Last week I was lucky enough to attend Bow Tie Friday, an event hosted by USAID to discuss the value of sports in development. The event brought together NFL stars as well as leaders in the sports development world from Bow Tie Causes and Octagon Inc., two companies dedicated to helping athletes get involved in social causes.
The event featured USAID representatives along with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, former NFL linebacker and founder of Bow Tie Causes Dhani Jones, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and founder and President of Octagon Inc., Phil de Picciotto. Tagliabue’s emotional account of how he’d watched football impact global development and international relations moved all of us close to tears, and de Piccioto’s insights about the importance of players backing causes they are invested in certainly related to our work. However, the best example of the importance of sports in development was sitting right next to me.
I was excited to attend the event, but not nearly as excited as my boyfriend. A lifelong and die hard Green Bay Packers fan, he couldn’t wait to meet Jennings in person.
I’ve been working on this campaign since last August, and he’s always supported me by re-posting my Facebook messages or having dinner ready for me after my long nights in the office trying to get the campaign out the door. Last week, however, I saw something click. The panel spent the majority of their discussion talking about how the lessons you learn on the field about teamwork, overcoming obstacles, and supporting one another relate directly to the necessary tactics needed to accomplish USAID’s international development goals. These values resonated with my boyfriend in a way that no other piece of our work had done before. He didn’t stop nodding (or smiling) throughout the entire discussion, and I could see that a celebrity role model is important, but a celebrity role model that knows the necessity of working together can be even more impactful.
I may not be as big of a football fan as my boyfriend is, but after last week, I know I’m a huge fan of leveraging the power of sports on behalf of cause marketing and international development.