Purpose: In an arts organisation context, this paper aims to further the understanding of service relationships by developing a framework explaining how sponsored arts organisations could better manage their relationships with sponsors to facilitate mutual benefit and relationship persistence. Design/methodology/approach: Grounded theory methodology was applied to sponsorship of arts organisations through interviews with the managers of arts organisations worldwide who had been involved in seeking and managing sponsorship relationships. Findings: Reciprocity was found to be the key factor in successful sponsorship relationships, but emotional reference to reputation was also important. Together they link uncertainty in the complex sponsorship environment with an arts organisation’s artistic ambitions. Practical implications: This study extends the understanding of service relationships by shedding light on the sponsorship relationship from the sponsored organisation’s point of view and in particular highlighting the role of reciprocity in managing the relationship with their sponsor. Originality/value: Understanding the moderating roles of reciprocity and reputation in sponsorship relationships helps to explain key facets of such relationships which can partially negate sponsor benefits and threaten a sponsorship’s continuation.
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