International growth of the Paralympic movement


An association with a Paralympic star like Ernst van Dyk presents a unique opportunity for brands looking to align themselves with sport and a cause.

Between the end of the Olympic Games in Barcelona on 9 August 1992 and the start of the Paralympic Games 27 days later, friends and family of the South African Paralympic athletes were frantically sewing.  It was supposed to be South Africa’s triumphant return to international sport, but the Paralympic team didn’t have an apparel sponsor.  There was only one solution:  Take the Olympic team’s clothes and convert them to fit the Paralympic athletes!  Incredible, but that was the state of affairs for Paralympic athletes in 1992.

24 years later, in the wake of the recently completed fifteenth edition of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, it is thought-provoking to read a report of the international sports research company, Nielsen Sports, on the growing Paralympic movement.

These are some of the report’s key findings:

  • The 2012 London Paralympics was watched by three times more television viewers than the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Early indications are that the viewerships for Rio will be double that of London’s.
  • Before the 2012 London Paralympics, 500,000 people in the United Kingdom (UK) recognised the logo of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). After the Games, 20 million were able to instantly recognise the logo.
  • Surveys measuring the interest in the Paralympics were conducted pre-London and –Rio Paralympics in fifteen different countries around the globe. All fifteen countries measured an increased interest from London to Rio.  The highest increases were in the UK (26%) and Argentina, Russia and Spain (all three on 24%).  The lowest increase was in Saudi Arabia (4%).

The Paralympics has established itself as a major, global sporting event.  This obviously provides new commercial opportunities, but the Paralympics is about more than sport:  it can help shift the attitudes towards those with an impairment.  At a time when many brands are seeking to attach themselves to social causes, the opportunities around the Paralympics and Paralympic athletes are undeniable.

15% of the global population has an impairment, with 80% of them living in developing countries like South Africa.  An association with a Paralympic star like the Rio handcycling gold medallist Ernst van Dyk presents a unique opportunity for brands looking to align themselves with sport and a cause.  It is an entry point second to none to showcase a brand as a force for good.

Paralympic athletes train just as hard, if not harder, and make just as many sacrifices, if not more, as able-bodied athletes.  Their achievements are simply attained at a different level.  If these achievements fail to inspire people and brands to achieve extraordinary results, few things will.  The Ernst van Dyks of the world can lift people and brands to new levels, guaranteed.


Francois Brink

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