PROFILE: Simon Farley, BAFTA - BAFTA's Farley set to boost sponsorships

A changing BAFTA looks to Simon Farley's wealth of fundraising experience

When asked how much money he thinks he has made for employers, ranging from the Greater London Authority to the British Film Institute, Simon Farley looks aloft, makes some silent calculations, then calmly says 'millions'.

Farley has just joined the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) as its first head of development and corporate relations. This is a role that encompasses the broad range of marketing, corporate PR and sponsorship skills and, above all, a clear brief to make more money for BAFTA.

It is also a significant attempt by the organisation to address its corporate PR needs. 'I said at the interview, "this is what I can do on my own, and this is what I can do with additional resources". What I have to do is put a business case for more resources,' Farley explains, adding that this could include the case for the creation of the body's first dedicated corporate PR function.

But, while known for his sponsorship development skills, he is no stranger to the corporate relations and PR skills required for his present job.

He joins BAFTA from the Greater London Authority, where he had been head of sponsorship for the last 18 months. He previously held community affairs, sponsorship and fundraising roles at BT, Help the Aged and Einstein TV, as well as at the BFI, where his work with the London Film Festival has prepared him well for the glamour of BAFTA's awards.

He is also known among former colleagues for his personal communication skills. Newly appointed London Film Commission CEO Adrian Wooton worked with Farley at the BFI, where he was acting director. Wooton says: 'He predominantly has a public sector arts background, but is able to communicate well with a corporate audience and move between those two worlds seemlessly.

He's very personable and charming.'

Having hammered out deals such as Visa sponsoring the London Film Festival while he was head of festival sponsorship at the BFI, he understands the need to keep a close eye on both media relations and reputation management.

'Its about creating partnerships where there are obvious links, or finding possible links. Visa and the London Film Festival is a good example, they were looking to promote lower-value purchases, such as cinema tickets,' he says.

One campaign Farley is critical of is Cadbury's recent Get Active initiative, which involved chocolate eaters funding school sports through an on-pack voucher system: 'Linking chocolate and activity is obviously not good.

Journalists were quickly doing their sums, coming up with figures on how much chocolate you needed to eat to buy a ball.'

To Farley, this example also highlights a major challenge for the sponsorship sector in gaining journalists' interest in positive stories of corporate link-ups: 'If the Cadbury link had been positive, and not involved sport, it wouldn't have got any coverage. Journalists' attitudes need to change.'

There are a number of ways in which attempts to woo corporate partners and sponsors in the future may just achieve this.

BAFTA, Farley insists, is a body that is changing. It has not only created his role, and sought to develop corporate relations, but its headquarters in Piccadilly, London, is itself set for a revamp. Also, a newly created separate award ceremony for artistic excellence in computer and console games is set to be held next February.

This presents Farley with a new area of potential targets that he intends to get on board by using a more face-to-face approach to corporate relations, rather than 'stunts'.

In PR terms, he says he also benefited from the dangers that lurk in potential corporate tie-ins, for example those tendering for contracts offering cash for sponsorship would have prompted more than just an angry Evening Standard splash.

As Farley sits in the soon-to-be-refurbished bar at BAFTA's HQ, he admits to being 'excited' by the future, and is especially pleased to be in a new role at the start of a fresh thrust into corporate relations for the organisation.

Surrounded by old posters and stills of such movie greats as Richard Attenborough and Francois Truffaut, and sitting behind a bar where the only draught beer is Courage, he says: 'I suppose this might seem a bit fuddy-duddy, a bit old fashioned, but that it is not what BAFTA is about, it's all changing.'

So will this new era for BAFTA mean an HQ refurbishment that includes the replacement of old film posters with games consoles? 'I don't know about that, but you never know,' he grins, with Attenborough et al looking down on him.


1991: Community affairs manager (London), BT

1997: Head of festival sponsorship, BFI

2001: Head of sponsorship, Greater London Authority

2003: Head of development and corp relations, BAFTA

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