The Walt Disney Company and ESPN Team Up with Special Olympics for Global Initiative to Promote Social Inclusion and Acceptance through Sports

The Walt Disney Company and ESPN to Become Global Presenting Sponsors and Official Media Sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports®

Unified Sports for Social Inclusion

With these new funds from ESPN, Special Olympics Bharat will increase the number of athletes and partners through these camps and increase the level of training for its coaches to deliver Unified Sports at each of these events.

Image Courtesy Special Olympics Bharat(Click on image for hi res version)

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.

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.”

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."

Air Marshal Denzil Keelor, Board Chair of Special Olympics Bharat:
“Thanks to ESPN, this is a huge opportunity for Special Olympics Bharat to further develop the opportunities of Unified Sports to support inclusion. We are well poised to meet the targets as we have a huge capacity to take on such large commitments - our platform covers 35 States and Union Territories, 600 districts, not to mention over a million schools and a population of 30 million people with Intellectual Disabilities. This is a wonderful opportunity for Special Olympics Bharat to expand their potential, well beyond what we have achieved so far.”

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.”

Disney, ESPN & Special Olympics Unified Sports® In India

As part of the collaboration with ESPN in support of Special Olympics Unified Sports, Special Olympics Bharat will receive grant money to increase Unified Sports participation and impact for athletes, teammates and coaches. At present, Special Olympics Bharat annually delivers ‘Recreation Camps’ to encourage athletes with intellectual disabilities and their unified teammates to engage in Unified Sports. The program currently works with 51,426 Unified athletes and teammates across 35 states and union territories in India.

With these new funds from ESPN, Special Olympics Bharat will increase the number of athletes and partners through these camps and increase the level of training for its coaches to deliver Unified Sports at each of these events.

The grant funding made possible by ESPN’s global collaboration will enable Special Olympics Bharat to run 700 Recreational Camps in all 35 states and union territories, train 2,200 coaches to deliver Unified Sports to 30,000 Athletes and 30,000 teammates in a number of different sports, including: Athletics, Aquatics, Bocce, Badminton, Basketball, Cricket, Football, Roller Skating, Softball, KhoKho, Team Handball, Kabaddi, Volleyball, Floor Hockey and Table Tennis. 

Unified Sports Celebration

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 U.S. 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.  

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. In 2012, the Company donated more than $292 million in cash, in-kind support and products, and Disney VoluntEARS gave over 586,000 hours of service.

About Team ESPN

Team ESPN, the corporate outreach program of ESPN, encompasses ESPN's multi-faceted initiatives, including volunteerism, corporate giving and cause marketing, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. Through Team ESPN, ESPN employees and fans join together to make a difference in the communities in which ESPN works.  Its slogan is “Fans Helping Fans.”


About Special Olympics Bharat

Special Olympics Bharat is an NGO that organizes Olympic-type sports for persons with intellectual disabilities. These sports and competitions are organized at various levels- local, district, state, national and international and based on abilities and performance athletes cross each level to participate at higher consecutive levels.

While sports remains the mainstay of the Special Olympics Program the capacity of the athletes are constantly developed through regular trainings and additional initiatives that help strengthen the athletes - mentally , physically emotionally.

Special Olympics Bharat is an NGO registered under the Indian Trust Act and accredited by Special Olympics International to conduct Special Olympics Programs all over India. Special Olympics Bharat is recognized by the Government of India as a National Sports Federation in the Priority Category for the development of Sports for Persons with Intellectually Disability and has been designated as the Nodal Agency by the Government for all disabilities on account of its national presence, outreach and experience. Special Olympics Bharat works across all States and Union Territories in India.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics addresses inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 70,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at Special Olympics Unified Sports is currently active in more than 2500 schools in 45 states, in the United States alone, with over 500,000 participants globally. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and