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The business and the arts

Sydney Opera House

When in 1989 the Eastern Bloc changed its course and the Communist states eventually opened their borders and markets, the big Western companies started to arrive and settle in. The time to welcome international artists had finally arrived. One of the first big stars invited to play a concert in Sofia, Bulgaria was Sting. At the peak of his career Sting was meant to perform in a post Communist country which to many sounded absurd. Surprisingly, the concert became a reality. It was such an enormous event in the psyche of the Bulgarians, that it felt almost like a revolution. Behind the scenes, the man who made that event possible was the then CEO of Coca-Cola, Alexander Grancharov. Alexander was not only an excellent businessman and leader, but also a very cultural and educated man.

Fifteen years after that concert, I took Dominic Miller and his band to Bulgaria and the person who helped with the finances was again Alexander Grancharov, then CEO of Carlsberg. It is important to say that Mr. Grancharov did not know me. He simply supported a cultural event which he believed had a special significance. A few years later, he and his organisation backed a series of musical projects which were organized to help elderly people in need. Alexander Grancharov was one of those savvy businessmen who understood that business does not only mean money making. He understood the importance of art, education and community and tried to implement the long standing vision on the companies he led on local soil.

copyright: Tania Yakumova for Coca-Cola Ukraine

We often talk about “inspirational leaders". In all examples of notable leaders, we see the same all-round concept: their business is an integral part of their community. They always try to better their surroundings. Any wise leader understands that their business will have more financial and material success if the consumers are in a position to understand and afford it. Those consumers need to be both educated and cultural which in turn will improve their employment and subsequently, financial status. By supporting the arts, the businesses create a special connection with the consumers, bond not only based on the understanding of the popular tastes, but also on a shared emotional experience.

The big companies have been involved with the arts for many years now. Rolex does not support only tennis at Wimbledon, but some of the most important music institutions in Europe such as La Scala and also many schools amongst which the School for Decorative Arts in Geneva. Mercedes supports the Canadian Opera Company. The fin tech XTX Markets helps the London Symphony Orchestra. Ziff brothers had given 50 million dollars to Metropolitan Opera, Energy Australia is one of the many sponsors of Sydney Opera House. These are just a few examples of the sponsors lists of those musical bodies and some of the big and rich companies. I can only dream what the world would be like if any business - big and not so big - got involved with an art or an educational project as part of their “giving back to the society” strategy.

Many industries claim they are changing their course from “profit only” and open out to their immediate communities. In that case, what could be more beneficial for all than a more cultured and educated town, country, or dare I say, world? In times in which governments mercilessly cut money for arts at schools, every penny counts. A local business could support a small concert, a local dance production, a small play. A bigger business could provide for art projects at schools. A corporation could sponsor a big art body. Many already do, but much more is needed.

Would that be justified? Sure it will!

Just think about it for a second: What was your favourite song when you were a teenager? First dance? Wedding dance? Did you act in a school play? Have you ever been to see your top favourite artist perform? Favourite film? Painting?

There are hardly any events in life which can compare to a strong art experience. Those experiences build the foundations of what would become a curious, emotional and strong individual. They are instrumental in the formation of a character. This is the type of people your business needs. If you want to have a successful business, support the arts. It will pay you back and more.


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