Mar 12, 2010 at 02:43 PM
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How Even Garden Designers Tap Brand Budgets

As we (slowly) flip the page on Winter, one oft-overlooked sponsorship opportunity is garden and flower shows. Horticulture Week takes an in-depth look at how garden shows and designers can employ a little lateral thinking to tap into brand budgets.

Exhibiting at a major garden show, like London's Chelsea Flower Show, can require designers to balance budgets as high as $600,000 so many turn to brand tie-ins and product placements as a source of funding. A drop in sponsorship funding at the 2009 show, meant a 36% drop in the number of designers exhibiting. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which manages the show, expects modest improvement in 2010.

As with other forms of lifestyle sponsorship, garden shows have not been immune from the economic slowdown. Garden designer Geoff Whiten, who had exhibited at every Chelsea Flower Show for 34 years before a loss of sponsorship, offered up this advice:

"You have to be passionate about your design, but don't go overboard or be too clever or be too prissy and put down plants that will be hard to get at that time - and keep to a tight budget. You can ask for smaller amounts from two or three companies, such as garden centres. It helps if you can say that there's a pretty good chance of it being on TV - that's an essential part of sponsorship."

Given the difficult environment, RHS has taken a more active role in helping designers acquire sponsorship, providing access to sponsorship seminars and in some cases even playing match-maker between brands and designers.

Meanwhile, other designers are finding more success, according to the HC piece.

Designer Tony Smith landed a lucrative deal for his Quilted Velvet garden at last year's show, which he says "would make a lot of designers very jealous."

"Every client is different, but it's easier if they have come to you. The Quilted Velvet PR company asked me to do three show gardens - I suppose it was a culmination of the reputation I had built up over the previous four years. It was proper money, with no grovelling to companies required.

"They gave me a brief, which included their colours and ethos and I came up with abstract designs around that. But they didn't interfere in the artistic process - they just wanted something interesting enough to get noticed."

The show's high media profile yielded a 17-fold advertising value equivalent. "They were very pleased - it smashed their targets," says Smith.

Smith added it's not always easy balancing the commercial and artistic interests at his shows.

Smith's next design will be an urban garden for artificial grass supplier EasiGrass at this year's Chelsea. "It's a bit of taboo breaking, though they are playing it low-key," he says. "You also have to get your design past the RHS. It might say no if it's too in your face. I have heard of horror stories of companies wanting product placements in gardens. It's a delicate balancing act." Read More > >