)Born in 70 B.C, died in the year 8 B-C
(2)Lorenzo de' Medici, also called Lorenzo the Magnificent, (born in 1449 in Florence, died in 1492), ruled the Republic of Florence from 1469 to 1492.
(3)Born in 1475 in Caperse, died in 1564 in Rome, was the sculptor, painter, architect and poet of Florence.
(4)Born in Florence in 1445, died in 1510 in the very same city, one of the most prominent painters of Italian Renaissance and in the History of art.
(5)Born in Vinci in 1452, died in Amboise in 1516, was the painter, engineer, anatomist, sculptor, architect, musician, poet, philosopher and writer of Florence.
(6)Born in 1519 in Florence, died in 1589 in Blois (France). She was the regent of the Kingdom of France from 1560 to 1563.
(7)Born in 1494 in Cognac, died in 1547 in Rambouillet, was king of France from 1515 until his death.
(8)Born in 1500 in Florence, died in 1571 in the same city, was a designer, sculptor and writer of the Italian Renaissance.
(9)Born in 1486 and died in 1530 in Florence, was an Italian painter of the High Renaissance.
(10)Born in 1600, died in 1649, was king of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1625 until his execution in 1649.
(11)Born in 1593 in Rome and died in Naples around 1652, was an Italian artist-painter. She became painter of the royal court under the patronage of Charles First of England. She was the daughter of the painter Orazio Gentileschi. (1563-1639)
(12)Born in 1590 in The Hague, died in 1647, was a Dutch portrait painter. He spent most of his career painting in England.
(13)1819-1897, wife of the British collector and philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace.
(14)Set up in 1909, is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the promotion of United States’ interests on the international arena.
(16)Born in Moscow in 1727, died in 1797 in Saint-Petersburg, Russian minister of education and art collector.
(17)(1832-1898), was a Russian entrepreneur, philanthropist, collector of art and designer of the Moscow Tretiakov Gallery.
(18) Born in 1873 in Moscow, died in 1958 in the same city, was a Russian philanthropist.
(19) «Griot holder of speech in Africa» Kibalabala N’sele.
(20)Imroul’ Qays, born in Nejd, Saudi Arabia, died around 550, was an Arab pre-Islamic poet. He is regarded as the greatest pre-Islamic poet.
(21)Born in 916 and died in 967, is the founder of the emirate of Aleppo in (Syria).
(22)was a Muslim Persian philosopher. Born in 872 in Transoxiana (currently Uzbekistan) and died in Damascus in 950. He mastered all kinds of sciences and arts of his time, broadening their scope, He was nicknamed the second master of intelligence.
(23)Born in Mosul in 932, died in 968 in Homs, was a famous poet and Arab knight of the 10th century.
(24)Born in 915 in Kufa (Iraq) and died in 965 in the south of Baghdad. He is considered as the greatest Arab poet of all times. Known for his great intelligence, he was able to improvise, reciting poems without preparation.
(25)Born in 792 in Toledo, died in 852 in Cordoba, the fourth Omayyad emir of Cordoba.
(26)Born in the Kurdish city of Mosul in 789 and died in 857 in Cordoba, poet and musician. He was regarded as one of the key figures in the history of Arab-Andalusian music in the ninth century.
(27)«Crise et prise en charge de l'Intérêt général par l'entreprise: l'exemple des fondations d’entreprise» (Crisis and corporate management of general interest: The example of corporate foundation). uploads/recherche/WP/IPAG_WP_2014_387.pdf
(28)«Panorama des fondations et fonds de dotation créés par des entreprises» (Panorama of foundations and endowment fund set up by corporates)
(29)430 foundations polled in the survey entitled «Panorama des fondations et fonds de dotation créés par des entreprises».(Panorama of foundations and endowment fund set up by corporate)
(30)SME= Small and Medium Enterprises.
(31)Giving USA,
(32)“Charitable Giving Statistics”,
(33)Atlas Magazine
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