From Nov. 27 through Dec. 8, ESPN held its annual V Week with an eye toward fundraising for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The 2018 edition was the 12th annual for the initiative and, over that decade-plus of service, ESPN and the V Foundation have become synonymous with fundraising and general awareness for the global fight against cancer.
While the brand was in place previously, ESPN rolled out three new campaigns, centered on fundraising and awareness-building. That three-pronged approach was crucial in the company setting a new benchmark for fundraising. The 2018 enterprise raised more than $8.3 million, surpassing the total of any previous year and marking an 83 percent increase year-over-year.
“The 2018 V Week was ESPN’s most successful year yet, as we continue to share stories of determination and perseverance from super fans such as Purdue alumni, Tyler Trent who helped raise much needed funds for innovative cancer research,” says Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “We’re so appreciative of the continued support from the teams, leagues, corporate sponsors and ESPN fans who help rally around the cause.”
One new initiative was the creation of “Kicks to Beat Cancer,” with ESPN analysts and current athletes coming together to donate 24 pairs of game-worn sneakers for auction.
“In our first meeting, I set out to challenge our committee members to think a little bit differently about V Week this year,” says Brent Colborne, ESPN’s director of programming and acquisitions. “I was really asking them to think broadly, outside of our normal scope of initiatives and our normal channels of campaigning and fundraising.”
Colborne acts as a chairperson for the committee focusing on V Week and, within the “Kicks to Beat Cancer” project, an idea originally slated for air on ESPN’s The Jump came to light in a broader fashion. The vision called for on-air talent, including NBA analysts Scottie Pippen and Tracy McGrady, to go through their own closets to find game-worn shoes and place them up for auction after having the entire process filmed. From there, the idea spread to current players, headlined by Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, which helped raise significant funds toward the overall goal.