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John Adzija , National Manager of Corporate Communications and Partnerships for Kia Canada, frames the company’s new three-year partnership with Special Olympics Canada within its corporate social responsibility mandate. The agreement was signed in January and announced March 28 during the Vancouver Auto Show.

“We want to make an immediate and long-lasting impact on the communities in which we operate,” he says. If the partnership elevates the brand or raises awareness, well that’s a bonus, he says.

Kia will be providing VIK support through vehicles at the community level, as lease give-aways at fundraising events, and a fleet for the national games, which will next be held in Nova Scotia in 2018. There is also money and the promise of marketing and communications support. The company will also support employees wishing to volunteer their time at various Special Olympics activities.

They will have plenty of activities to choose from. Special Olympics runs programs in 450 communities across Canada, says Cary Weingust, Senior Director of Partnerships and Business Development.

“We are operating programs in communities all across the country every single day,” he says.

Kia is a big sport sponsor. Though Special Olympics is primarily a CSR initiative, Kia isn’t relegating it to the shadows cast by its high-profile sports sponsorships of golfer David Hearn, FIFA and Major League Soccer. Special Olympics is right alongside them on Kia Canada’s partnerships page. Adzija may not place the same expectations on Special Olympics as he does on his other sports partners, but that doesn’t mean the brand will lend it any less support. He says one of the attractions of Special Olympics was that it seemed underserved by the corporate community. It was a place where Kia could have an impact.

An important part of that support will be amplifying the message of what Special Olympics does and, in the process, perhaps adjusting the perception of what the organization is.

Kia will make a big difference by offering up its production facilities and its social media smarts.

The word Olympics brings to mind a multi-sport competition among elite athletes happening once every two years, says Weingust. That’s not what Special Olympics does. It uses sport as a tool for development and growth among persons with intellectual disabilities, and it does so every day. Special Olympics Canada is a federation of local chapters that can provide powerful narratives for Kia dealers across the country.

“We’re extremely rich in content and stories,” says Weingust. Within practically every community in the country, Special Olympics Canada can find an athlete and a family member with a story that highlights the importance of partner support, he says.

Special Olympics may be content-rich, but it is production and delivery-poor. Adzija expects Kia will make a big difference by offering up its production facilities and its social media smarts. Weingust has his eye on Kia’s strength in soccer, wondering if perhaps there is a way to leverage Kia’s investment in Major League Soccer, or perhaps their mutual broadcast partner TSN.

Both Adzija and Weingust expect that the real magic will happen at the local level, though they face a similar challenge when it comes to delivery. Within the automotive sector, dealers are entrepreneurs and fiercely independent of mind. Special Olympics Canada is a federation within which chapters have a relatively free hand.

Adzija and Weingust expect the partnership to sell itself. Giving chapters access to Kia vehicles will the an early proof point of the partnership’s value, says Weingust. Adzija says he will focus first on building solid commitment within head office, and then begin pushing it down to the dealers by offering support for Special Olympics-related programs.

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    2017-04-15T22:20:26+00:00 April 15th, 2017|Pro|0 Comments

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