OPPORTUNITY

In the face of a 1982 federally-mandated break-up of AT&T into smaller regional “Baby Bells”, Southwestern Bell (later SBC Communications) faced an identify crisis of sorts, having gone from an international organization to a smaller regional entity.

The opportunity was to find an innovative way to return SBC to the international stage, projecting an image of a world-class organization and enhancing their perception as a go-to partner with which to do business.

STRATEGY

  • Understanding the timeless role of art as a universal connector of people and cultures worldwide and recognizing the value (financially, corporately and socially) of SBC’s significant and renowned collection of over 2,000 art works, we identified this art – and this impressive collection – as a powerful fulcrum from which to build a unique platform for both internal as well as external outreach, engagement and growth.
  • We created a comprehensive initiative as part of the re-brand of SBC’s corporate culture and to build relationships with global business leaders. We developed and built an initiative where SBC would invest strategically in art to bolster the company’s brand, internal and external relationships, values, and its foundation/external affairs.
  • One of the top 5 photographers/subject experts who followed Mohammed Ali on his journey and provided unique imagery for the production.
  • A leading Grammy-award winning producer and writer of hip hop music, who wrote the original background music for the documentary, capturing the energy and ethos of the boxing experience.
  • We leveraged the art collection as a working asset to support the emerging new branding that SBC was seeking. The appreciation of the arts was a key element in forging new relationships. The utility of “purposing” this collection were many and included:
    — Serving as a conduit to other business leaders
    — Supporting lobbying efforts
    — Lending to schools and to art museums
    — Creating educational materials for grade school distribution
    — Art donations to companies (in lieu of financial support)
    — Seminars and learning classes for employees
    — Created partnerships between corporate foundations and museums
    — Publishing a book about the collection that was shared with educational institutions and libraries across the U.S. as a resource for learning

OUTCOMES

As a result of these multi-faceted initiatives which lasted for almost 30 years, SBC’s image was transformed to that of a world-class player in the telecommunications arena, resulting in significant financial ROI as well as important business and cultural relationships.

SBC’s membership in The Business Committee for the Arts, a prestigious committee headquartered in New York that encouraged businesses to support the arts, placed the organization in the company of the C-suite of multi-national firms, providing additional opportunity for business growth.

Substantial community and corporate good will was generated as SBC (and eventually AT&T) was now seen as an innovative and proactive corporate citizen, fostering exposure to art and educational opportunities previously not available.