ESPN Sets A New Standard With A Record-Breaking V Week

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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.


In addition, V Week included “Craig Sager Style Day,” with on-air talent from ESPN, NBA TV and TNT sporting jackets and apparel that garnered the essence of Sager’s unique sartorial sense over the course of two days. It was an obvious development, one that featured a nod to the legendary nature of Sager and his well-chronicled battle with leukemia while always operating with a smile and visible passion. There was also a partnership between ESPN and WeRateDogs to aid in spreading awareness with the V Foundation’s work in the area of canine comparative oncology, which led to merchandise sales and numerous stories.

“Our goal every year is to raise more money than the previous year,” Colborne says. “That’s the simplest goal to set but, this year, we pretty quickly realized that, with all the new initiatives and some of our corporate partners, we were trending up across the board. That ultimately led to more than $8 million and that absolutely blew us away.”

Over the course of 12 years, V Week has raised more than $30 million for cancer research, and plans are already underway for the upcoming year. There is always more work to be done, but now that the latest V Week has come to an end, Colborne is ready to reflect on what has been accomplished so far.

“I think the growth of V Week and all of the funds raised are a testament to the people that have worked on it here at ESPN that are all working toward a common goal in trying to eliminate cancer,” Colborne says. “I think the passion in our work shows and raising more than $30 million is mind-boggling. I hope that that the number can only continue to go up year after year.

“I think everybody has been affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly,” Colborne continues. “Everyone somehow has been affected. My mother had kidney cancer and she’s a survivor herself. I wouldn’t say that’s the only reason, I think that’s probably a big reason, of why I care so deeply about this initiative…. We’ll do everything we possibly can as a committee, and as a company, to try to eliminate the disease and do everything we can to fundraise against it and promote cancer research.”