ESPN and Special Olympics have had a partnership for more than 30 years. That partnership has never been stronger and more significant than it is today.
History of Support
Over the past three years, ESPN has continued to deepen its relationship with the Special Olympics movement, by becoming the Global Presenting Sponsor of Unified Sports and its coverage of the remarkable Special Olympics events, athletes and community.
In 2013, ESPN committed to help provide support and resources on the road to Special Olympics' goal of doubling the number of participants in inclusive sports. At that time there were just over 500,000 global participants participated in Unified Sports. Thanks to the support of key partners such as ESPN, in recent publishing of our 2015 reach report we proudly announced reaching more than 1.2 million global participants in Unified Sports.
In addition, earlier this year, ESPN and Special Olympics announced a new $1.5 million grant for support of key initiatives including Unified Sports and a three-year global programming agreement. ESPN was the official broadcaster of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria and will broadcast 2018 USA Games in Seattle and the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. ESPN will also cover the movement on an ongoing basis, with more news and feature coverage of other Special Olympics events, athletes and stories over the course of the three-year agreement.
For the last three years ESPN has invested more than $6.5 million in cash and in-kind and other support, and strategically used its multi-platform media assets and marketing expertise to expand Unified Sports globally.
As part of the continued support of Unified Sports, ESPN will invest in Special Olympics' goal to building Unified Sports programming and resources in 10,000 schools and in reaching 100,000 new or re-certified coaches by 2020. ESPN's Unified Sports renewal will also help Special Olympics build capacity globally for its fastest growing program which will include a grants locally to six key US markets and grants globally on five continents.
John Skipper, ESPN President and co-Chair of Disney Media Networks:
"Over the past three years, ESPN has deepened a long-standing relationship with the Special Olympics movement. Through our support of Unified Sports and our coverage of remarkable Special Olympics events and athletes, we've been reminded of the profound impact sport can have and inspired by the incredible moments and stories we've brought to millions of fans. Inclusion and acceptance are values we believe in, and we are both proud and excited to continue working with Special Olympics in the coming years."
ESPN Activation Spotlight: Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding at X Games Aspen
As part of ESPN’s Global Presenting Sponsorship of Unified Sports, Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding dual slalom competition returned to X Games Aspen for third year on January 26, 2017. There were eight teams each consisting of one Special Olympics athlete and one pro athlete or celebrity snowboarder participating as a unified pair in the dual giant slalom race on Buttermilk Mountain.
This activation was an official, sanctioned competition within X Games Aspen and served as the kickoff to the weekend. It was an incredible opportunity to increase awareness of Unified Sports through having a unified race as an official competition in X Games Aspen and by utilizing the reach of ESPN media platforms to introduce Unified Sports to new audiences. Coverage included a first-ever live stream of the event on the X Games You Tube page, features on espn.com as well as race highlights on both ABC and ESPN.