Sports or Outdoor Campaign

ESPN campaign inspires kids to remain active in their athletic pursuits

'Don’t Retire, Kid' raised the alarm on the consequences of giving up sports at an early age.

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In 2018, the average American child “retired” from sports at age 11 (even younger in low-income families). To help change the trajectory of kids and sports, ESPN partnered with the Aspen Institute and 20 sports organizations as part of Project Play 2020. The campaign has won the top prize in the “Sports or Outdoor Campaign” category of the PR Daily Awards.

The campaign was designed to address the factors that lead to the decline in youth sports participation, which include the fact that parent and coach pressure has made sports participation no fun anymore; one poll found kids ranked “winning” 48th among the things that are fun about sports.

“Don’t Retire, Kid” was an ESPN campaign related to Project Play 2020, introduced to raise awareness about why kids are dropping out of sports and encourage parents and coaches to tap resources that can keep them playing longer.

The team created two PSAs and accompanying collateral about a young boy and a young girl announcing their retirement from sports. The campaign ran exclusively on ESPN for two weeks, while the affiliation with Project Play 2020 enabled ESPN to engage a number of industry partners, leagues, teams and athletes to use their own platforms to address the issue, pointing out that kids who play sports have better grades, stay in school and build important life skills (including teamwork, accountability and leadership).

The campaign generated more than 322 million impressions in less than a month, with 99% positive sentiment on social media. The campaign also produced more than 500 media placements. Traffic to ProjectPlay.us increased nearly 900% during the campaign.

Congratulations to Jennifer Paulett and Kevin Martinez.

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