Business And Art, A Perfect Match

For corporates, supporting the arts can result in powerful cultural impact as well as valuable return on investment.

Art can often be used as a tool for communication. When a business or organisation chooses to invest in art, they are essentially investing in the story of the artwork itself, which may align with or better communicate their own views and ideals.

You need only look at the many fairs, competitions, and sponsorships for the arts in South Africa to gain an understanding of the country’s corporate support of art. The FNB Joburg Art Fair, Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Standard Bank Young Artist Awards and the Sasol New Signature Awards are just a few examples. While a basic desire to support the creative economy is often a factor behind corporate backing of the arts, there are also tangible mutually beneficial outcomes for both artist and corporation.

In 2014, PPC Cement launched the now-well-known PPC Imaginarium in an effort to extend recognition of and support to emerging innovation and design across the mediums of architecture, industrial design, sculpture, film, jewellery and fashion. While the practice of supplying cement itself may not suggest creativity, through initiatives such as the PPC Imaginarium, PPC can communicate its core values —construction, creation, support and innovation.

Rewarding and beneficial

Architect, academic and PPC Imaginarium judge Daniel van der Merwe explains that supporting the careers of young artists can be a rewarding practice for both the corporation and the overall creative economy.

“Over the years, PPC has been consistently rewarded in recognition of its support. PPC is a unique company and the success of the PPC Imaginarium confirms PPC as an important promoter towards nurturing the creative economy and its innovation contributions in South Africa. This year, the travelling exhibition of finalists’ work was viewed by an estimated 87 000 visitors. The initiative generates a very impressive ROI through widespread media coverage. In terms of brand positioning, this makes perfect marketing and business sense,” he explains.

In late 2018, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) launched their Fearless Girl campaign. Inspired by Wall Street’s original Fearless Girl statue, RMB commissioned artist Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe to create her own version of the artwork, which,cast in bronze and standing proudly beside a concrete lion, now forms part of RMB’s Precinct collection. The work was first showcased at the 2018 RMB Turbine Art Fair, and also compliments the brand’s own gender equality initiative, Project Athena.

“[The artwork] is a symbol of pride, courage and strength and an incredible beacon of hope to young women in Africa — encouraging us to lead in a way that is authentic to us,” explains Dharshni Padayachee from RMB’s Global Markets team.

Ultimately, when corporates provide financial support for the arts, return on investment can be found in the way art can promote brand salience, bolster public perception and become a means of communication and outreach beyond a corporation’s day-to-day business practice.

As Van der Merwe puts it: “It makes sense on all fronts for any company to see investing in the arts as a strategic business opportunity. Contributing extends benefits to all South Africans — for individual creatives, for communities and ultimately for the growth of civil society and our economy.”

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