SOI announces partnership with Disney, ESPN

Special Olympics International has announced a partnership with Walt Disney Company and ESPN to promote social inclusion and acceptance through sports.

According to the press release from ESPN on Friday, Sept. 6, ESPN and parent company Walt Disney Company have signed on to become global presenting sponsors and official media sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports.

The rest of the press release from ESPN is below.

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Special Olympics today announced a two-year global initiative that will leverage 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 a multi-million dollar financial and in-kind investment, Disney and ESPN will 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 2015.

The new collaboration, announced by John Skipper, ESPN President, and Timothy P. Shriver, Special Olympics CEO and Chairman, expands on Disney’s and ESPN’s 30-year commitment to Special Olympics. A portion of the new funds will be directed to Special Olympics Programs around the world to help grow Unified Sports initiatives, as well as to enhance Special Olympics Unified Sports branding and marketing initiatives to increase awareness of the program.

Eight target growth markets have been identified, including four domestic (Connecticut, central Florida, southern California/greater Los Angeles and Seattle) and four global (Argentina, Brazil, India and Mexico). ESPN will also help Special Olympics develop and strengthen the Unified Sports global brand through marketing assistance, target-market research and in-kind ads and public service announcements across ESPN platforms. Additionally, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN have become the global presenting sponsors and official media sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports, and will lend their branding to Unified Sports events in the eight target markets.

Tim Shriver, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Special Olympics:
“We are thrilled that Disney and ESPN recognize the power of Special Olympics Unified Sports and want to support the growth of our program that creates a level playing field in schools and communities throughout the world. Our movement is a social revolution using sports to achieve our goals and Unified Sports is our path to creating communities that are accepting and inclusive.”

John Skipper, ESPN President, Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks:
“We’re proud to play a leading role in this global initiative to encourage social inclusion through sports. We’re inspired by the tremendous work done all over the world by Special Olympics through Unified Sports. Inclusion and acceptance are values that our company stands for and I know our employees will passionately support this wonderful effort.”

Leslie Goodman, Senior Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, Disney:
“Sports have the unique ability to transcend social and cultural barriers. Disney is proud to support Special Olympics Unified Sports, which is helping to create a better world through compassion and understanding.”

Special Olympics Celebration at ESPN’s campus
In conjunction with the announcement, ESPN hosted a Special Olympics Unified Sports celebration on its Bristol, Conn. campus—one day before ESPN’s 34th anniversary (Sept. 7). Teams participated in Unified Sports recreational competitions, which included basketball, flag football and soccer. Special Olympics athletes played alongside Portland Trail Blazers’ NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, X Games skateboarder Mitchie Brusco, U.S. women’s soccer player Kristine Lilly, ESPN NFL Live host Trey Wingo, ESPN SportsCenter anchors Sage Steele and Kevin Negandhi and several ESPN employees. Additionally, Sue Swanson, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, was on site to support the announcement as was Special Olympics International board member and champion figure skater, Michelle Kwan.SO_Unifed_Sports_Infographic

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