Willie Nelson, Thirteen Major Sports Leagues and Organizations Team Up With the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s National ‘It’s Up To You’ COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative

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As an extension of their COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, “It’s Up To You,” the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative today announced the launch of a new campaign in partnership with thirteen leading sports leagues and organizations: American Horse Council, Athletes Unlimited, Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), PGA TOUR, US Open Tennis Championships, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and WWE. Highlighting iconic moments in sport and a brand-new recording of “I’ll Be Seeing You” performed by Grammy Award-winning musician, Willie Nelson, the videos encourage fans to visit GetVaccineAnswers.org for the latest information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“In the song, I sing ‘I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places,’ and that’s exactly what I hope these PSAs will help do: help get Americans informed about the vaccines and one step closer to the people and moments we miss,” said Grammy-winning musician Willie Nelson. “I’m happy to be part of this new campaign with the Ad Council, COVID Collaborative and these sports organizations to empower millions more to get the answers they need and feel confident in getting vaccinated, like I did.”

“Sports and sports moments hold a special place in the hearts of millions of people across our country and, regardless of who you’re rooting for, we’re all looking forward to getting back to the arenas, stadiums and moments we miss,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “We’re grateful for the extraordinary collaboration and commitment from all of our partner leagues and organizations and Willie Nelson for lending his voice to these powerful PSAs. We know this work will inspire Americans and encourage them to get the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines.”

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/tUZziJSaKhQ

Willie Nelson, who received his COVID-19 vaccination earlier this year, recorded a brand-new rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You” pro bono specifically to be featured within the new PSAs. Developed pro bono by creative agency, Pereira O’Dell, in collaboration with the thirteen leagues and organizations, the spots remind fans about the joy and exhilaration of experiencing sporting events together in person and end with the hopeful message that now that the vaccines are here, we can hopefully get back to those moments we love soon. Within the spots are some of the most iconic moments in recent sports history, including Jordan Spieth’s celebration after winning the 2017 Travelers Championship, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff’s emotional hug after the US Open, Pete Alonso hitting a home run, the WWE crowd chanting for Finn Balor, as well as more intimate moments of fan and player excitement and interaction, driving audiences to GetVaccineAnswers.org for answers to top questions consumers have about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“This is the same song we used on our previous spot, but done with a completely different vibe, just for this story we are telling. That allows the leagues and organizations to have their own voice in this battle against the pandemic at the same time they are part of a larger movement. The goal is to have other partners take this song and this idea and make it theirs too,” said PJ Pereira, Creative Chairman, Pereira O’Dell.

According to Ad Council research fielded by Ipsos in February, approximately 40% of the American public remain undecided about getting a COVID-19 vaccination. Of that undecided population, only 56% say they feel confident they have enough information to guide their decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccination, compared to 96% of those already committed. A majority (over 80%) are eager to get back to the moments and people they miss, including sporting events. And new data from Bully Pulpit Interactive shows that 28% of hesitant Americans say they are inspired and more likely to get vaccinated when prompted to get back to sporting events. These insights underline the urgency for continued mass communication efforts that provide audiences with answers to the top questions people have about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Sports bring us together as a people. Having this extraordinary collection of sports leagues and organizations, together with the voice of Willie Nelson, on our team will help us educate more Americans about the COVID-19 vaccines, get the information they desperately need to make their choice to get a vaccine, and move us closer to enjoying our favorite sporting events in person,” said John Bridgeland, Co-Founder & CEO of the COVID Collaborative.

Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs will run in time and space donated by the media across TV and digital media platforms beginning this week. Partners supporting the PSAs include Bank of America, which is donating over $1.7 million in ad inventory to help the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative reach sports fans with the “It’s Up To You” PSAs. Additional major media partners, including Facebook, NBCUniversal, among others have committed to providing significant donated media space to run and amplify the PSA assets.

The launch of this content follows the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s recent launch of the “It’s Up To You” initiative, which includes creative assets developed by Pereira O’Dell, JOY Collective, iHeartMedia, Group SJR, Values Partnerships and other partners to ensure the American public has the latest and most accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccines. In addition to an extensive ground game to put information in the hands of trusted, local messengers, the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative are mobilizing powerful intermediaries, including iconic artists and sports leagues and organization to reach millions of Americans with information our surveys show they want now to inform their decisions to get a vaccine.

Leading contributors to date include Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, Cisco, CVS Health, Facebook, General Motors, Google and YouTube, the Humana Foundation, NBCUniversal/Comcast, Salesforce, Verizon, Walgreens and Walmart. Significant contributions have also been provided by Adobe, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, BNY Mellon, Business Roundtable, Citi, Ford Motor Company, Honeywell, JPMorgan Chase, the New York Life Foundation, Stanley Black & Decker, Synchrony, Target, Unilever, Wells Fargo and ViacomCBS.

Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, the Ad Council has mobilized the industry to launch an unprecedented, multi-pronged communications effort to combat COVID-19. To date, the Ad Council’s COVID-19 response efforts have resulted in 44 billion impressions, $456 million in donated media value, and over 33 million visits to Coronavirus.gov.

The Ad Council

The Ad Council has a long history of creating life-saving public service communications in times of national crisis, starting in the organization’s earliest days during World War II to September 11th and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Its deep relationships with media outlets, the creative community, issue experts and government leaders make the organization uniquely poised to quickly distribute life-saving information to millions of Americans.

The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation’s most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels.

The Ad Council’s innovative social good campaigns raise awareness, inspire action and save lives. To learn more, visit AdCouncil.org, follow the Ad Council’s communities on Facebook and Twitterand view the creative on YouTube.

COVID Collaborative

COVID Collaborative is a national assembly of experts, leaders and institutions in health, education and the economy and associations representing the diversity of the country to turn the tide on the pandemic by supporting federal, state and local COVID-19 response efforts.

The COVID Collaborative is co-chaired by former Governor and U.S. Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) and former Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) and led by CEO John Bridgeland and President Gary Edson. COVID Collaborative includes expertise from across Republican and Democratic administrations at the federal, state and local levels, including former FDA commissioners, CDC directors, and U.S. surgeon generals; former U.S. secretaries of Education, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services; leading public health experts and institutions that span the country; the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the NAACP, UnidosUS and the National Congress of American Indians; the Skoll Foundation, The Allstate Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation; and associations representing those on the front lines, from the American Public Health Association and Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools.

QUOTE ADDENDUM:

American Horse Council

“The American Horse Council, the voice of the horse industry in Washington DC, wants to encourage all horse enthusiasts, and our fellow sports enthusiasts, to get vaccinated as soon as possible so we can return safely to venues and enjoy competitive events. Vaccines will play an important role in bringing this pandemic under control and returning to some sense of normality,” said Julie Broadway, President American Horse Council.

Athletes Unlimited

“At the core of Athletes Unlimited’s mission is promoting civic leadership and cultivating the leaders of tomorrow. We are proud to support the Ad Council’s “It’s Up To You” campaign to promote awareness and education about getting vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Jon Patricof, CEO and Co-Founder of Athletes Unlimited.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

“We are proud to join the other sports leagues in sending an important health and safety message to our fans. Baseball has a unique ability to bring people together at the ballpark creating communal experiences and memorable moments. Our fans are integral in creating that magic. We’re hopeful this campaign resonates with millions of people and inspires them to take action in our common desire of returning to normalcy. We’re looking forward to once again hearing the roar of the crowd at our ballparks.” – Barbara McHugh, MLB Senior Vice President, Marketing

Major League Soccer

“Major League Soccer is keenly aware that vaccine education is key to returning to better days for everyone,” said JoAnn Neale, MLS President and Chief Administrative Officer. “We miss seeing MLS fans fill the stadiums in their communities and cheering on their favorite club game after game. That’s why Major League Soccer is proud to partner with the Ad Council and many of the top sports leagues in North America on the ‘It’s Up to You’ campaign.”

NASCAR

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen the collective power of sports help to unify our country and rally Americans around important issues,” said Pete Jung, Senior Vice President of Marketing at NASCAR. “At present, we must continue to encourage our audiences to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and the benefits of getting vaccinated, and at NASCAR we’re proud to stand with the Ad Council and other sports leagues to promote that important message.”

National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)

“The NBA and WNBA family recognizes that reaching our fans with health and safety messages has the ability to save lives, and we remain committed to using our platform to inform as many people as possible. Joining the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s new campaign with the other participating professional sports leagues will help further our efforts to encourage fans to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.” – Kate Jhaveri, NBA Chief Marketing Officer

National Football League (NFL)

“The NFL is pleased to join with the other professional sports leagues to encourage communities to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Anna Isaacson, SVP, NFL Social Responsibility. “The NFL has a longstanding record of working to make positive change in communities and through this vaccine education campaign, we are committed to using our platform to help people make informed decisions about what is best for them.”

National Hockey League (NHL)

“The spectacular goals, the incredible saves, the highlight-reel moments, the once-in-a-lifetime milestones – none of it is the same without thousands of NHL fans cheering in the stands. The health and safety of NHL fans is of utmost importance. As more arenas open their doors, the NHL and its 31 Member Clubs are doing their part to reduce the incidence of COVID-19 cases with enhanced safety measures and Protocols. Everyone has a part to play to combat this deadly virus,” said Heidi Browning, NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL)

“We all have to do our part to spread the word that we can beat this disease and the NWSL is honored to be partnering with sports leagues and the Ad Council to support this initiative” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “We all want to see fans in stadiums again. But far more importantly, we all want to be safe and well, engaged in our local communities, supporting our local businesses, and reunited with our friends and family. It’s up to all of us to get there, and if Willie Nelson says so, you sort of have to do it!”

PGA TOUR

“It is critical that all groups are educated about the COVID-19 vaccine in order to make smart and informed decisions,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “As one of the first sports to return to the field of play last year, the PGA TOUR is proud to collaborate with The Ad Council and other major professional sports to continue to unify and inspire through this important next step for our communities.”

US Tennis Association

“We at the USTA are proud to be a partner in this initiative and encourage everyone to educate themselves on COVID-19 vaccination. We all can’t wait to start welcoming fans back to live sporting events, including the US Open, and this partnership will go a long way toward ensuring we can do so in the safest way possible,” said Mike Dowse, CEO and Executive Director of the US Tennis Association.

WWE

“We are pleased to partner with the Ad Council and other leading sports leagues on this critical vaccine education campaign,” said Stephanie McMahon, WWE Chief Brand Officer. “WWE’s fans are our secret sauce and we can’t wait to safely get them back to our live events soon.”

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