How business and the arts can forge positive alliances

Anthony Harper has been a proud sponsor of the arts for many years. Our foundation sponsorship of the 2016 inaugural Pop-up Globe Theatre in Auckland was an outstanding success and we are delighted to also be the foundation sponsor for the 2017 season. Dr Miles Gregory, Artistic Director of the Pop-up Globe, has worked extensively in the theatre in the UK and New Zealand. Here he discusses how business and the arts can work together most effectively to forge positive alliances, with strong cultural, business and community benefits.

By Dr. Miles Gregory, Artistic Director of the Pop-up Globe Theatre

For hundreds of years, artists and arts organisations relied on patronage of wealthy individuals to support their work. By doing so, these individuals permitted artists to take risks and make great art that didn’t simply respond to commercial concerns. In return, patrons basked in the reflected glory of the artist, secure in the knowledge that they were contributing to the greater glory of society.

Today, the corporate world has supplanted the individual philanthropist as the most likely supporter of the arts. And, like the patrons of years gone by, corporate sponsors are looking for something in return.

In my experience the most successful collaborations between arts organisations and corporates are those where there’s a great alignment of values between partners - and where it’s not all about money.

For corporates, it’s important to remember all arts organisations are also businesses, although the scale of the business may differ greatly from the corporate partner. The Pop-up Globe is a business that happens to be working in the arts, a multi-million dollar company with - to date - over 170,000 customers, that employs a staff of over ninety people during its seasons.

It’s very important for both the corporate and arts organisation to understand from the outset what each other’s needs and expectations are – because frequently neither really understands what the other wants. Both need to be very clear about their goals and why they wish to enter into a partnership and, particularly for the arts organisation, realistic in their promises and confident they can deliver on them.

Theatre is by its very nature commercial. It’s the only art form where the product must be purchased at the point of performance. That’s not necessarily the case for fine art, sculpture, or music.  Because of this, it follows that live theatre must be made for the enjoyment of the consumer – mixing art and commerce. Theatre companies making good art are also likely to do good business - because the enjoyment of the audience is the aim of the business.

Theatre is also essentially a futures market. The product will be brought to the market months or even years in the future. Investors and producers must try to anticipate what the public will want then - and hope it is well matched with consumer taste at the point of consumption.

That process also means that, in any relationship between corporate business and the arts, the timing of the content needs to be aligned to what each business needs.  For instance, if the corporate’s major focus is on corporate hospitality, the event needs to be timed within the hospitality cycle. 

In the run-up to the first season of the Pop-up Globe, we were in discussion with several businesses regarding forming an alliance. Anthony Harper stood out - particularly for their enthusiasm for Pop-up Globe and their understanding of the enormous benefit it could bring to young people, especially through our $10 schools ticket initiative. Integrity is one of the core values for Anthony Harper, and also a core value for us. We had very good and frank conversations regarding exactly what they expected and what we could deliver.

Anthony Harper is very innovative and, as a firm with a long heritage, understands innovation comes through thorough understanding of the past.  Pop-up Globe also celebrates the past by translating it into the future. For us that is about how Shakespeare is performed today in New Zealand and globally, and for Anthony Harper it is about what it is means to be a corporate leader in modern New Zealand.

Also remarkable was Anthony Harper’s willingness to come on board before Pop-up Globe had even been built. They believed in us, and that’s something we’ll never forget. That alignment of values and shared understanding of the power of a vision resulted in a project that in its first year saw 20,000 schoolchildren from all over the country come to the Pop-up Globe.

It was like a pilgrimage. Overall, we sold 103,000 tickets in the first season - the equivalent of selling out London’s Old Vic for 100 nights.

Last, but not least, the business of theatre is to us the business of making magic. Magic - or incredible brand experience - is at the heart of good theatre. The Pop-up Globe focuses on audience experience and we even build the theatre so we can curate the most magical experience we can. The days when people went to see a show purely for its content are over. Corporates, like all audiences, now value the entire experience of an event. 

We’re delighted to work with Anthony Harper to bring the magic of Pop-up Globe to the world - and proof positive, if any was needed, that together arts organisations and businesses can create a world-changing synergy.

For full details of our Assembly series, click here.

Lythan Chapman website

Lythan Chapman

Business Development and Marketing Manager


P: +64 9 920 9271

M: +64 21 114 2291

More Thinking