Disney and ESPN Team Up with Special Olympics

Teamwork brings together groups of people, no matter the circumstance—an idea that all of us highly revere here at Disney. So it’s especially exciting to announce that our team at the Company, along with teams at ESPN and Special Olympics, are joining together for a two-year global initiative. One that will leverage the power of sports to unite people with and without intellectual disabilities through the Special Olympics Unified Sports program.

The new collaboration, announced last Friday by ESPN President John Skipper and Special Olympics CEO and Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, builds on Disney and ESPN’s 30-year commitment to Special Olympics. And 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.

Through our support, a portion of the new funds will be directed to Special Olympics Programs around the world to help increase awareness and grow Unified Sports initiatives. 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 partner with Special Olympics to 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.

Along with the expanded contribution, Disney and ESPN have also signed as global presenting and official media sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports, and will lend their branding to Unified Sports events in the eight target markets.

In conjunction with this special announcement, we thought we’d share some fun photos of the ESPN-hosted Special Olympics Unified Sports celebration at the Bristol, Connecticut, campus—one day before the network’s 34th anniversary on September 7!

Teams participated in Unified Sports recreational competitions, and Special Olympics athletes played alongside professional athletes and ESPN talent, including Portland Trail Blazers and 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, and ESPNSportsCenter anchors Sage Steele and Kevin Negandhi.

Sue Swanson, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Michelle Kwan, Special Olympics International board member and champion figure skater, joined the day’s festivities to support the announcement.