On April 18th, the fourth Ross-lead Taproot team kicked off a new project with Ballet Chicago. It is a Brand Strategy and Key Messages project that will run for six months. Having worked with Ballet Chicago last year on their Strategic Plan, we had already decided that BC need to position themselves as a ballet education conservatory to best leverage their strengths in their school.This year’s team includes Anne Bommi (MBA’04) as the Brand Strategist, Neha Mehta (MBA’09) as the Community Manager and Hugh Jedwill (MBA’04) as the Account Director.When it comes to BC’s branding they have classic issues with brand identity and mixed messages. At a basic level many people confuse “Ballet Chicago” with “Chicago Ballet.” In addition, many people think of ballet and dance as the same thing. Even those who consciously recognize the difference typically don’t know that the Ballanchine-style ballet training is considered the most comprehensive, modern style.The first part of the challenge is to create a Positioning Statement that Ballet Chicago can use internally to identify what space do they compete in, what they do, how they do it and what their point of difference is. Then the team will focus on Key Messsages that BC can use in communicating with their key stakeholders.
Ballet Chicago is extremely excited about the project as it comes on the heels of the Ross Student MAP project that created a Marketing Plan for their Nutcracker and Spring Repertory performances. Taken together, BC will have a strong communication plan with tight, consistent messaging. This in turn will help them define themselves in the crowded dance space of Chicago, receive more funding from donors and foundations and recruit more board members.
On March 29th, the student MAP team from Ross presented the midpoint update to Ballet Chicago. This was a time for all of those involved with the project to reflect on the progress made so far and discuss the ultimate goals for the team and Ballet Chicago.
The Ballet Chicago MAP Team
The Ross MAP team working with Ballet Chicago is made up of four first-year MBA students who are all energized about working with a nonprofit. Jennifer Hoffman, Victoria Torelli, Rachel McCallister, and Alejandra Pedemonte make up the team. In their few weeks in Chicago, they have managed to take dance classes through Ballet Chicago, go to performances, interview students, administrators, audience members and donors as well as check out the competition.
Bob Bondlow and Dan Duell from Ballet Chicago have been overjoyed by the caliber of work the students have provided. “We don’t always have the resources to do these things. When we found out we were a match with MAP, we thought ‘hail Mary!’” Bondlow said. Through the work the MAP team has provided, Bondlow and Duell said they have already been able to see through other people’s eyes how their organization compares, something they have not been able to do on their own.
The MAP team is working on building a strategy for Ballet Chicago to increase their target audience. Being a real-world consulting project, the students have been able to get the most out of their educational experience. “I feel like this project has been a culmination of all of my classes so far,” said Jennifer Hoffman, a member of the MAP team.
Victoria Torelli, also on the MAP team said that she expected this project to be a passion project, given her background in dance, “but the passion changed to be passion for the company instead of just ballet,” she said.
Professor Jane Dutton, the MAP team’s faculty advisor, was also present for the presentation. She felt that this presentation was a memorable turning point in her many years of being a MAP faculty advisor. “There was a level of connectedness to the heart of this project and I could see the light in the eyes of the students,” Prof. Dutton said, “What’s wonderful is that no one is the expert here and everyone is learning.”
Bondlow and Duell feel that the larger goal of the project was to help the educational experience for the students. However, the strategy and learnings that the students are providing to them has been invaluable. “When an artist sees a full audience, you have no idea what happens to their heart.” Bondlow said.
Core team members met and interviewed various people affiliated with BC: employees, volunteers, students, parents, alumni, donors, dance critics and even competing organizations. Based on the information accumulated, the Ross AMAP team presented its Environmental Scan on June 16th.
The team quickly realized that everyone who knew BC even slightly was most impressed by the value of its school. The outside community saw only the performances, which were rated as highly as other professional troupes by professional dance critics. But the place that held the hearts of all those who knew BC, was how it developed the best dancers with its caring, character-building and deep attention to each student.
This was a significant change. Previously, BC had tried to create a reputation as a performance organization, competing with heavy-hitters like the Joffrey and Hubbard Street Dance. The strategy that the Ross AMAP team created shifted the focus away from the fierce competition of Chicago performance dance and into BC’s strength of education.
On September 20th, the Ross AMAP team presented the final Environmental Scan and SWOT. All in all, it was a very successful project. With the findings of the team, Ballet Chicago has been able to secure new funding, is working to re-build it board and has critical hires planned over the next five years.
Ballet Chicago’s Artistic Director, Dan Duell, commented on the impact of this project:
“The Ross AMAP TEAM lifted us up and opened up a new world of possibilities for our future. We now have a much stronger sense of how to direct our energies and resources toward our long-term goals.”
AND THERE’S MORE
A new AMAP project is starting in March 2012 with Ballet Chicago. This time we will help them create a Brand Strategy and Key Messaging. Like the support we gave Family Matters in 2010, BC needs a clear message to cut through the clutter and misunderstandings in the dance industry. In all this confusion, their new strategy as an educational institution needs to come through clearly. A perfect challenge for Ross Alumni! If you’re interested in helping and have a marketing background please contact Hugh Jedwill before March 15 at email@example.com.
Ballet Chicago will also receive a student MAP team that will work on its Marketing Plan during March and April. They will work in coordination with Kevin Williams (MBA1986), who is developing a Spring Communications Plan, and Hugh Jedwill (MBA2004), who is the Account Director for the next Ross Chicago AMAP team for 2012.
If you liked the Ballet Chicago story, please join your fellow Michigan alums for some special events. March 14 we will host an event welcoming the BC student MAP team, along with other Chicago MAP teams. We will also have a family-oriented alumni outing to see Ballet Chicago’s Spring Repertory performance on Sunday, May 6th at 3pm. More details on the May event will be soon available.
The Ross Chicago AMAP Non-profit Initiative: Creating Deep, Positive Change in our Community
In April 2011, Ross started its 3rdAMAP initiative with Ballet Chicago. Ballet Chicago (BC) is a leading, international non-profit ballet school that trains and performs in the Ballanchine style. Five months later in September, the Ross AMAP team created the foundation for a Strategy Plan. Team member, Manisha Singh (EMBA2004), worked for the next few months to help them finish and get board approval for a five-year plan.
In April 2011, Ross started its 3rd AMAP initiative with Ballet Chicago. Ballet Chicago (BC) is a leading, international non-profit ballet school that trains and performs in the Ballanchine style. Five months later in September, the Ross AMAP team created the foundation for a Strategy Plan. Team member, Manisha Singh (EMBA2004), worked for the next few months to help them finish and get board approval for a five-year plan.
Timing of the Strategic Plan was critical for BC. They had grown to a $1 million organization but were operating on the same principles for over ten years. In their words:
“The growth that has occurred in the past year places Ballet Chicago on the cusp of a higher tier of performing arts organizations in metropolitan Chicago. With a budget of over $1,000,000 for FY2011, the organization has entered into a different category of fundraising and is now competing with larger arts organizations for the same funding dollars.”
It was clear that they could benefit from a team of Ross Chicago alums. The team formed in partnership with the Taproot Foundation, a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society. In addition, Ross Alums felt a special bond to BC, as they truly build people’s character and leadership through an empowering educational experience. In the words of Patricia Blair, School Director:
“…we want children who can go into the world with the utmost faith in themselves, with kindness and care for other people, with knowing how to be a team player and pitch in and be one of those that walks into the room and makes it better just by their being there.”