There are 200 million people in the world with intellectual disabilities (ID). It's the world's largest disability group and one of the most marginalized populations on the planet. Individuals with ID are frequently denied access to health care, jobs, friendships and other facets of everyday life that the rest of us take for granted. Special Olympics exists to help individuals with ID break down barriers through the power of sports.
Bank of America has partnered with Special Olympics for 30 years, but last year we stepped up our efforts in anticipation of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. As 2015's largest humanitarian and sporting event, the Games presented a unique opportunity to show millions of people what individuals with intellectual disabilities are capable of— and that a more inclusive society could create a stronger world.
Bank of America has been a proud partner of Special Olympics for over 30 years, partnering with the organization not just because we support the message of inclusion and respect for all, but also because we embody the same values in our own practices and initiatives every day. As a World Games official sponsor in 2015, and presenting sponsor of the first ever Unified Relay Across America (the "Relay") — we had the unprecedented opportunity to work together to create a movement for inclusion and respect by raising the profile of Special Olympics and its mission far and wide, harnessing the power of all the Bank's resources, and bringing people together — to rally the Bank's employees and customers and provide even more meaningful opportunities to contribute to — and interact directly with — other volunteers, clients, athletes, and communities.
Together with Special Olympics, we staged the first-ever cross-country torch relay called, the Unified Relay Across America (URAA) — recruiting and organizing more than 20,000 athletes and volunteers to walk, run and wheel the "Flame of Hope" through all 50 states to start the World Games in Los Angeles.
To raise awareness for the 46-day effort, we created a multi-channel movement called #PassTheFlame, connecting people everywhere to the torch relay, the World Games and the mission of our campaign: to break down the stigma and stereotypes associated with ID.
At the heart of the campaign were powerful, first-person stories told by Special Olympics athletes, volunteers, coaches, and family members, communicated through TV commercials, a groundbreaking partnership with ESPN, short films on Facebook and YouTube, in person at relay events, and via real-time updates along the relay route on Vine, Instagram and Twitter.
In the end, 10 million Facebook and YouTube video views, 195 million media impressions, and thousands of miles carrying the Flame of Hope across America all added up to the largest fundraising event in Special Olympics history, raising $4.3 million.
Most importantly, the partnership helped change hearts and minds. Pre- and post-campaign attitudinal tracking clearly showed important gains in understanding and awareness around Intellectual Disabilities, including a 7% increase in U.S. Households (8.7 million more) who identified as knowing a coworker, neighbor or friend with ID.
For Bank of America, the work earned a 4.5% lift in positive online sentiment as conversation topics in owned social channels shifted from day-to-day financial matters to our role in sparking real social change. Internally, the campaign galvanized hundreds of our employees with ID as they helped lead and inspire 20,000 volunteer participants through all 50 states to start L.A.'s largest sporting event since the 1984 Olympics.
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