Melbourne Fringe Festival + Bank Australia

Melbourne Fringe is growing from strength to strength. Now, in the forth year of a principal partnership with Bank Australia (formerly bankmecu), the festival seems poised for another exciting chapter. 

Melbourne Fringe Festival + Bank Australia

We spoke with Melbourne Fringe Festival Development Manager Janine Eckert and Bank Australia Head of Marketing Justin Fennessy about this mutually beneficial partnership.

Janine Eckert, Development Manager, Melbourne Fringe

How did the matchmaking came about?

My initial conversation with Bank Australia (then known as bankmecu) came about when I saw the Reverse Graffiti art project they commissioned in 2013.

Seeing this fantastic project really struck a chord with me. When I looked into their responsible banking philosophy further, I could immediately see the connections between Melbourne Fringe and Bank Australia.

The moment we knew it was the right fit was when we realised our organisations’ histories, philosophies and values were so closely aligned – we even joked that Bank Australia is the ”Fringe” of the banking sector – they support and value independence as much as we do!

In many ways their ‘customer owned’ structure is very similar to Melbourne Fringe and our artists. Both organisations work tirelessly to service and support our key stakeholders – customers and artists.

How important is it to find the right fit when seeking a sponsor?

It is absolutely the most crucial element. As a flagship festival that supports the independent arts sector, making sure we partner with organisations that also value and understand independence is key.

When I look at partner fit, the first thing I look for is what they represent and how closely it aligns with Melbourne Fringe’s mission and values.

I also look at what our artists and audiences expect. Our artists and audiences are looking for community minded, responsible and socially aware businesses in their daily lives, so it makes sense that we should be looking for these businesses to partner with as well.


Woman hanging by one hand

Melbourne Fringe Program Launch


Bank Australia has been your principal partner for three years. What did you do to make this three-year commitment possible?

Firstly, Melbourne Fringe delivers. We work collaboratively with Bank Australia to ensure that their goals for the partnership are being met. By building a strong relationship over the past three years, we really understand their business and look for ways that we can integrate and support the work they do.

In turn, Bank Australia also works closely with us to support the work we do. The strength of our relationship also lays a solid foundation for bigger and bolder projects in the future – the possibilities are exciting!

What makes the partnership so successful?

Ultimately it comes back to how fantastic our alignment is. It is easy to support a partner whose business we truly believe in. Our audiences also believe in Bank Australia, we know of many people who have switched their banking over to Bank Australia as a result of our partnership.

We also know through our ticketing promotion that Bank Australia customers are going through our program every year, seeing hundreds of shows and getting really involved with Melbourne Fringe.

How do you ensure your relationship continues to thrive?

Like all relationships – it takes communication and commitment. Each year we evaluate our partnership thoroughly and look for new ways to integrate our business goals further. We start our planning early in the year and spend a lot of time talking through how we are going to approach the coming campaigns. Each year we build a new creative campaign around the partnership which keeps us focussed on generating lots of new ideas.

Give us three words to describe your partnership with Bank Australia.

Strong, Supportive, Successful

Justin Fennessy, Head of Marketing, Bank Australia

What is the secret ingredient to a successful partnership?

Having a shared understanding of each other’s goals, being open minded about opportunities, a commitment to making the partnership work, and patience to give the partnership time to evolve and grow. We also enjoy working with the Fringe team as they are so passionate and creative.

What are you looking for in a long-term sponsorship opportunity?

There needs to be shared values and a desire to talk in the same language to our audiences. Our organisations both want to have meaningful relationships with people in Melbourne who love their city, think about the issues affecting our communities and care about independent arts – this makes the conversations about the partnership come naturally.

Our goal is to build our brand amongst people with progressive values so we’re looking for organisations that also connect with this section of the community. We’re also looking for opportunities where we can generate content that is interesting to our customers – and you couldn’t get a better fit in this regard than Fringe. The other key thing for us is a partner that wants to approach each year afresh and think about something new to try – in this way the partnership evolves and doesn’t just become a cookie cutter exercise.

What are the benefits of supporting cultural initiatives?

Bank Australia also supports the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival and Climarte so we have a clear focus on the arts as a way to engage with people who support the arts and care about social and environmental issues. Art has always been a powerful way that communities debate ideas while connecting with emotions and we want to support this process.

As a customer owned bank, engaging with our customers and the community is in our DNA so supporting cultural initiatives is a natural extension. The more our audience understands about community issues the more relevant we can be with our Impact Fund, which invests up to 4% of profits into generating positive outcomes for people, planet and our mutual prosperity. In our third year partnering with Fringe, our customers are telling us they love that we support the event and therefore the artists and cultural development.

What are the benefits of supporting Melbourne Fringe?

Our partnership is helping us build the Bank Australia brand, we are engaging with an audience who shares our values, we are learning from Fringe and we are having fun.

Give us three words to describe your partnership with Melbourne Fringe.

Number one fan!

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