One Team, Euroleague Basketball’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, supported by Turkish Airlines as the One Team Founding Patron and with the collaboration of Special Olympics as Proud Partner, uses basketball to achieve real social impact in several communities. With an innovative model of interconnectedness across an entire continent, Euroleague Basketball and its clubs have developed a complete CSR program that brings together activities from each team in an integrated, impactful way, working under the theme of “community integration”.
Hence, Fox Sports Stories Editor Edgar Gonçalves and author Miguel Nicolau had the opportunity to enquire the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Development Projects at Euroleague Basketball – Abigail Martin – succinct questions regarding ONE TEAM.
1) ONE TEAM is a recognized European Sports Social Responsibility project. How relevant are the Turkish Airlines and Special Olympics as Founding Patron and Proud partners, respectively?
Both partners have been determinant for One Team. The initial commitment and continuous support from our patron Turkish Airlines has enabled our social program One Team not only to exist, but to keep on growing in these five years of successful implementation by the clubs. In a similar way, associating ourselves and working hand-in-hand with such as an established and powerful social partner as Special Olympics has given us constant learning and opportunities to support each other in our aim to take inclusion everywhere.
2) ONE TEAM reached already more than 14,000 participants since 2012. What’s the feedback regarding the impact of so many lives thus far?
Amazing. One Team results are being recognized by our clubs and partners, and these same results are opening opportunities of further engagement between the clubs and their communities, as well as from partners in support of those programs. It is because of the positive impact that has been achieved for people from very diverse and difficult personal backgrounds that we have been able to start this 2017-18 season with all of the 40 teams from the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup delivering One Team in their cities and in the 13 countries that our competitions are played in.
3) ONE TEAM sends a powerful message involving Turkish Airlines and 7DAYS Eurocup teams&players. How open are these Basketball references to cooperate with ONE TEAM initiatives?
Clubs are the managers of their own One Team programs and they take care to involve, little by little, absolutely everyone in the club to support their program. Euroleague Basketball, as trainers and managers of the overall One Team evolution, requires the clubs to activate at least one player in the role of One Team Ambassador, supporting the program from beginning to end. Many clubs are involving more than one player as Ambassador (I.e. Zalgiris and Olympiacos) and several others, like Real Madrid and Lietuvos Rytas, decided to run a least one session with the whole team, players and coaches taking part in the activity along with the One Team participants.
Also, our Euroleague Basketball Ambassadors (former players, some of them honored with the Euroleague Basketball Legend award, as for example Theodoros Papaloukas, Ramunas Siskauskas and Mirsad Turkcan) are very involved as well in supporting and participating in the development of One Team.
4) Regarding this last question, how does the “ONE TEAM Ambassador” works?
The player or players assigned as One Team Ambassador aim to be an inspiration and mentors in some cases for their clubs’ One Team. Ambassadors support the program by sharing at least two or three sessions or other encounters with the participants of their clubs’ One Team projects. Clubs are getting more innovative all the time and becoming very successful in getting their players and coaching crews to support their program.
Also, Euroleague Basketball organizes a One Team introduction session for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague players at the beginning of the season where they are explained the program that their club will run and the importance of their participation as role models in the position of Ambassadors.
5) An interesting strategy used is the “ONE TEAM Week” in both Turkish Airlines Euroleague and 7DAYS Eurocup competitions. Can you get us through this unique period?
One Team is fully present in both competitions from when they start in October until April and May with the EuroCup Finals and the EuroLeague Final Four included. Still, creating full awareness of what One Team is doing through the Euroleague Basketball clubs in their communities is something always necessary so that the word and the scope of what is being done reaches out to the whole Euroleague family and beyond.
And what better way is there than dedicating the games played in one or several rounds in both our competitions, in what we call now the ONE TEAM GAMES, to celebrate and reward our clubs’ constant effort to change lives through One Team. Those games become a loudspeaker for One Team, where all participants jump on the court in front of the fans, supported by their Ambassadors, and the week itself is full of One Team activities around and during the games in all cities. We also celebrate our proud partnership with Special Olympics and all our Ambassadors join us with celebration messages. And, something that only happens in this moment of the season and is very representative of the uniqueness of this celebration, is that we get all players of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague to replace the name on the back of their jerseys with “One Team”.
6) During the Premium Turkish Airlines Final Four editions ONE TEAM have had the chance to increase its presence. What kind of activities are developed in that special weekend?
One Team, as a key part of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, has also been naturally gaining more and more presence at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. Thus, we open the One Team Final Four program welcoming the volunteers before they become active with a One Team session supported by Ambassadors. Following this, we run at least two main activities in the FanZone. One is in association with our proud partner Special Olympics and with the One Team player Ambassadors from the four Final Four teams. A second one brings together the local One Team program participants of the hosting city and all our invited Ambassadors supporting a One Team session and then playing an exhibition game. We also reserve the presentation of the starting fives at all the Final Four games, televised around the world, to offer yet another unforgettable and inspirational moment to the local One Team participants and the Special Olympic athletes by inviting them to stand in front of the starting players before the tip off.
Also, to further support the local One Team program/s of the Final Four and create some legacy, we seek also for opportunities to create a One Team celebration event linked to the upgrade of a community area, usually in the form of the refurbishment of a public basketball court. We did so in 2016 in Berlin and we are going to be able to do so this year in Belgrade as well.
7) ONE TEAM is a successful Sports Social Responsibility initiative created around Turkish Airlines Euroleague. Would you say there is still much potential to exploit regarding this type of initiatives in other leagues and sports?
Definitively. Sports entities have always had a social responsibility to give back to our communities, but social responsibility is now a reality for all businesses, not only sports. So I believe the opportunities to develop all types of social responsibility initiatives coming from leagues or other sports are even bigger than ever as many new synergies can and should be created.
8) There are several media which choose dramatic news over emphasizing community projects. Is there good cooperation between the media and ONE TEAM?
We consider One Team to have been well represented in media in terms of what we do and what we represent. Also, everything about One Team and its life-changing stories is posted in our Euroleague media platforms so that media, fans and partners can follow up on the program. And, we are always ready to explain what we do at a global and also at a local level providing three main concepts to media as a description of One Team:
One Team aims to improve lives of those at risk by working life skills in a basketball environment.
One Team’s uniqueness consists of having all 40 clubs running their own programs through the same methodology.
And, One Team is a very diverse and flexible program as it is able to work with different at-risk groups, be they groups under community cohesion (such as orphans, kids from marginalized schools or youth convicts), groups with physical or intellectual disabilities, groups at risk because of gender discrimination, or groups affected by substance abuse.
9) What are the goals and objectives for ONE TEAM for the following 3 to 5 seasons?
As mentioned, we believe that our social responsibility program offers many opportunities for growth. Nonetheless, I would highlight two main objectives for the upcoming seasons that are: to maintain the soundness and steadiness of our social work to change lives in all our markets with constant innovation in the One Team training for our clubs and to further engage all the groups of our Euroleague family – that is fans, media and partners – to strengthen One Team as a tool to make a difference in our communities.