Celebrating 75 Years as the Soul of American Culture
Design and implement an integrated campaign celebrating the legendary institution’s 75th anniversary and repositioning the Theater as a vibrant, forward-looking nonprofit with a distinctive artistic mission.
The Apollo Theater has a rich history as a legendary stage upon which many of the nation’s greatest performers launched their careers, validated their talent, and catapulted their reputations. On the occasion of the Apollo’s 75th anniversary, R+A designed a campaign of national and international scope to celebrate the impact of this peerless institution, while ensuring the moment served as a platform for reexamination and reinvigoration of how the nonprofit realizes its mission today. This required an institutional shift, from a focus on nostalgia and the Theater's great legends, to a more expansive view that highlighted the Apollo as a platform for innovative, contemporary performances.
As a first step, R+A worked with Apollo leadership to identify institutional priorities and goals for the campaign and developed key messages that defined and distinguished the Apollo's mission and program. The campaign launched with a press briefing in January, providing a framework for the anniversary events in the upcoming year, as well as the institution’s broader mission and artistic vision for the future. The event drew an international press audience and resulted in coverage illuminating the Apollo’s impact on American culture and enhancing its role as a model of innovation and excellence, and as a creative catalyst for Harlem, the City of New York, and beyond. Our campaign worked to ensure that the celebration reinforced the Apollo as a vibrant and vital institution with original programming—not simply a place of the past.
Our strategy included:
- Institutional analysis, strategy, and recommendations on alignment of programming to guide all Apollo Theater activities through the anniversary and beyond—including artistic and community program development, fundraising, communications, and restoration of its historic home;
- Crafting core messages that defined institutional legacy and mission, and linked to contemporary artistic vision and programming to build greater awareness and appreciation for the Apollo's impact on American and global culture;
- Development of "The Soul of American Culture" tagline for use across communications platforms, signaling the Theater's vital role in nurturing American artists through time;
- Conceptualizing institutional partnerships to broaden national and international audiences for Apollo programming, and increase depth of donor base;
- Mounting a press briefing for an international media audience, uniting and leveraging the breadth and depth of Apollo presentations to illustrate the institution’s continued impact on pop culture, frame anniversary programming, and illuminate core messages; and
- Conceptualization and implementation of media campaign engaging local, national, and international audiences with anniversary programming, new initiatives, and institutional partnerships.
R+A’s campaign gave the Apollo Theater the tools needed to align every aspect of the institution around support of its distinct mission, employing its legendary status in service of its current mission—including throughout the Theater’s programming, fundraising, communications, and audience services divisions. The renewed focus on original programming, partnerships with institutions aligned with the Theater’s values, and cultivation of communications platforms with an institutional grounding helped elevate and revitalize the brand, while expanding the Apollo’s base of support and the impact of its contemporary programs.
The campaign also generated press coverage of the anniversary and its programming across local, national, and international online, print, and broadcast outlets covering entertainment, music, and arts and culture. Coverage highlights included multiple stories in The New York Times, Associated Press, and Reuters, as well as The Washington Post, The Financial Times, New York Magazine, Town & Country, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Variety, Backstage, National Public Radio, BBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC news.
- January 2008 – Planning begins; development of communications campaign plan and key messages
- January 2009 – Launch of 75th anniversary season
- May 2010 – Apollo Legends Walk of Fame is unveiled, inaugural inductees include James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, and Smokey Robinson
- April 2010 – Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing exhibition begins national tour, chronicling the Apollo’s role in shaping the American entertainment landscape