ESPN Continues Role as Global Presenting Sponsor and Official Media Sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports
ESPN and Special Olympics today announced a one-year extension to the two-year global initiative announced in September 2013 that leverages the power of sports to promote an environment of social inclusion and acceptance, by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through the Special Olympics Unified Sports® program.
With today’s announcement, ESPN will extend its commitment to be the global presenting sponsor and official media sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports.
To date, ESPN has invested nearly $5 million in financial and in-kind support. ESPN will continue to support Special Olympics’ goal of registering one million Unified Sports participants, including athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities), teammates (individuals without intellectual disabilities) and coaches, by the end of 2015. There are currently more than 800,000 global participants in Unified Sports.
The announcement—made today by Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN corporate citizenship, and Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics—continues Disney’s and ESPN’s 30-year commitment to Special Olympics, ESPN’s first charitable investment. A portion of the one-year extension funds will continue to support an increase in Unified Sports participation in domestic and international markets announced in 2013. In addition, there will be expanded support in key growth markets, including China, Brazil and India. ESPN will also make possible key communications, marketing activations, coaches’ trainings, conferences, research and other resources needed to assist Special Olympics in expanding Unified Sports worldwide.
Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN corporate citizenship:
“I’m proud that our investment has helped grow the number of Unified athletes, teammates and coaches across the globe. We’re excited to continue this momentum and spread the message of social inclusion to reach one million Unified athletes and coaches by the end of the year.”
Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics:
“Our partnership with Disney and ESPN has been game changing. It has provided us the critical platform to build our Special Olympics Unified Sports program worldwide and continue to create communities of inclusion and respect. One of our highest priorities as a movement is to mobilize youth everywhere to play and live unified, and break down the barriers that exist for people with intellectual disabilities. Having Disney and ESPN continue to help drive the importance of Unified Sports in their storytelling and awareness efforts will help us achieve full inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.”
Special Olympics Celebration at ESPN’s Campus
In conjunction with the announcement, ESPN hosted a Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America (URAA) celebration on its Bristol, Conn., campus. ESPN and ABC—media networks of The Walt Disney Company—are the Official Media Partners of the Unified Relay, which culminates at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony on July 25 in Los Angeles. ESPN is the official broadcaster of the World Games and will have three hours of live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on July 25 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) featuring Robin Roberts, co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America, and SportsCenter anchors Lindsay Czarniak and Kevin Negandhi. In addition, there will be a nightly highlights program hosted by Czarniak and Negandhi throughout the nine-day event.
At today’s URAA event, ESPN President John Skipper was one of the torchbearers running with the Flame of Hope that will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics World Games. Among those joining Skipper were Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike) and SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris. After entering campus with the Flame of Hope, Skipper spoke at a ceremony that was emceed by Negandhi and also included Froetscher; Beau Doherty, President of Special Olympics Connecticut; and Connecticut Special Olympics Unified Golf teammates, Lisa Thomasco of Mystic and Christine Post of Groton, from Special Olympics USA. In addition, World Games athletes Selina Derungs of Simsbury, Conn., (Aquatics) and Chuck Yenkner of Glastonbury, Conn., (Athletics) were in attendance.
The event also included live music by the pop rock band R5 and was attended by WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, who represented WWE as part of the company’s support as Promotional Partner of the URAA and World Games.
About The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international entertainment and media enterprise with five business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, consumer products and interactive media. Being a good corporate citizen is a time-honored Disney tradition. Through contributions, collaborations with local organizations, in-kind gifts and volunteering, Disney helps to brighten the lives of kids and families in need and strengthen communities around the world. For more information visit, thewaltdisneycompany.com/citizenship or twitter.com/CitizenDisney.
About ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplifts the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use power of sport to positively address society’s most pressing needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information go to espn.com/citizenship.
About Disney | ABC Television GroupThe Disney | ABC Television Group is composed of The Walt Disney Company’s (NYSE: DIS) global entertainment and news television properties, owned television stations, and radio business. This includes ABC, ABC Studios, ABC News, ABC Owned Television Stations Group, Disney Channels Worldwide and ABC Family, as well as Disney | ABC Domestic Television and Disney Media Distribution. The Company’s equity interest in A+E Networks and Hulu round out the Group’s portfolio of media businesses.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 81,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Lions Clubs International, Mattel, Toys”R”Us, Microsoft, P&G, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, Finish Line, The Safeway Foundation, and Safilo Group. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, instagram.com/specialolympics and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.
About the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games
With 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games – being staged in Los Angeles July 25 – August 2, 2015 – will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. The 2015 Special Olympics World Games, with the unparalleled spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork, joy and displays of courage and skill that are hallmarks of all Special Olympics events, will feature 25 Olympic-style sports in venues throughout the Los Angeles region. The Opening Ceremony, to be held July 25 in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games, is expected to attract 80,000 spectators. For more information on the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.LA2015.org and on social with #ReachUpLA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.