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University of Pennsylvania

Capital Campaign Celebration


Time to shine


Showcasing a success story

Location: Philadelphia / USA Industry: Education Government, Public & Non-Profit

The University of Pennsylvania’s seven-year, multi-billion dollar campaign concluded with historic levels of financial support and participation of alumni and friends around the world. In celebration of this extraordinary achievement, the University set out to reveal to its community the real impact of the campaign: a more beautiful and sustainable university that's changing lives, shaping futures, and making the world a better place.

Transforming the future

As institutions of higher learning strive to secure their ability to educate future generations, raising funds has become an increasingly important priority. In a gesture of celebration and gratitude for the success of their history-making campaign, Penn President Amy Gutmann, together with the Board of Trustees, chose to culminate the campaign with a world-class series of events around the globe for donors and volunteers to further bond them to the university.

Penn turned to Freeman to bring their emotional and inspirational story to life. Working in partnership with Penn’s strategic communications and special events teams, we created an overall message architecture to deliver on Penn’s goals: to focus on the extraordinary levels of participation; the impact of campaign funds on priority areas such as student aid, faculty endowment, and capital improvements; demonstrate cross-disciplinary intersections; and show how engaging with the University both locally and globally will deliver a positive impact on the world.

Bringing the stories to life

After the University stakeholders were aligned on the key messages, we helped draw out the stories that would reveal impact and inspire audiences and developed guidelines on how best to bring them to life.

Through a series of discovery meetings, phone, and in-person interviews, we identified the storytellers deemed most effective on film based on authenticity, charisma, and ability to articulate key points. The end result of this first phase wasn’t just the cornerstone of Penn’s live celebrations; it generated content for Penn’s communications team to access and utilize on future projects.

We then outlined a global launch strategy that allowed for the stage set, visuals, and narration to be adapted based on the cultural needs of the audience. The Freeman team scouted and sourced several top cities across three continents, including Hong Kong and London. A custom set, resembling reflective surfaces from the campus’ buildings, held multiple dimensions of content bringing the story to life in 3D. The set could easily adjust in size and dimension based on differing parameters in multiple venues, ensuring the program would look great and deliver a consistent experience in cities both near and far.

The reaction

Dr. Gutmann was the master of ceremony, narrating the “Time to Shine” program and making connection points between highlights of the campaign journey and the stories that illuminated around her on the stage. Her stories were told through a multi-sensory stage experience that rang true across many dimensions — visually bold, audibly concise, in video, and in song.

And just like any dramatic movie or play has an accompanying musical score, original music underscored Penn’s story and was performed live and on a recorded track by Penn students hand-selected from an open audition across the university.

University of Pennsylvania is helping to pave the way in how institutions of higher education communicate with their key constituencies by using a dramatic, emotional, theatrical approach to telling their story about how gifts and donations are changing lives, shaping futures, and making the world a better place.

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