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  Selling ‘Food for the Soul’: Barriers, Opportunities, and Performance Implications of Marketing Upskilling in the Arts Sector

   King’s Business School

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  Dr Anna Dubiel, Prof Dirk Vom  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The PhD project

This PhD project aims to explore how marketing skills can help to boost performance within the arts sector (Mottler and Ford, 2005). Broadly speaking, ‘marketing skills’ manifest themselves in the ability to approach the ‘right’ audience with the ‘right’ value proposition for the “right” price at the “right” place. While they might primarily be associated with driving ‘classic’ firm performance, they may likewise be expandable to other contexts (Stremersch et al, 2023). The UK arts sector is very divers. While it includes numerous world-renowned institutions, it is mostly comprised of small companies and micro-businesses. Especially the latter may struggle to build up sufficient marketing know-how. Hence, this PhD project intends to focus on how selected marketing upskilling strategies, tools, and media can enhance monetary and non-monetary performance in the arts context. 

The arts and culture industry directly contributes £8.6billion a year to the UK economy and generates about 137k jobs (CEBR, 2019). The Arts Marketing Association (hereafter, AMA) – the project’s non-academic partner – is a UK-based membership organisation with approximately 4,000 professional members working at various levels across the arts, culture, and heritage sector, predominantly in marketing, audience development, audience engagement and leadership roles. The organisation provides professional development and training opportunities for its members and those working in the sector ranging from more basic topics like communications targeting to more recent subjects like social media, or artificial intelligence (AI) (AMA, 2023). All of them might be acquired across a variety of training methods, forms, and media.

Extant academic research can serve as a steppingstone to develop further ideas on how to leverage marketing upskilling in the context of the arts sector. Although strong evidence exists that marketing, market orientation, and marketing-mix related skills, ultimately boost organisational performance (Camarero and Garrido, 2012; McDonald et al., 2021; Webb et al., 2011), marketing-related training in organisations has received only limited attention as opposed to sales or entrepreneurship training (Atefi et al., 2018; Clingingsmith et al., 2023). This is problematic given that marketing is a distinctively different business function (Homburg and Jensen, 2007; Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009). Existing research provides some first insights into the specificities of developing marketing skills within small businesses at large. Small-scale entrepreneurs, for instance, can enhance their business performance by stimulating changes in both general marketing tactics (Anderson et al., 2018) and general marketing strategies (Anderson et al. 2020). Similarly, customised marketing support interventions like expert coaching seem to benefit the coachee’s business growth (Anderson et al., 2021). However, insights remain mixed as how best conceptualise and deliver such training (Kalra and Soberman, 2008). Further, research partially addresses differences between firm experience and type, entrepreneur gender, geographical locations, and industry sectors. Still, a multitude of perspectives remains underexplored. AMA specifically points to training set-up, timing, and media usage, as well as reaching more diverse member audiences. AMA’s substantial membership may further allow considering an ambitious methodological set up like a field/natural experiment, randomised control trial or panel. However, the final framing of the specific PhD thesis topic within the sketched-out context would be incumbent upon the selected PhD candidate in cooperation with AMA and the PhD supervisor team.

What we expect from the candidate?

We are looking for a candidate (either home or international) with a background in any of the disciplines of marketing, business management, culture, media, creative industries, art history, or related fields. They must be interested in exploring the abovementioned topics with us and keen to engage with AMA on a regular basis. You do not need to be an expert in any arts-related discipline as this is clearly a PhD in marketing endeavour though obviously some interest in the arts management-marketing skills training interface is assumed.

We further expect a reasonable level of personal resilience, readiness to engage with various arts-related topics and stakeholders, as well as general openness towards new challenges, and cultural settings. We appreciate, a high level of motivation and curiosity in conjunction with the ability to efficiently self-organise. 

How to apply?

If interested please familiarise yourself with the detailed PhD project description containing specific application details: In a nutshell, applicants are expected to submit a CV and a motivation letter to the project supervisors. Please do not concurrently apply with King's Business School as only the successful candidate will be expected to do so.

Before applying please consult the formal entry requirements and fees:

The project is available full-time only.

Programme: PhD in Marketing

Start date: September 2024 (the student will be registered with King's Business School)

Shortlisted candidates will be notified shortly after May 3, 2024 and invited for interviews held via MS Teams or if possible in person in Bush House, London WC2B 4BG, UK, on May 13 or 14, 2024.

Business & Management (5) Communication & Media Studies (7) Creative Arts & Design (9) Education (11) History & Archaeology (19)


AMA (2023),, accessed October 22, 2023.
Anderson, S.J., Chandy, R., and Zia, B. (2018), Pathways to Profits: The Impact of Marketing vs. Finance Skills on Business Performance, Management Science, 64(12), 5559-5583,
Anderson, S.J., Chintagunta, P., and Vilcassim, N. (2020), Connections Across Markets: Stimulating Business Model Innovation and Examining the Impact on Firm Sales in Uganda, working paper.
Anderson, S. J., Chintagunta, P., Germann, F., and Vilcassim, N. (2021), Do Marketers Matter for Entrepreneurs? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Uganda. Journal of Marketing, 85(3), 78-96.
Atefi, Y., Ahearne, M., Maxham, J.G., Donavan, D.T., and Carlson, B.D. (2018), Does Selective Sales Force Training Work? Journal of Marketing Research, 55(5), 722-737.
Camarero, C. and Garrido, M.J. (2012), Fostering Innovation in Cultural Contexts: Market Orientation, Service Orientation, and Innovations in Museums, Journal of Service Research, 15(1), 39-58.
CEBR (2019), Contribution of the arts and culture industry to the UK economy,, accessed October 22, 2023.
Clingingsmith, D., Drover, W., and Scott, S. (2023), Examining the outcomes of entrepreneur pitch training: an exploratory field study, Small Business Economics, 60(3), 947-974.
Homburg, C., and Jensen, O. (2007), The Thought Worlds of Marketing and Sales: Which Difference Makes a Difference? Journal of Marketing, 71 (3), 124–142.
Kalra, A., and Soberman, D. A. (2008), The Curse of Competitiveness: How Advice from Experienced Colleagues and Training Can Hurt Marketing Profitability, Journal of Marketing, 72(3), 32-47.
McDonald, R. E., Masselli, J.J., and Chanda, B. (2021), Nonprofit business model innovation as a response to existential environmental threats: Performing arts in the United States, Journal of Business Research, 125, 750–761.
Mottner, S., and Ford, J. B. (2005). Measuring nonprofit marketing strategy performance: the case of museum stores. Journal of Business Research, 58(6), 829–840.
Stremersch, S., Gonzalez, J., Valenti, A. et al. (2023), The value of context-specific studies for marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 51, 50–65.
Verhoef, P.C., and Leeflang, P.S.H. (2009), Understanding the Marketing Department’s Influence Within the Firm, Journal of Marketing, 73(2), 14–37.
Webb, J. W. et al. (2011), Where is the Opportunity without the Customer? An Integration of Marketing Activities, the Entrepreneurship Process, and Institutional Theory, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(4), 537-554.
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 About the Project