Sponsorship at TU Darmstadt

Sponsorship at TU Darmstadt

At the TU we receive many offers from companies for donations. But when is this a donation, when is a sponsorship? And how do I set up the whole thing legally, so that everyone is satisfied in the end? Here are guidelines, tips and templates and many answers to your questions.

Bild: Inken Bergenthun
Bild: Inken Bergenthun


Questions and answers on the topic of sponsorship

Sponsorship is a form of targeted, contractually agreed cooperation between a giver and a receiver. The sponsor provides the sponsored party with money, goods, services or non-cash benefits and the sponsored party grants the sponsor a contractually agreed service in return. The giver uses sponsorship as an instrument for marketing, advertising and image management purposes. The aim is public communication, such as at events, on flyers or on the internet.

Depending on the kind of sponsoring agreement (active or passive) it might be classified as commercial sponsorship and might thus be subject to VAT taxation.

In the case of donations, the principle of a service in return is strictly excluded. Donations are contributions of money or goods that a person, organisation or company provides voluntarily and free of charge for the promotion of non-profit interests (e.g. research and teaching at a university). The university is not obliged to provide services in return, nor are these contractually agreed. A donor simply makes a donation and does not act for company benefit or for a non-cash service in return. They often expect absolute confidentiality or very modest publicity.

In case of donations in kind (e.g. machinery, laboratory equipment) TU Darmstadt is only allowed to issue a receipt of the donation if the donor has signed a notice of intent.

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For the sponsored party, i.e. the university, it is crucial to know whether it is granting communicative services in return in a more “passive”, reserved form or performing them in an “active” way through emphatic public communication. In the first case, TU Darmstadt does not have to pay any tax. In the second case, the services can be classified as commercial sponsorship activities, in which case the university has to pay sales tax, among other things, on the revenue obtained.

Differences between “active” and “passive” sponsorship:

Examples of “passive”, “tolerable” involvement of the sponsored party in communication:

  • Brief thanks in writing, e.g. in a brochure or event flyer or on a TU Darmstadt web page
  • A brief reference to the sponsor’s support, with their name mentioned and/or a modest graphic representation of their logo, e.g. on a poster or as an unlinked image on TU Darmstadt’s website
  • Release of the name and, if applicable, provision of a logo of the sponsored party and the logo of TU Darmstadt to the sponsors for appropriate promotional purposes
  • Example of a joint symposium: the university and the sponsor make reference to the event in their publications and on their websites for the purpose of information and incorporate each other’s logo on their websites without linking it

Examples of “active”, emphatic involvement of the sponsored party in PR activities:

  • Clearly emphasised references to the sponsor on flyers, posters and the like
  • References to products of the sponsor, or advertisements placed in the sponsored party’s brochures; product placement in the context of a TU event
  • The possibility of a trade fair stand being set up by the sponsor
  • Placing a link or putting the sponsor’s logo on the TU’s website through which one is taken to the home page or other web pages of the sponsor
  • A commitment to the sponsor to compile and publish media releases with promotional contents as a university
  • Naming an event after a sponsor

Both of these options are possible if they are agreed on within the context of a contractual agreement with your sponsor. The administrative department of Communication and Media is happy to provide the Athena logo in the required file format on request.

Within the context of a contractual agreement with your sponsor, this is possible as a service in return. Please take note of the information on “passive” and “active” sponsorship under the question “What am I allowed to and able to guarantee my sponsorship partner as services in return? What tax-related implications need to be considered in the case of sponsorship projects?” Depending on the case in question, incorporate the sponsor’s logo on your web page either with or without a link, or create an active link to your sponsor’s web page.

Please also take note of the guidelines for TU Darmstadt’s online presence („Das Bild der TU Darmstadt im Web“), which have been approved by the university’s Executive Board. The chapter on sponsorship and advertising says:

“As a basic principle, TU Darmstadt does not conduct any commercial advertising on the web pages that it is responsible for and has created itself. Incorporating active links to external partners (e.g. company logos or URLs), to any other companies, service institutions, etc., is a form of sponsorship and requires a written agreement. In this, the appropriate organisational unit of the university and its partner agree, among other things, on the extent and duration of the services provided and the services provided in return. Editorially mentioning partners from business, non-university research, etc., is, of course, possible for reference purposes."

Link on this topic:

The rooms can be requested or hired by means of a form in accordance with TU Darmstadt’s general rental terms and conditions.

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No. All forms of sponsorship services for courses at TU Darmstadt are barred in order to avoid any appearance of influence.

Offers by sponsors that are clearly distinguishable from courses in terms of timing and contents are, of course, fundamentally possible – for example, distinctions, receptions, participation on a jury and the like.

  • Checking contracts, issues related to sponsorship in third-party funded projects: Contract Management VI B.2: Contract Management; Ms Stefanie Koch, telephone 06151/16-57490, ; Ms Carina Barth, telephone 06151/16-57294, ;

Due to the abundance of different wishes that sponsors and recipients have, the relationship structures that have evolved and the different cultures, there is no “ready-made” agreement. Attached you can find a checklist with suggestions to help you draft the right sponsorship agreement for you:

Make the sponsorship agreement as transparent as possible. State with adequate brevity and precision

  • the sponsorship objectives and activities of the sponsor and of the party receiving the funds, as well as
  • all the services and services in return.

Services in return are, for example, the printing of the logo and name of the sponsor on programmes and posters, references in public, title sponsorship, patronage, providing your own logo and name for use, references on business stationery.

Also define the rights and obligations (elements to be performed by the sponsor, such as cash considerations, and, where applicable, classification according to contributions in kind and services) and the service elements or tolerable elements of the recipient.

Also make sure that services of other TU departments (e.g. press and public relations) that are promised are clarified internally beforehand.

Sponsorship agreements must always be in written form and should clarify the following contents:

  • definition of what the sponsor provides
  • definition of what the sponsored party provides in return
  • time dimension / duration of the agreement
  • financial handling (i.e. who pays whom for what and by when)
  • stating the net amount plus VAT on the basis of a cost estimation that covers the costs
  • agreement about the (non-)influence of the sponsor on the contents of the sponsored party’s work
  • liability
  • termination
  • To process the sponsoring inquiry the steps are as follows: First, please check whether you are dealing with a donation or an 'active' or 'passive' sponsoring agreement respectively. Once the decision is made, please prepare the contract and submit it for review. Once all contractual details have been verified you can request the opening of a project number. The project number is crucial to successfully process the project according to accounting standards.
  • It is important that all details have to be clarified before the project starts. Please note that asking for a project number once the project has started means extra work for all parties.
  • General questions concerning sponsorship: Ms Inken Bergenthun,Directorate III: Financial and Economic Matters; telephone 06151/16-27597,
  • Checking contracts, issues related to sponsorship in third-party funded projects: Directorate VI: Research;Ms Stefanie Koch, telephone 06151/16-57490, / Ms Carina Barth, telephone 06151/16-57294,
  • Assignment of account numbers of projects: Frau Andrea Ascherl, Directorate VI: Research; telephone 06151/16-57232,
  • Legal issues related to tax and donations: Mr Wolfgang Selzer, Directorate III: Financial and Economic Matters; telephone 06151/16-24369,
  • Ms Saskia Beyer, contact for corruption prevention; telephone 06151/16-26499,

When all the essential points have been clarified (clarifying whether it is a donation, active or passive sponsorship, the drafting of the contract, etc. – see answers to the questions above), you can apply for a project number from Directorate VI Research, Third-Party Funds Unit (by making an application for the allocation of a project number or by email). The following documents must be included:


  • Ms. Andrea Ascherl, Directorate VI Research, Third-Party Funds Unit; tel. 06151/16-57232,

Further Questions on the topic of cooperation with companies

TU Darmstadt does not allow commercially active companies to display the TU logo (or use the logo with a link back to the TU’s website) on company websites or in their printed publications – unless this is regulated within the context of contractual cooperation, such as in the form of sponsorship.

Why? TU Darmstadt’s logo is registered and recorded at the German Trademark Office. It is thus protected by law and has a financially quantifiable advertising value. Anyone who wants to advertise with us has to pay for it, including all the tax regulations. This can be arranged within the context of a cooperation agreement.

According to the case law of the fiscal courts, displaying the logo with or without a link (in this case to the TU Darmstadt website) on a commercial company website is an advertising service, which is taxable for TU Darmstadt as revenue. In addition, providing the logo to a company free of charge could entail an infringement of EU state aid law since TU Darmstadt as a corporation under public law would be granting the company a competitive advantage.

The TU Darmstadt logo is also not released for use in a pure supplier relationship. Suppliers to TU Darmstadt are permitted to name TU Darmstadt as a customer – but only with the full name, without any abbreviation, without the logo and without a link to TU Darmstadt’s website – all of that would be advertising. For this reason, TU Darmstadt also does not issue letters of reference.

Events and advertising on campus

Companies can conduct advertising campaigns at TU Darmstadt if they have made a contractual agreement with UAM Media Group GmbH (UAM) prior to this. A framework agreement between TU Darmstadt, represented by the Executive Board, and UAM uniformly regulates the commercial advertising possibilities at TU Darmstadt – for example, poster advertising, displaying information and promotional materials, and recruiting, promotional and sales campaigns. Interested companies are obliged to contact UAM, which handles the approval process on behalf of TU Darmstadt regarding promotional and sales campaigns at clearly defined locations / in indoor and outdoor areas at the Innenstadt and Lichtwiese campuses. Furthermore, commercial advertising (poster frames, display stands) in fixed indoor areas can be booked through UAM.

In all other areas of TU Darmstadt, companies are not permitted to advertise.


UAM Media Group GmbH
Kathrin Friesecke
Tel. 089-33 02 946 20


Companies and external organisations can hire lecture halls and seminar rooms at TU Darmstadt for events, e.g. symposia, and also conduct promotional activities in this context to a limited extent. TU Darmstadt has stipulated standardised conditions for renting rooms outside of teaching activities. External organisers who conclude a rental contract are permitted to advertise themselves in the rented rooms during the event to the extent defined (hanging up posters, putting out flyers). This also applies if organisational units of TU Darmstadt or accredited groups of TU Darmstadt conclude a rental contract and acquire external parties as event partners. In that case, the partners need to have concluded a written sponsorship agreement about the services and services in return.

Commercial promotional events by companies, such as recruiting, promotional and sales campaigns must be conducted on the basis of a contractual agreement with UAM Media Group GmbH. You can find more information about this under the question "Companies would like to advertise on the campus. How should I answer them?”

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All external activities on TU Darmstadt premises occur under adherence with the house regulations of the university. Furthermore, rooms can be used in accordance with TU Darmstadt’s general rental terms and conditions.

Job offers

TU Darmstadt offers an online job portal, called Stellenwerk. Here companies, organisations and private individuals can offer permanent positions, internships, trainee programmes, etc., for a small fee. With the portal currently being accessed about 15,000 times per month, it is in high demand.

Contact Stellenwerk:

Telephone: 0800 210 05 62 (free of charge for calls from the German fixed line and mobile network)

TU Darmstadt offers a central job portal, Stellenwerk.

Contact Stellenwerk:

  • telephone: 0800 210 05 62 (free of charge for German fixed line and mobile network)

If you put advertisements from companies or organisations, for example, online on your web pages, you are departing from the contractually regulated framework of Stellenwerk and granting companies an advantage. That is problematic, since it can give the impression that you are allowing yourself to be influenced for promotional interests. You may, of course, continue to freely publish vacant positions, internship places, etc., that are available in your department or at TU Darmstadt.

Against this background, TU Darmstadt’s Executive Board has approved a binding “Netiquette” that is intended to ensure greater transparency and to protect non-central TU web editors from involvement in advertising or a form of active sponsorship and the resulting consequences.

Anyone uploading external job advertisements to TU web pages must observe the following “Netiquette” criteria:

  • The job advertisement exists as a pdf document
  • It has a neutral graphic design, purely text-based plus the company logo
  • There are no active links to the company’s web pages – including in the PDF document itself

For creating the PDF document pleas use this Word template or pass it on to external third parties .

Word template for external job advertisements