Case Study: Integrated PR Tactics, Internal Communications Help Pay It Forward for ESPN’s Rise Up – Give Back! Campaign

At the Boston Rise Up - Give Back! event, youngsters from the Head Start center performed a special cheer for the ESPN Rise Up volunteers and the student athletes involved in the program.  Photo courtesy of ESPN

Company: ESPN
Timeframe: July - October 2011
Schools across America have been suffering from budget cuts that severely limit their ability to offer sports and physical education to their students. To help call attention to this trend, ESPN produced a documentary series in 2011, Rise Up, which shined a spotlight on four communities—impoverished areas of Wellston, Ohio, Chicago, Boston and Seattle—that suffered from such cuts. In the show, the sports network and its local partners worked together to provide state-of-the-art high school athletic facilities—a la Extreme Makeover.
ESPN also wanted to go one step further than the classic “reveal moment.” Team ESPN, the company’s corporate outreach arm, organized the Rise Up – Give Back! volunteer program as an extension of the  Rise Up series. The Give Back program would help teach students to “pay it forward” by returning the good deed to children in their local community through volunteerism and the construction of play spaces for community youth. The athletes featured on each market’s show would join a host of volunteers to renovate playgrounds for local nonprofits so that young people could have a clean and safe environment in which to play.
Kevin Martinez, senior director of corporate outreach at ESPN, says the main communications goal was to implement a 360 degree campaign in three markets—Chicago, Ohio and Boston (based on time constraints, Seattle was not included)—to deliver key message points through traditional external, online and TV media, social media and internally at ESPN.
“In our line of business, it’s easy to execute a volunteer event or a grant, but that’s episodic and doesn’t last.


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