How to break through the clutter

Brands, rightsholders and athletes have increasingly embraced the power of purpose to both positively impact communities and drive their businesses forward. To break through the clutter, overcome consumer skepticism and meaningfully engage key stakeholders, the industry has had to adapt and evolve the ways they are communicating purpose.

In our latest webinar hosted on September 8, “The Power of Purpose: Breaking Through the Clutter”, we invited Alice Tai – Paralympic Gold Medalist, Casey DePalma – Senior Director, Head of Public Relations, Influencer Marketing and Digital Engagement of NA, Unilever, Jason Teitler – SVP, Special Olympics, and Ryan Djabbarah – Head of Sports Sponsorships, Citi Global Marketing Team.

Hosted by CSM’s Peter Honig, President of Consulting, and Adrienne Ankola-Rochetti, Vice President of Social Impact, the session started with looking at the steep rise of purpose in the marketplace, which presents both challenges and opportunities.

If you would like to watch the webinar back in full, click here or watch below.

Partner evaluation

Alice Tai explained how she evaluates the brands she works with especially gauging their genuine commitment to the Paralympic movement.

“My agent and I spend a lot of time going through brands to make sure they are in it morally for the right reasons. Whoever I partner with supports the Paralympic movement and must also be invested in pushing the movement forward as a whole instead of just working with me. The Paralympic movement is still developing, if I can partner with brands that are pushing it forward holistically, it is better for me and the next generation of athletes.”

Jason Teitler echoed Alice Tai’s thoughts and added how he evaluates partners for Special Olympics to make sure they have an impact.

“We firmly believe we do not have sponsors but partners, and these brands are part of the movement, and we ensure they are working with our athlete’s hand in hand. We help brands to make sure they help us, and truly make a difference. Our audiences are looking for proof that they are making a difference not just wanting to.”

Casey DePalma explained that Unilever’s overarching strategy is making sure they are making an impact in the world with people and communities.

“We make sure we are aligned with everything we are doing internally from top to bottom, and from the brands perspective it is all about the consumers and how can we serve the community positively.”

Ryan Djabbarah spoke at length about the value from Citi’s partnership with the IPC and explained how gaining insight into the disabled community from Alice Tai helped form their 2020 campaign.

“Our Paralympic sponsorship dates back to 2012 and is our only global partnership. We worked closely with our Team Citi ambassadors to understand an insight – that there was not a lot of awareness around the disabled community – and therefore, how can we celebrate these amazing feats and athletic achievements. That is where The Stare campaign was born; watch me do this, watch me crush my sport. We wanted to be different and root it into an authentic insight internally to build excitement around the Paralympics.”

Athlete Activism

The conversation then moved onto athlete activism in a purpose-driven marketplace and Alice Tai explained how she feels no pressure as an athlete to engage as an activist and change maker in the Paralympic movement.

“I do not feel pressured as I am genuinely passionate about it, if I can put something out there to positively influence someone’s life and make someone feel more confident about themselves and what they want to do – it is such a simple thing that I can do via social media and the impact is incredible.”

Ryan Djabbarah shared more on how Citi is expanding its efforts beyond the IPC to support athletes at grassroots level.

“Clearly when we talk about athlete activism, the conversation mostly focuses on professional athletes at the top of their sport, like Alice; however, athletes at all levels of the game require resources and support so that one day, they can become the next Alice and use their platform for good.”

In 2012, which set the stage for us, we had six or seven deals at that time – now we have almost sixty which shows the progression and success that we have seen with these ambassador relationships.”


The final subject discussed in the webinar was that it was commonplace now in marketing that brands “talk-the-talk” but do not “walk-the-walk”. What was Jason’s Teitler’s advice to brands on how they drive real impact that protects them from being viewed in a negative way?

“The first thing we do with brands who want to be involved in Special Olympics is ask them to be honest with themselves internally about what is right and what is wrong starting first with policy. Take the inside out approach – once you have righted internally what are you doing for your wider community, then you can look outside the company and who you are working with. You need to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to join the workplace.”

Casey de Palma mentioned a campaign with Dove that mobilized collective action in the marketplace and made a positive impact.

“We commissioned a study around hair discrimination in the workplace and schools and found that 80% of black women would change their hair to fit in at their workplace and they were 1.5 times more likely to self-harm in the workplace because of their hair. Hair in the black community is such a large part of identity. It is illegal to discriminate against people because of their hair. This led to a formation of a coalition, which led to a crown act that is now in more than 13 states.  This would not have happened without galvanizing public support.”

Alice Tai, concluded with an insight from a recent work project that opened her eyes beyond the Paralympic movement.

“I recently did some work with Channel 4 for the Paralympics, and they had a campaign to get more people with disabilities into tv because the ratio is ridiculous. It really opened my eyes to the other side of the Paralympics, which isn’t just being an athlete. It made me realise that there was so much more about the Paralympic movement than just sport, it’s a huge thing.”

And if you would like to find out more information on any of the above clients and brands, please get in touch with Adrienne Ankola-Rochetti ( or Peter Honig (