"Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt." — Special Olympics Athlete Oath
By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism
February 25, 2016: There were many sports-related events and activations in 2015 that were important, impactful, strategic, fun and memorable.
But when it came time to select the No. 1 event from among the Top Ten Sports Marketers of the Year, the competition, fittingly enough, was barely close.
What are the qualities, strategies and skill sets that separated one group from others to make them rise to the level of Grand Sports Marketer of the Year for 2015?
For the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles, it was successfully hosting from July 25-Aug. 2 some 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, 30,000 volunteers and an estimated 500,000 spectators — organizers called it the "single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games."
For the event, partners and supporters included AEG, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Kaiser Permanente, Mattel, Microsoft, the NFL, Procter & Gamble, Safeway Foundation, Toyota, Toys R Us, Kate Capshaw & Steven Spielberg, the U.S. Postal Service, The Walt Disney Co., the Wrigley Foundation and WWE.
And the role that the Special Olympics World Games played in helping to get Los Angeles selected as the U.S. Olympic Committee's representing city to bid on the 2024 Summer Games can not be underestimated.
For these and other reasons, Special Olympics has been named as the Grand Sports Marketer of the Year based on votes cast among the more than 50,000 readers of NYSportsJournalism, votes cast via social media and input from sports and business marketing analysts and writers nationwide.
Special Olympics, based in Washington DC, joins a prestigious list of Grand Sports Marketers of the Year that includes BBVA Group (2010), Mission AthleteCare (2012), Stand Up to Cancer with MLB and MasterCard (2013) and the ALS Association (2014).
It was, of course, all about the athletes, who came from around the world to compete in 25 Olympic-type sports: Aquatics, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Half Marathon, Handball, Judo, Kayaking, Open Water Swimming, Powerlifting, Roller Skating, Sailing, Softball, Table Tennis, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball and Beach Volleyball.
According to Special Olympics, the Los Angeles Games "provided a venue for global discussions and action on the impact Special Olympics can have on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. As many as 200 million people worldwide have an intellectual disability, making it the largest disability group worldwide. Intellectual disability crosses racial, ethnic, educational, social and economic lines, and can occur in any family."
ESPN, with focus on the athletes themselves, covered the entire event, including the Opening Ceremony from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, daily competition, nightly highlights, the Closing Ceremony and other cultural activities.
According to ESPN, more than 20 million people in the U.S. watched some part of its coverage.
The social media audience topped four billion impressions across all channels, including Facebook, Facebook Spanish, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn, according to Special Olympics.
In addition, the 2015 Games was the No. 1 trending topic on Facebook, and Google ran a Google Doodle for two days during the Games to drive awareness.
Among partner activation:
The U.S Postal Service created a Forever Stamp commemorating the World Games.
Coke’s support of the Games extended to the market via a commemorative 8-oz. glass bottle, outdoor advertising and retail promotions encouraging consumers to support Special Olympics by volunteering or donating.
Toyota created a Special Olympics digital hub — “Journey to the Games” — which showcased the brand's various activities leading up to the World Games and throughout the Games itself. Toyota activation also included in-store activations and events at Toyota dealers and support from Team Toyota Nascar driver Clint Bowyer.
Kaiser Permanente created “Be Brave,” an integrated campaign featuring seven Special Olympians from Southern California, ads with actress Allison Janney, billboards, Internet, mobile and social media.
WWE employed "all its platforms," including WWE Network, TV and PPV broadcasts, live events, digital, social media and its athletes as spokespersons "to generate awareness and support of the World Games.”
Davis Elen Advertising, Los Angeles, was the agency of record for the 2015 World Games.
From May 26-July 10, the Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America saw participants carry the Flame of Hope via three simultaneous cross-country routes, covering all 50 states, ultimately converging in Los Angeles prior to the World Games. The event included more than 20,000 participants.
In conjunction with the United Relay, singer Avril Lavigne released via iTunes the song and related video, "Fly," which through the Avril Lavigne Foundation supported Special Olympics and the World Games Los Angeles. She performed the song live during Opening Ceremonies.
Special Olympics dates back to the late 1950s when, according to the organization, "Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She also saw that many children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to play. She decided to take action."
Ultimately, the first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Soldier Field, Chicago, where on July 20, 1968, 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competed in track & field, swimming and floor hockey.
“The Special Olympics World Games is a truly compelling event, filled with some of the most extraordinary sports stories and people you will ever see,” Russell Wolff, evp-ESPN International, said of the World Games. “Sports has the power to be unifying, uplifting and life-changing, and this event (is) a remarkable and tangible example of that power.”
The Special Olympics Winter World Games 2017 will be held in Austria and are scheduled for March 14-25.
NYSportsJournalism would like to congratulate the other nine companies and groups named Top Sports Marketers of the Year for 2015 (in alphabetical order):
AT&T, Dick's Sporting Goods, eSports (category), Esurance, HBO-Showtime (Mayweather-Pacquiao), NFL Super Bowl 50, NHL, PepsiCo Gatorade and Skechers.
Female Athlete Sports Marketer of the Year: Ronda Rousey
Male Athlete Sports Marketer of the Year: Stephen Curry
For more information on Special Olympics click here.
Sports Marketers of the Year 2015: Nothing Is Easy, Everything Is Possible