Special Olympics plans late summer youth campaign with Burson

The WPP firm is working with Special Olympics International on a pro-bono basis with its sports marketing specialty group, The Fan Experience, leading account work.

WASHINGTON: Special Olympics International is planning a late summer launch for a youth-activation campaign with Burson-Marsteller, which was recently named AOR.

The WPP firm is working with Special Olympics International on a pro-bono basis with its sports marketing specialty group, The Fan Experience, leading account work.

The goal of the initiative will be to inspire greater participation in the Special Olympics among both people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Kirsten Seckler, VP of global branding and communications for the nonprofit, said the group wants to ensure consumers understand today’s Special Olympics rather than the "dated perception" of the group.

She said the organization is "not just about sports, but about health and education and building communities with acceptance" and noted that Special Olympics is the world’s leading health-services provider for people with intellectual disabilities.

The agency will work on media relations, event support, and thought leadership in an effort to increase youth leadership and volunteerism with the ultimate goal of registering 1 million athletes and participating partners in Special Olympics’ Unified Sports by 2015.

"We’re exploring new ways to activate around Vine, to really ask young people to generate content for us," said Seckler, who added that young people "really make these young athletes heroes."

Before it was named AOR, Special Olympics worked with Burson on projects for events such as Super Bowl XLVIII in February. The firm also worked on Special Olympics’ launch of the Unified Sports initiative with media partner ESPN in 2013.

Specific contract details were not disclosed, though Seckler said Special Olympics is hoping to be working with the firm throughout this year and into 2015.

She added that Special Olympics hasn’t worked with a firm in an AOR capacity in several years. Burson’s team on the account is headquartered in New York, and staff across the country will work on the campaign, said Jason Teitler, chair of Fan Experience.

Burson’s work is focused on the Special Olympics movement worldwide and the overall brand. The organization planning the Special Olympic World Summer Games in Los Angeles works with FleishmanHillard to promote that event.

Teitler added that Burson plans to share "stories of triumph" across social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and work at events, where people can connect with the Special Olympics on a personal level and "really understand" what the organization is all about.

"[Unified] is such an untold story," he explained.

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