Building a global CSR strategy for the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’

What they wanted

ESPN’s mission is ‘to serve sports fans wherever sports are watched, listened to, discussed, debated, read about or played’. It has five Corporate Citizenship pillars, two of which are Access through Sports and Leadership. In addition, ESPN is growing or seeks to grow its presence in a number of global markets. ESPN wanted a strategy that was true to its mission and delivered against the access and leadership pillars, as well as offering genuine employee and community engagement.


We ensured that we had a clear understanding of ESPN’s key markets (existing and new), their business objectives and the operational mechanisms at play within local offices in their global markets. Through internal and external stakeholder interviews we identified existing work, impact made and the areas where there was a clear desire for the company to do more.

Following the interviews, we undertook a deeper analysis of their Latin American markets to understand the social needs and existing provision to meet those needs. Our analysis highlighted a clear trend of lack of access to safe spaces to play, limited sports programming in the areas most in need, low levels of education and employment and communities that did not feel empowered to lead the changes they desired.

Based on the findings, we created an overarching strategy to build accessible and long-lasting safe spaces in under-served communities across ESPN’s key markets; developing leadership qualities of youth using high quality sports programming that engages, empowers, develops life skills and provides entry routes into education and employment. Each space would be built by the community and ESPN employees. #ESPNBuiltToPlay 

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ESPN senior leadership approved the strategy and thinkBeyond was commissioned to project manage the delivery. Utilizing our global network of 2,700 organizations, we identified partners that would be best placed to implement on the ground. We piloted the program in Latin America in 2016 and have since completed six safe spaces across Latin America, one in Australia and two in India. In late 2021, sites in Puerto Rico and Nigeria will also be completed.     

We are currently developing the next phase of this strategy which will increase the number and nature of markets in which safe spaces are built, high quality sport for change programming is delivered, communities are empowered and lives are changed.

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