Microsoft & Special Olympics

Helping athletes with intellectual disabilities compete and celebrate in a time of social isolation

Microsoft Forza website displayed on a tablet


When Special Olympics on-field events were cancelled due to COVID-19, athletes took to Xbox to enjoy some friendly competition and celebration.

Purpose Driven Campaigns
Purpose-Driven Campaigns
Digital Experiences
Digital Experiences

Challenge & Opportunity

How to keep Special Olympics athletes connected when their world was turned upside down by COVID-19? Put them in the Forza driver’s seat!

In Spring 2020, the need for connection – across all parts of the world, all abilities – was never more pronounced. Microsoft, knowing that connection reminds us of our shared humanity, joined Special Olympics to transform how those with intellectual disabilities learn, share, experience, compete, and inspire. Special Olympics athletes found themselves without events to compete in, without training, without the in-person connections that were so important to them and others who love supporting and cheering them on.

Special Olympics’ mission to give people with intellectual disabilities “opportunities to experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship” aligned perfectly with Microsoft’s mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” By working together, these groups can help ensure that Special Olympics athletes reach their full potential both as individuals and as a growing and thriving community.

And because technology is both a link and a tool to bring those with intellectual disabilities together in the face of a host of obstacles – from the current need for social distancing to the ongoing logistical challenges of fostering communication and cooperation across a globally dispersed community – Microsoft looked for opportunities to leverage the power of Teams, Xbox and Minecraft to create a special opportunity for Special Olympic athletes.

Solutions & Outcomes

A fun, celebratory event to keep Special Olympics athletes, and the world, connected and inspired

Cue a world-class assembly of partners, supporters, and platforms to connect these athletes in the 2020 Special Olympics Xbox Virtual Gaming Event featuring Forza Motorsport. In this morale-boosting, live streamed event, fans, families, and friends were invited to celebrate the athletes and embrace an inspiring community like no other. Formative helped develop the visual and written language to build momentum for the event, capturing competitor video, developing promotional assets and awards, and building out the stories to help share with the world. The center of the campaign were stories of the athletes themselves – allowing a broad fanbase to know who they are, what they care about, how they are feeling – and cheer them on as they discovered new community and excitement in the racing itself.

Xbox Gaming Event stories gave an authentic view into the reality of isolation for those with intellectual disabilities. Stories explored the day-to-day life of Special Olympics athletes: their homes, families, and interests; the impact of isolation, the life-changing effects of inclusion, and the victories felt when technology empowers them to connect.

What We Delivered

  • Audience analysis
  • Channel / Media Planning
  • Creative concepts
  • Asset development
  • Athlete interviews & video production