Partnership helps nuture promising Czech performers

The Prague Post

National Theater is beneficiary of KB’s philanthropic efforts

Awards and corporate sponsorships aren’t unusual if you’re running a sports team. But what if you are an up-and-coming dancer? Or you manage a performing-arts venue instead of a football team?

One answer lies in a new partnership established earlier this year by Komercní banka (KB) and the National Theater, which joined forces to promote promising talent and further develop and enhance the theater’s repertoire.

The partnership benefits both institutions, according to KB spokesperson Romana Ondrešková. “Having its name connected with a jewel in the crown of Czech culture is perceived by Komercní banka not only as a matter of prestige,” she says. “First and foremost, [it is] a contribution to the National Theater’s further development, and highlights its exceptional position on the cultural scene.”

One part of this program is the Komerční banka Prize in the National Theater, awarded for the best premiere performances by soloists in the theater’s three principal showcases: ballet, opera and drama. The awards for the 2005-06 season were presented on the National Theater stage Oct. 27, before the premiere of Tajemství.

The winners were dancer Tereza Podacilová for her role as Tatjana in the ballet Onegin; actress Emília Vášáryová for her portrayal of Maria in the play Joseph and Mary; and singer Zdenek Plech for his role of Ramfis in the opera Aida. They each received 10,000 Kc ($458) along with a bronze sculpture.

“The Komercní Banka Award is a unique display of the extended partnership between the theater and KB,” says David Pospíšil, sponsorship manager at the National Theater. “This prize motivates performers on the stage and helps the artistic growth of the theater.”

Komercní banka has been a mainstay supporter of the National Theater since 2002. But that’s not the only institution that benefits from its backing.

“Our sponsorship strategy primarily focuses on the domains of culture, nonprofessional sports, education as well as charity projects,” explains Ondrešková.

Examples include an ongoing cooperation with the Czech Rugby Union, Prague Zoo, numerous hospital projects in connection with the Archa Chantal Foundation and general support for universities across the Czech Republic.

KB’s philanthropic activism stands out in a country not known for its charitable giving. Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom, which Ondrešková disputes.

“According to research by the Donors Forum [a membership association that tracks and provides support for philanthropic giving] in June 2004, philanthropy in the Czech Republic is quite well developed and is increasing dramatically,” she says.

According to that study, over the previous three years the number of companies with corporate giving programs increased 12 percent. The study also found that 67 percent of the companies that participated in the survey were already involved in donating and sponsorships.

Even in that context, KB’s philanthropic program is a standout, especially in the current climate. “Our legislation in the Czech Republic does not look with favor on financial support of nonprofit art projects by corporations,” says Pospíšil. “The partnership market has been oriented to sports and TV commercials. The partnership between KB and the National Theater is an exception.”

And the need for help at schools and charitable organizations is never-ending. According to Ondrešková, KB has distributed a total of more than 60 million Kc in sponsorships and donations in 2006 alone.

“As a major Czech bank, we are well aware of our commitments to society as a whole,” she says. “KB takes its social responsibility very seriously.”