It appeared to be a perfect match: A year ago, Dutch financial services giant ING Group N.V. was in the market for a cultural sponsorship and Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the national museum of the Netherlands was seeking to add a presenting partner, its second-highest sponsor level.

“We have 11 million Dutch clients, and our research shows they like going to the museum and have a strong sense of loyalty to it. We want to act as a liaison,” said Rutger Hamelynck, sponsor manager of culture and arts in ING’s corporate communications department.

However, there was a hitch in the plans. Most of the museum has been closed since December ’03 as it undertakes a massive renovation scheduled to be completed by the end of ’08. The portion that is open and continues to exhibit many of the institution’s masterpieces is the Philips Wing, named for top-level founding partner Royal Philips Electronics N.V., which naturally is already associated with most of the assets there.

“With the museum under renovation we didn’t have a lot to offer in terms of on-site inventory, so we started to look for other assets and ways to package them with some unique benefits,” said Marijke Smallegange, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam external affairs.

The package that the museum developed–and which ING agreed to purchase for a six-year, estimated low-seven-figure-per-year fee–provides a good example for other properties who find themselves with limited assets. Smallegange’s strategy involved working with outside partners to share assets and ensuring that ING received numerous benefits that are unavailable to all but the museum’s largest partners.

Another key to the deal was ING’s recognition that much of the value in the partnership was in its ability to serve as an activation platform for promotions and hospitality that would be relevant and meaningful to its target audience.

Nontraditional Benefits Shape First Three Years Of Deal
The Rijksmuseum has forged partnerships with 10 other museums in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to host exhibitions of its works during the five years its 120-year-old home undergoes restoration and rebuilding.

In addition to negotiating signage and ID rights for ING at each museum, Smallegange also secured the rights for ING to host 50 guests at each museum per year.

In December ’02, the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol jointly opened a free museum annex that houses an exhibition of Dutch Masters as well as rotating exhibitions. Security concerns and the decline in air traffic following 9-11 had previously prevented the museum from finding a sponsor for the airport site, Smallegange said, but by ’04 the timing seemed right to explore the possibility.

The airport location was appealing to ING, which was drawn to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol’s unique, contemporary nature. In addition to being the world’s only collaboration between an airport and a major museum, the pavilion is suspended above the terminal in which it is housed.

“People often think of museums and financial institutions as being stiff and old-fashioned. The Schiphol museum’s unique format lets us present a very progressive image,” Hamelynck said.

ING receives a number of benefits from the Schiphol tie, including: presenting status of its exhibitions; ID on 10 bus shelter displays around the airport; and signage on the museum pavilion. It also receives hospitality around exhibition openings and the opportunity to host exclusive receptions at the site.

Additionally, among ING’s benefits that are not available to non-sponsors: use of the Rijksmuseum’s Night Watch Gallery–home to Rembrandt’s most famous piece–twice a year; free museum admission for employees and a 50 percent discount for retirees; right to use artworks from the collection to create reproductions for promotional gifts; access to the museum’s mailing list; invitations to dinner with the museum’s board; and the right to install an ATM at the museum and issue an affinity credit card.

ING Breaks Ground With Creative Leveraging Ideas
As significant as ING’s cash commitment is, the company’s enthusiasm for activation is equally appreciated by the property, Smallegange said.

The Rijksmuseum required a partner that would actively promote the museum and its exhibitions, she said. “Our communications budget is very limited.”

ING will tout the affiliation in print ads and marketing collateral in the Netherlands as well as other countries. “We are going to use the museum as an icon in our marketing,” said Hamelynck.

The company began activating immediately after the agreement was announced in July, with programs that enhanced the visitor experience. ING temporarily installed couches in the Philips Wing’s galleries and subsidized a combined museum–admission/lunch-in-the-garden package during weekdays in August.