Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has focused some of its CSR efforts on supporting culture, in particular contemporary ballet. The company holds the JTI Meetings (Intalnirile JTI), where famous dancing companies take to the Romanian stage, but that’s just one aspect. Gilda Lazar, director of corporate affairs & communications, JTI Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria, told BR what cultural sponsorship means to the tobacco firm.
By Oana Vasiliu
Which festivals do you traditionally sponsor?
Since 2008, we have been partners for the most important festival in Romania, which also ranks third in the European charts, the Sibiu International Theater Festival. Each year, the festival brings together some of the top artists and producers of the moment, a major community of theater people, critics, specialized bloggers and journalists from all over the world. Since 2009 we have also supported one of the most important comedy film festivals in Europe, Comedy Cluj. Moreover, we have a partnership with the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company, which started in 2011, in order to organize annual musical tours. At the same time, we’ve promoted Japanese culture in Romania by supporting the Romanian-Japanese Studies Center at the Romanian-American University since 2005. The center is unique in Romania, with Japanese language courses, tea ceremony workshops, ikebana, origami and shodo classes as well as Kaizen management courses, Japanese theater performances, meetings and conferences between the Japanese business community and students.
Why JTI Meetings?
The project was launched in 2000, to mark the company’s new corporate identity: R.J. Reynolds became JTI, and the concept was based on the Japanese headquarters’ philosophy: “doing business means nothing less than having a series of meetings with people, nature, art”. The event was a total success so JTI Meetings has become a brand itself, supporting some of the most famous dancers, choreographers and ballet companies around the world.
Do the funds you use for cultural support come from the marketing or CSR budget?
We never mix the marketing budget with CSR activities and we do not associate our products with the brand’s corporate programs. At JTI, we make a clear distinction between marketing – which means the brands we produce and sell – and social responsibility programs that are associated with the corporate brand, JTI. Currently, the advertising of tobacco products is allowed only at points of sale and in publications for tobacco industry professionals, as well as on objects related to smoking. This is why the company’s marketing budget is completely different from that for corporate responsibility, as is the work of the two departments, namely marketing and corporate affairs & communications.
In terms of ROI, how do you see investment in a cultural product?
Whether you achieve the objective is the most efficient form of CSR program evaluation. If those who have been targeted by the program have received the help they need or if the organized cultural event was well received by the public, then the CSR program was a success. Regarding cultural events, the JTI Meetings enjoyed outstanding success from the beginning. When it comes to festivals that we support, they are internationally recognized for their added value.
What will 2015 bring for JTI, culturally speaking?
For us, corporate social responsibility is an integral part of the business, which requires a long-term strategy, structured programs and budgets established in our business plan. As a result, in 2015 we will continue to support the same projects: JTI Seniors, Sibiu International Theater Festival, Comedy Cluj, Romanian Radio Society projects and the Romanian- Japanese Studies Center.