Partnership story

Archived content.

How sports partnerships are transforming the lives of refugee youth


Sports provide children with the opportunity to gain both self-confidence and the respect of others, simply by nurturing their natural abilities. For refugee youth, many of whom are subject to psycho-social problems, sports have wide ranging benefits, instilling positive values of self-assurance and comradeship.

For all these reasons, UNHCR takes sports very seriously. A powerful result of UNHCR’s flagship ninemillion campaign, launched in 2006, was to ensure that sports activities are fully built into UNHCR’s education strategy for refugee children. Since then, UNHCR has continued to expand its partnerships with sports organisations, engaging with actors like Nike, the National Basketball Association (NBA), FC Barcelona and the Chicago Bulls. These partnerships are successful because they are based on strong media and Internet exposure, the mass appeal of sports and the expertise and global networks of organisations like the International Olympic Committee.

The MÉS campaign and the Human Race are two recent initiatives that illustrate how powerful innovative sports partnerships can be. The MÉS campaign, launched in December 2008, is a global cause-related marketing campaign in partnership with FC Barcelona and Nike. The goal of MÉS is to raise funds through the sale of an exclusive range of MÉS-branded apparel. The net proceeds will benefit a broad range of projects for refugee youth, with a guaranteed amount of €750,000 per year for UNHCR.

The Nike Human Race, dubbed the biggest running event ever, was a 10km run held in 25 cities around the world on a single day – 31 August 2008. Organized by Nike, the event reached out to an audience of over 400,000 people, helping to raise more than a million dollars for UNHCR’s education programs in Chad. Beyond the financial contribution, the Human Race highlighted how cause-related marketing events can take existing partnerships to a new level.