Special Olympics

ESPN, Disney collaborate on R5’s “SMILE” video to promote Special Olympics


ESPN’s coverage of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles this week features a variety of creative elements utilizing the popular band R5’s song “SMILE.”

SportsCenter’s “SC Featured” premiered an ESPN-produced music video, and coverage of the Games includes a tease campaign utilizing the song. The project was a collaboration across ESPN departments and Disney divisions.

Victor Vitarelli, senior coordinating producer of ESPN’s Features Unit, knew the song was a perfect fit for a music video featuring the stories of Special Olympics athletes.

“When I found out the band’s label was Disney-owned Hollywood Records, the synergy started right away. I asked ESPN’s Creative Content Unit (CCU), led by coordinating producer Julie McGlone, to collaborate, and we started assembling our team. Hollywood Records made the band fully available to us throughout the process, and the partnership continues.

“The band tweeted out the music video in conjunction with the release of their album [“Sometime Last Night”] which just debuted at No.1 on the Billboard’s Pop Album Chart. [The “SMILE” video is] now being shown in Disney Parks and on Disney Cruises. It goes to show the power and reach of Special Olympics, and how different divisions of ESPN and Disney can work together.”

The ESPN family always gives 110 percent on a project like this, and it was a fantastic collaboration . . .
– Julie McGlone, ESPN coordinating producer, on working with various colleagues as well as R5 on the “SMILE” video

McGlone said: “The ESPN family always gives 110 percent on a project like this, and it was a fantastic collaboration with the ESPN Music department, “SC Featured” team, Post Group [the editing team], Global Security & Safety, and CCU. The band was easy to work with and gave us six hours of their time. They were very enthusiastic about the collaboration from the beginning.”

The shoot took place on June 1, after the band performed on ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. campus as part of the Unified Relay Across America Torch Run event. ESPN Images captured the concert and the unit’s photos are seen throughout ESPN’s Special Olympics productions.

An empty warehouse in Plainville, Conn., was selected for its proximity to Bristol and creative potential.

It took a week to clean out the warehouse and build the massive set (see the time-lapse video below).

“It was quite the challenge,” McGlone said.

The warehouse had no power or running water. The CCU Production Management team, led by Amanda Paschal with Rachel Klein and Dayna Navatta, was charged with overseeing all details.

For CCU post producer Staci Green, who oversaw the content from start to finish, the challenge was simple: “[We’re] trying to tell all these great stories in such a short amount of time allotted by a music video format.”

Said director Sammy Silver, “We didn’t want to create just another music video. We really wanted to celebrate the awesomeness of Special Olympics athletes.”

ESPN’s coverage of the Special Olympics World Games continues through Aug. 2.

SMILE Music Video Set Build Timelapse

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