This week, heartwarming tributes and recognitions took place at the 2015 ESPY Awards, ESPN’s award show that gives a nod to excellence in athletic and other sports-related performances. In an unusual crossing of athletics and Hollywood, the award show provides a unique platform for both athletes and entertainers to bring attention to their individual causes.
The ESPYs is a cause-based show, as a portion of proceeds event ticket sales benefit the V Foundation, a charity established by collegiate basketball coach and television commentator Jim Valvano to promote cancer research. It’s no surprise then, that cancer awareness was a focus last night: Devon Still (Cincinnati Bengals) accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance on behalf of his 5 year old daughter, Leah, who is suffering from neuroblastoma; and the parents of basketball player, Lauren Hill, accepted the Best Moment award on behalf of their daughter who passed away in April from a cancerous brain tumor shortly after fulfilling her lifelong dream of playing in a college basketball game. Lauren used her spotlight as a platform to bring attention to terminal pediatric brain tumors.
— NCAA (@NCAA) July 16, 2015
Other notable causes were also highlighted, as Danielle Green accepted the Pat Tillman Award for Service. Enlisting in the army after playing for Notre Dame women’s basketball team, Green lost her left arm in a grenade attack while serving in Iraq. After recovering from her injuries, Green earned her Masters in counseling and now helps other post-war veterans through a variety of services. As she accepted her award, she challenged others to ask themselves a few simple questions: “”What’s my purpose? What’s my passion? What do I want my legacy to be? How can I live as a full human being?” Not all of us are Pat Tillman, but we can all find ways to serve our community. We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this Earth larger than ourselves.”
Perhaps the most notable moment of the evening was Caitlyn Jenner’s acceptance of the Arthur Asche Award for Courage, which generated nearly 400,000 tweets, making her the most discussed and trending person of the evening on Twitter. In a poignant speech, Jenner called for acceptance and tolerance, especially of young people who are going through the challenging process of discovering themselves.
While the ESPYs is primarily centered around athletic excellence, it also serves as an unexpected example of the power influencer marketing can have on a cause-based campaign. Each of the honorees above served as an authentic and influential spokesperson for their respective causes.
As evidenced by the graph below, it is clear that influencers such as Leah Still and Caitlyn Jenner can have the power to drive conversions, whether it’s followers, believers, or supporters of a cause or your brand’s product.