Special Olympics taps Golin to raise profile, correct misperceptions

WASHINGTON: The Special Olympics has named Golin/Harris International as its first-ever AOR as part of a global push to increase awareness of the games and correct misperceptions about its athletes.

WASHINGTON: The Special Olympics has named Golin/Harris International as its first-ever AOR as part of a global push to increase awareness of the games and correct misperceptions about its athletes.

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, though both sides said some work would be provided pro bono.

The 35-year-old charity, which holds year-round training and competition for intellectually disabled athletes in more than 150 countries, formed a new marketing division last year - the first time the nonprofit has had such a division. Jerry Welsh, formerly a senior executive with American Express, recently took over as head of the 20-member unit.

"We want to get the story of the Special Olympics out farther than we have in the past," said Kristen Suto, media relations coordinator for the Special Olympics. "[Golin is] going to help us reach top-tier media."

With its new capability in place, the Special Olympics has set a goal of recruiting a million new athletes in 2005. The rolling annual contract with Golin, which mostly covers media relations and some coalition building, will play a major role in reaching that objective.

In addition to finding new athletes, the organization wants to correct widely held misconceptions about Special Olympics competitors.

"A survey we've conducted over the past few years shows that people largely believe intellectually disabled people are simply incapable of learning," said Suto. "We want to change those attitudes."

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