Today should be a date that is bolded and circled on the calendars of communications and marketing Departments within sports teams and sports organizations around the world. If the date doesn’t ring any bells to you, that’s because very few pro leagues or teams here in the United States have taken advantage of the marketing and branding opportunities it provides.
April 6th is the United Nations’ International Day of Sport for Development & Peace (IDSDP). Created in 2013, this day marks the impact that sports have on sustainable social change and peace-making around the world. Sounds like a no-brainer for a marketing department, right? Well, besides a few international organizations, no one seems to really make a big marketing push on this important day.
Tell me more.
The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace was founded by the United Nations based on the overwhelming reach and influence of sport around the world. The date was chosen because it recognizes the same day in 1896 that the modern Olympics were launched in Athens, Greece. The aim of the IDSDP is to recognize and build awareness for the influence and positive effects that sport has on creating social change.
From the International Olympic Committee to professional sports teams to non-profits, this day represents an opportunity to promote their wonderful work towards sustainable development, social change and peace in communities around the world.
The hashtag #Sport2030 has also been created as sport becomes a more vital tool in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 global goals to tackle worldwide issues such as poverty, hunger, education, sanitation, water, gender equality, climate change and more. The UN has set the date of 2030 to achieve these goals and has enlisted the help of sport to make it happen.
Who is currently participating?
A few organizations have created initiatives that they promote each year on April 6th for the IDSDP. One of those groups is Peace and Sport. Peace and Sport is an independent organization founded by Modern Pentathlon Olympic Medallist and World Champion Joël Bouzou that focuses on using sport and its values as instruments for building peace. Their white card initiative has permeated sports around the world, from soccer stars to international Olympians. The opposite of a red card, the white card symbolizes positivity and constructiveness in sport.
Peace and Sport’s white card initiative is open to anyone who wants to participate, including you and me. All you need to do is take a picture holding up a white card to show your support for peace and post it on your social media network of choice with the #whitecard. Whether you work in sport for development or not, you can show your commitment to the cause.
Organizations like The Jack Brewer Foundation have held Sport 4 Development Summits at the United Nations, bringing together athletes, artists, diplomats, entertainers, corporate and non-profit executives and more together to discuss how they are using sport to change the world.
The Olympics has supported the creation of the IDSDP from the beginning and was integral in the official recognition of April 6th by the United Nations. The International Olympic Committee has been actively promoting awareness and outreach programs in conjunction with IDSDP. The IOC’s website has this to say about their participation each year on April 6th:
“The IOC, in its capacity of Permanent Observer to the UN, has been supportive of this initiative, as it values its potential to recognise sports organisations’ role in and contribution to social change and human development. More specifically, it is an opportunity for the IOC to highlight how athletes and the Olympic Movement use sport to foster peace, reconciliation and development, and underline the power of the Olympic Games to promote tolerance and solidarity among the participants, fans and people all over the world.”
Let’s look at that last sentence again. “It is an opportunity for the IOC to highlight how athletes and the Olympic Movement use sport to foster peace […] and the power of the Olympic Games to promote tolerance and solidarity […]”. In that sentence, the IOC has clearly laid out the benefit to participating and recognizing April 6th as the IDSDP. They can show tangible proof that their product makes an impact in communities worldwide and people know that when they watch and support the Olympics they are contributing to an agent of positive social change.
Missing in action: American professional sports.
Voices that are notably silent on April 6th are those of the professional sports leagues in the United States. Not one of the leagues or their teams have done a big initiative or anything recognizable for April 6th since the official recognition of the IDSDP in 2013. Out of the 510 documented events and initiatives for IDSDP 2017, only 30 were from American based organizations, and not one of them involved any American professional sport (with the exemption of a couple Olympic sports federations). Not only is the IDSDP a great opportunity to promote a team or organization’s sports philanthropy and sport for development initiatives, but it is also a chance to receive international exposure through a campaign led by the United Nations.
Virtually every sports team and league has a goal to grow their brand, fan base, and reach globally, not just in their home country. Sports organizations, athletes and non-profits should be taking advantage of April 6th to promote their sports philanthropy initiatives. This date should be circled on communications calendars and campaigns and initiatives should be planned to culminate, launch or recap on this relevant day. It can be a social media campaign or a recap video to show the work they’ve done over the last year. Or it can be a full-scale initiative that centers around sport for development and peace.
Awareness is the first step to building a brand, so marketers should be taking advantage of these opportunities to share the great work their organization is doing. Let’s hope today is different and includes loads of American sport industry involvement. When American organizations and pro sports teams and leagues start to get involved and promote this day, the impact made on the United Nations’ SDGs and worldwide issues will be huge. For now, we just have to get them to notice.