Spitfire Strategies

All Eyes on Rio: Leveraging the Olympics for Social Change

Sydney McKenney

By Sydney McKenney
Senior Account Executive of Creative

With just days left in the 2016 Summer Games, there are still many ways organizations can use the enormous spotlight on the Olympics as a hook for social issues in the U.S. With the media focused on Rio, Olympics-related hashtags gaining massive reach and thousands of organizations looking for ways to spark change, here are three ways to get started.

Leverage the Media

The Olympics are bringing media attention to issues and stigmas around adoption, forced eviction, refugee rights, wealth inequality, gender issues, LGBT rights – even safe sex –  and there are multiple ways to leverage this interest. The first and most important step to successfully build on this media coverage is research. Research which outlets are talking about your issues and how they’re covering them, using services like Google News. Once you’ve identified a handful of reporters and outlets, connect with them by pitching story angles via Twitter or email, and/or by submitting your own op-ed for publication.

Join the Conversation on Social Media

Think of how many social media posts you have seen about Rio 2016. UntitledThere’s even a hashtag for Michael Phelps’ serious facial expression – #PhelpsFace. All jokes aside though, several important hashtags have emerged such as #TeamRefugees, which has been used to highlight the first ever Olympic refugee team while raising awareness and action in response to the international refugee crisis. U.S. advocates working on migrant or refugee issues can use this hashtag to join the conversation. Even if there’s not a specific hashtag for your issue, you can still join in. Rio’s water quality is a popular topic on Twitter if you search for the phrase “water in Rio.” Make sure to use popular keywords in your tweet as well as the top Olympics hashtags, #Rio2016 and #Olympics2016.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to download Spitfire’s Digital S.M.A.R.T.S.™ tool for more strategies on how to make the most of your social media outreach.

Look for Groups Working on the Same Issues

Groups of athletes, organizations and advocates such as the National Coalition of Local Committees for a Peoples’ World Cup and Olympics and the Sports and Rights Alliance (SRA) have formed in response to the human rights problems surrounding many sporting events. However, not all coalitions need to be a collection of international organizations or all-star athletes; looking for organizations and players who simply have relevant objectives is a great way to strengthen your campaign. For example, the Black Lives Matter Movement took to the streets with Brazilian advocates to protest police violence in July. These leaders brought together international voices to remind Olympics fans how urgent preventing police brutality is – both at home and abroad.

When deciding how to build your network, research the institutional players surrounding your issue and gauge who has similar objectives and strategies. Try to measure if, how and to what degree your objective could be aided by combining resources with other partners. Do other groups have access to audiences you need to reach or can they help move your objective closer to relevant decision makers? Do potential partners work in a space with a network that you hope to access but aren’t currently? Asking these questions can help highlight who you should begin to engage with.   

With all eyes on Rio this summer, there is an opportunity for your organization to influence a huge audience, build partnerships and spark change.

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