CSR Professional of the Year

ESPN’s Kevin Martinez uses sports to create change in the lives of children

As VP of corporate citizenship, Martinez exceeded his 2020 goal of enabling 1 million kids access to sports by reaching 1.7 million in 2019, winning the Grand Prize as CSR Professional of the Year in PR Daily’s 2020 Corporate Responsibility Awards.

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In the time Kevin Martinez was named ESPN’s vice president of corporate citizenship in February 2013, he’s had quite an impact on both the business world and communities ESPN serves.

To bring ESPN’s mission—“Serve the Sports Fan. Anytime. Anywhere.” to life, in 2015, Martinez developed an outcomes-based philanthropic strategy. His goal was to create a robust corporate social responsibility program that built the business while making a meaningful impact on the community.

The objective was to provide access to sports for underserved youth, while helping kids build leadership skills and empowerment through sports. He set tangible impact goals, which included enabling one million kids access to sports by 2020.

He’s gained buy-in both internally and externally including collaborating with nonprofits, colleagues in every major professional sports league, as well as advertisers and sponsors, and thought leaders throughout the industry. His strategy included collaboration and engagement from ESPN employees, leadership from each segment of the business, and support from the Walt Disney Company.

Under Martinez, ESPN enhanced its relationships with sports leagues, sponsors and other business partners. His work with internal and external partners enabled ESPN to exceed its 2020 goal, and by the end of 2019 enable 1.7 million access to sports.

Also during that time, ESPN built or refurbished 81 play spaces in underserved communities worldwide, and provided 219,000 coaches with training in an effort to remove the barriers of accessing sports.

With programs like Sports 4 Life, ESPN has helped nearly 60,000 girls build leadership, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance through sports programs since 2014.

Martinez also recognizes that leadership and empowerment through sports maximizes human potential and allows the development of 21st century skills including communication, collaboration and critical thinking. With this understanding, he launched programs that created access to sports, while also using sports as a catalyst for empowerment.

To help grow youth participation in sports, ESPN teamed up with a number of nonprofit organizations whose primary mission was to get kids, who may otherwise not play sports, into the game.

Between 2013 and 2019, ESPN helped Unified Sports achieve a 172% increase in athlete and teammate participation (nearly 1,815,000 participants today) and a 464% increase in the number of Unified Sports coaches (nearly 119,000 today). And in 2019, ESPN renewed its broadcast agreement with Special Olympics to be the Global Broadcast Sponsor of the Special Olympics’ premier events for the next eight years, as well as the Global Presenting Sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports.

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