The Trojan Horse: Commercial Sponsorship as advertising

Deborah Philips, Garry Whannel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper discusses the growth of commercial sponsorship in the United Kingdom and the way in which it served to legitimate the routine presence of commercial involvement in the public sector, paving the way for the development of PPP (Public Private Partnerships) and PFI (Private Finance Initiative). The establishment of the welfare state ethos during the 1940s included the principle of public support for cultural activity, although the actual degree of funding grew only slowly. Commercial sponsorship of sport grew dramatically from the mid-1960s and, during the 1970s, arts organisations - short of state funding - were encouraged to seek commercial sponsorship. Gradually, sponsorship became a routine source of funding, seen as an essential form of support for a whole range of cultural activities. Once the Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher, came to power, the utilisation of sponsorship funding became a more integral part of public policy. Sponsorship began to colonise new areas such as education and health, moving from peripheral to central elements of the public sector. Benefiting from the image of corporate benevolence that sponsorship provided, the 1997 Labour government initiated a widespread expansion of private investment in the public sector, through PPP and PFI. The paper argues that sponsorship served to legitimate this colonisation of the public sector by private capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
JournalMedia International Australia
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


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