Cakes and ale bring discount on Bard: RSC sponsor in radical promotion deal

PURCHASERS of doughnuts, beer and wine will be able to buy discounted tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Company under plans being considered by the company's new sponsor, Allied Lyons.

The record sponsorship of pounds 3.3m, officially announced yesterday, has saved the RSC, which has a pounds 2.4m deficit. But it has emerged that as part of the deal Allied Lyons will have a big say in marketing the company, gain access to the RSC's mailing list and aim to widen audiences through its network of pubs and wine shops.

It is certain that the largest business sponsorship ever in the arts will also be one of the most radical in allowing the business sponsor to try to change the nature of the arts organisation's audience.

Allied Lyons has 4,400 pubs, 7,000 Baskin Robbins and Dunkin Donuts outlets, is one of the world's largest spirits businesses, the fourth largest international food service retailer and a major brewer. It is also the world's number two in tea sales.

The company's chairman, Michael Jackaman, said yesterday that Allied Lyons would definitely not be looking for product placement in Shakespeare, but he did want to double the 55,000 membership of the RSC's mailing list.

A senior Allied Lyons executive revealed there were plans to offer discounted tickets and possibly to link up these with purchases of its food and drink. RSC productions would be advertised in pubs and wine shops.

An RSC spokeswoman said last night: 'It makes logical sense if there are all these high street outlets, to sell tickets for productions through them. It won't happen for a while, but yes I can see it happening.'

The sponsorship will be used to finance more international touring, particularly in the Far East and North America, and to produce wider educational programmes in Britain.

There will be four new productions a year - two Shakespeares in Stratford and two new plays in London - and ticket price increases may be avoided for the time being.

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