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Special Olympics: "Yeah, I Am Special"

Finalist in Social Good Campaign, Non-Profit, Fitness, Health, & Wellness


The word "special" means better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual. And in sports, it's often used to describe once-in-a-lifetime athletes or legacy moments. However, people have used "special" as a euphemism for decades, giving it a negative charge as it pertains to people with disabilities. We saw an opportunity to turn "special" into a quality everyone aspires to be called. Special Olympics athletes do amazing things every day, all around the globe. They break all kinds of stereotypes, accomplish things they were told they'd never be able to do, and inspire others to become more inclusive. Our goal was to reclaim the meaning of "special" by showing the world how our Special Olympics athletes meet the true definition of the word. 



On Giving Tuesday 2023, we surprised two Special Olympics athletes with a billboard reveal in New York City, where they were the faces of our "Yeah, I am Special" campaign. We also kicked off the launch with an impactful video on social media, voiced by renowned sports announcer Stephen A. Smith, showcasing the power of the word “special” in sports and beyond.

On the shoppable billboards, Joshua Olds from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Madi "Maddog" Madory from Oklahoma City, Okla. debuted limited-edition sweatshirts that declare, "Yeah, I am Special," reclaiming and redefining what it truly means to be special. The athletes featured on the billboard include: Madory, a 28-year-old powerlifting dynamo who can deadlift 1.5 times her bodyweight; and Olds, a 17-year-old triathlon star, who has already completed 17 triathlons. "Special" is boldly embroidered in red on the front of the sweatshirt, with the back declaring: "Special: Exceptionally great. Important. Unique. Special is something to strive for. The ultimate compliment. A word that we can all hope to be called. Not for the things that we cannot do. But for all of the things that we can."

To find out more about the campaign and to purchase a "Special" sweatshirt—with all proceeds going to Special Olympics—passersby were able to scan the QR code on the billboards or visit We also sent the sweatshirt to Special Olympics ambassadors and celebrity supporters, like NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, who helped ignite passion on social media for our “special” campaign.



Within 24 hours, people worldwide wanted to wear “special” on their chest. On the first night, NBA All-Star and Milwaukee Bucks player Damian Lillard voluntarily donned the sweatshirt through the tunnel walk on his way to play the Miami Heat. Not only did press snap shots of him wearing the sweatshirt, which spread like wildfire, Damian posted photos of himself wearing the sweatshirt in-feed on Instagram, encouraging everyone to buy their limited-edition shirt.

Once Damian’s post went viral, other professional athletes wanted their own “special” sweatshirt. We saw an explosion of posts and stories of our sweatshirts – coming from the likes of Atlanta Falcons’ Mack Hollins, Texan Houstons’ Jared Wayne and Dare Ogunbowale, and Vikings’ Dalton Risner; former NFL players Drew Brees and Dale Moss; WWE’s Drew McIntyre; ESPN host Victoria Arlen; NBA’s Tristan Thompson; Chris Nikic, the first Adidas-sponsored athlete with Down syndrome, and many more. Even actress Melissa McCarthy wanted a sweatshirt. 

All 1,350 of our limited-edition sweatshirts quickly sold out, with supporters asking Special Olympics when more will become available. More than 500 “special” t-shirts were also sold. Because of the campaign, Special Olympics more than doubled its merch sales, year-over-year, with proceeds going to support the nonprofit’s mission.

Media impressions reached 354 million, while social impressions hit 114 million in the first 10 days. We kicked off a movement to make “special” iconic. This summer, we’re launching a global, social-first extension of the campaign to further galvanize people worldwide around the true meaning of “special.”


Video for Special Olympics: "Yeah, I Am Special"

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Tombras, Special Olympics


Entry Credits