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Paralympic Potential

Brands can lead the charge to increase awareness + engagement

After a somewhat disappointing performance for Team USA at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, U.S. athletes finished top of the medal table at the subsequent Paralympic Games—all the more impressive considering that the most recent top-two finish for Team USA at the Paralympics was in 2002.

With so many inspiring sports stories vying for our attention, something is bound to fall under the radar—but the lack of pomp and praise for these athletes was a missed opportunity to shine a deserving spotlight on some of this winter’s biggest heroes.

When the U.S. hosts in 2028, the spoils of U.S. Paralympians will take on a greater importance. But, one of the biggest challenges to the success of a home Paralympic Games is limited local awareness of the Paralympic Movement. Fortunately, there is much that Olympic organizers, sport governing bodies, athletes and corporate sponsors can do—starting now—to boost coverage, engagement and belief in the power of Paralympic sport.

What can we learn from other Paralympic hosts?

London 2012 currently holds the gold standard for the level of civic and corporate support inspired by the Paralympic Games. From local retailer Sainsbury’s’ engagement with TeamGB Paralympic ambassadors and David Beckham, to an award-winning promotional campaign from host broadcaster Channel 4, the British public couldn’t ignore the event. Venues full of people were left in awe of TeamGB’s athletic achievements, and the nation’s Paralympians were revered on par with TeamGB Olympians.

Fast-forward to Rio 2016. Venues that were scrutinized for their empty seats during the Olympic Games broke sales records during the Paralympics two weeks later. As we look ahead to Tokyo 2020, local organizers are encouraging event stakeholders to take a page out of the most recent Games’ playbook and push the legacy of the Paralympic Games to new heights. Paris, host of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, intends to highlight the event as the pinnacle of a seven-year, sport-led journey towards greater participation and social inclusion of people with disabilities.

For future host cities, the Paralympic Games offer a monumental opportunity to eliminate societal barriers and create more accessible and understanding communities. Delivering an ongoing message and profile for the Paralympic Movement brings more awareness and visibility to the athletes and those who have supported them beyond their journey towards Games success.

What can we learn from Paralympic sponsors?

91% percent of consumers want brands to be more purposefulFor sponsors who can build an authentic connection to the Movement, the Paralympics offer a potential point of entry for brands that want to be considered among those working towards making a difference—and a chance to leverage this unique position with audiences. However, not every sponsor will be able to tell an authentic story.

Despite a steady amount of Rio 2016 campaigns, some sponsors were questioned for their actual commitment to the Paralympic Games. On the flip side, USOC sponsor BP was applauded for signing more Paralympians than Olympians to its Games’ ambassador roster. Toyota, now a global sponsor of the Paralympic Movement, delivered a powerful message toward mobility for all when it aired a Paralympic-focused TV spot during this year’s Super Bowl.

Perhaps one of the strongest examples of walking the walk when it comes to Paralympic sponsors is The Hartford. Sponsoring the Paralympic Movement for more than 20 years, The Hartford is still searching for new ways to break barriers and create greater visibility for Paralympians and disability sports. For PyeongChang 2018, the brand worked with the USOC to create an exclusive Paralympic content series that helped share the stories of Team USA’s talented athletes.

The opportunity

For sponsors, connecting with the Paralympic Movement can be a rewarding endeavor—if done with purpose through a long-term approach. The common goal is to create more visibility and appreciation for Paralympians and their accomplishments, which are arguably more spectacular than those of able-bodied athletes.

Meanwhile, future hosting duties for the Paralympic Games will inevitably spur on more local activity in support of the Movement, with the goal of building awareness and excitement for the event. One of the strongest ways to build a consistent focus on the way to 2028 will be to create more campaigns, tell more stories and celebrate more of Team USA’s Paralympic successes at upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Beijing and Paris.

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