Overwhelmed by Pressure to Perform, Kids ‘Retire’ From Sports in ESPN’s New PSA

Are parents part of the problem?

espn psa youth athletes quitting sports press conference
The concept of a child holding a press conference has been used before, but it lends a serious context here.
ESPN

One of the cautionary tales about parents pushing their children to reach the highest levels of sports is Todd Marinovich. The former USC and Oakland Raiders player was groomed by his father from birth to become a professional footballer, only to fall from grace in some of the most destructive ways possible, including extensive drug use.

While Marinovich is an extreme example, kids today face increasing pressure to perform on the field at a younger age. Whether it’s in attempts to position themselves for scholarships or being the avatars of competitive parents, children, according to an Aspen Institute study, are being set up to fail, resulting in more children ages 6 to 12 dropping out of organized youth sports.

A new ad from ESPN and Arnold Worldwide, inspired from Aspen Institute, the main client for the campaign, addresses the issues of excessive injuries from overtraining, burnout, discouragement and demoralization head-on, and features a young athlete announcing his “retirement” from sports of any kind.

The “kid at a press conference” concept has been done many times, but this is an instance where a serious subject has been treated with sobering reality. It also points a finger squarely at the parents and other adults who levy so much pressure and intensity on children’s shoulders. While there are 30- and 15-second versions of the ad, the 60-second spot is an example of how longer form can have more impact.

“[We developed] this creative in a way that compels parents and coaches to introspect and ask themselves: ‘Am I part of the problem?’” said Icaro Doria, chief creative officer at Arnold.

The campaign, with donated media from ESPN, drives people to the #DontRetireKid social media campaign and Project Play’s website, where parents can find resources designed to navigate the confusing and frustrating world of youth sports. Additionally, athletes like Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky, Sue Bird, Sloane Stephens, Julie Foudy and others share their thoughts on the importance of youth sports in bespoke vignettes to extend the concept.

“We believe sports should be available to every child,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN. “We want to shed light on this important issue so that kids can take advantage of the benefits of sports, from increased health to better outcomes in school.”

CREDITS:

Aspen Institute
Executive Director: Tom Farrey
Partner Engagement: Otto Strong

ESPN
Vice President, Corporate Citizenship: Kevin Martinez
Manager, Corporate Citizenship: Jennifer Paulette

Arnold Worldwide
Chief Executive Officer: Kiran Smith
Chief Creative Officer, Content: Icaro Doria
Executive Creative Director: James Bray
VP Creative Director, Copy: Justin Galvin
VP Creative Director, Art: Sam Mullins
SVP Executive Producer: Paul Shannon
SVP Marketing Director: Gail Felcher
Marketing Manager: Aidan Keefer
Project Manager: Eric Rubino

Greenpoint Pictures
Directors: The Hudson Dusters
Producer: Luke Stevens
DOP: Nathan Swingle
Executive Producer: Tatiana Rudzinski
Executive Producer: Trevor King

Exile Edit
Producer: Charlotte Delon
Editor: Matt Murphy

Music: Found Objects Music Productions

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