The Context

Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968 to provide sporting opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Since then it has grown from a single local event to a worldwide movement operating in over 180 territories and serving over four million athletes and their families. 

As Special Olympics grew and expanded its scope of activity to include community, health, and education, the brand had become fragmented. Recognising this, Special Olympics International asked Zero-G to craft an engagement to re-define the brand in a manner that would resonate with all stakeholders from athletes and families, to programme managers, volunteers and corporate sponsors, while allowing for local considerations and varying budgets around the world. 



Starting in January 2011 we commenced a deep engagement with all elements of the organisation from senior management to local coaches and athletes. Combining desk research, interviews, and workshops across three continents, we framed the role of brand within the organisation as an empowering rather than controlling tool. This involved identifying the role of volunteers within the decision making process and implementation of the brand which was key in establishing trust and opening up the international team to new ways of managing the brand. To work across cultures we used visualisation techniques to transcend the use of words and local phrases in order to create a more universally shared understanding of the Special Olympics Brand. 

Though the process we identified a simple proposition that encapsulated the brand, bringing the spirit of the original intent to the contemporary brand.    


This single proposition would form the core message platform. It was flexible enough to enable people to tell the brand story in numerous ways, while singular and clear enough to ensure the message of what the brand and organisation stood for was unmistakeable.

The final brand definition and supporting brand architecture were cascaded through the organisation through a series of regional workshops and codified in a set of brand guidelines (produced in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic) which outlined the strategy and refined the visual expression of the brand both at an international and local level.


The Outcome

The brand strategy, identity, and architecture has allowed the International Team in Washington better manage and support the various accredited programmes around the world, leverage SO’s various brand assets (Special Olympics World Games, Special Olympics Healthy Athlete Program, etc) and strengthen their relationships with key international and local sponsors. Since the brand evolution in 2011, Special Olympics has gone on to develop high profile partnerships with organisations such as ESPN,  Bank OfAmerica, and Mattel. 

Zero-G’s most recent piece of work with Special Olympics was the creation and roll out of a sub-identity for Unified Relay - a torch run across America ahead of the LA World games in July 2015, held at Los Angeles hosting 6,500 Special Olympics athletes from 165 nations competing in 25 Olympic-type sports.