While a good part of the sports and entertainment business world is focused on the MLB All-Star game, the Women’s World Cup hoopla, Copa America, The British Open, Wimbledon and other big events this July, another global undertaking of a massive scale is getting ready to get going as well. he Special Olympics Summer World Games will be held in Los Angeles from July 25 through August 2. Following up on the grand business and digital success of last year’s Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey, the World Games will be the most integrated and digital and social engaged platform that Special Olympics has had in their history. Like any massive global event, The Games will have their own challenges to get the word out about their coaches and athletes to a global audience that will include fans and casual followers.
We caught up with Chief Marketing Officer for Special Olympics (SOI), Kirsten Seckler to talk about all those challenges and opportunities in and around these Games.
Social media is so important for any event to gain a foothold these days, how has and will Special Olympics use platforms for the upcoming Games?
The Special Olympics World Games provide us with a showcase event to highlight the work that Special Olympics does every day, around the world. But more importantly, it gives us a chance to change perceptions and attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities – the most marginalized population on Earth. Social media will be a critical component to our awareness efforts. Not only will we push out news, results, content, stories, etc. through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, but we will engage people and mobilize them to be more inclusive and respectful of people with intellectual disabilities. We will be using Snapchat, Periscope and other forms of social media to reach more people. Our sponsors and celebrity supporters will also be using their channels to help further our message.
Are there special challenges and opportunities that the Games will have that other massive events may not?
Our biggest challenge is awareness and getting the world to watch and see the abilities of these talented athletes. Due to stigma and other perception gaps, people often are not compelled to watch our athletes or events. However, what we do offer that a lot of other events may not offer, is an opportunity for the world to come together in a way that transcends the things that divide us – race, culture, religion, politics, economic or educational status, and civil unrest. It is an atmosphere of welcome and acceptance that each of us long to have in our lives.
Which brands have done the best activation around the property thus far, and which ones should we be looking out for?
All of our partners are doing creative things to activate around the Games. Bank of America was the presenting sponsor of our first-ever Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America that kicked off on May 26th. Their support gave anyone the chance to carry the Special Olympics “Flame of Hope” for inclusion and respect as it traveled from coast to coast on three simultaneous routes hitting every state. Microsoft has engaged four Special Olympics athletes from throughout the world and will be keeping everyone updated as they work hard to reach their personal best in sports. And ESPN will change the game for us through their broadcast coverage. Not only will it be great TV, but it will be attitude changing TV. These are just a few examples of the many, many ways our sponsors are engaging with Special Olympics and the World Games.
What are some of the more creative ways athletes and fans have been engaging thus far?
The Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America has shown us amazing fans and supporters of the movement and our athletes. Nearly 10,000 people have passed the Flame of Hope, and all in their own, unique style. Special Olympics Italy received a send off from His Holiness Pope Francis, and in China the team received well wishes at a Gala event where Yao Ming and others were in attendance.
While Special Olympics is probably more about the athlete experience vs. a fan following, have you seen an uptick in support through the use of targeted social media?
Special Olympics is about all of us and we are finding that through our Special Olympics Unified Sports program, more and more people are joining teams made up of people with and without intellectual disabilities. In fact nearly 20 percent of the competition will be Unified Sports. Special Olympics athletes, and people with intellectual disabilities in general want to be fully included in society and we are seeing more of a trend for society to care, but there is still more work to be done. Thanks to our partners and celebrities and their ability to engage their customers and fan base, we are starting to see a change.
How will you judge success from an activation standpoint once The Games are over?
We have so many metrics for success around awareness, operations and more but the real success will be when more people include and respect people with intellectual disabilities.