Soccer Helps a 6-Year Old Migrant Make New Friends in UNICEF’s Heartwarming PSA

Plus, a cameo from a Spanish football star

Santiago Ayon now lives in Spain, where a goal-stopping header helped him settle in. UNICEF
Headshot of Cara Anderson

Getting to safety is just one challenge for some 50 million refugee and migrant children around the world. After that, they have to settle into their new lives—and face a new set of obstacles.

A new ad from UNICEF looks at the story of one young boy, Santiago Ayon, who migrated from Bolivia to Spain at age 6. Now 8 years old, he recounts how soccer helped him make friends in his new home—where he won them over by stopping a goal with a header.

It’s part of a new global initiative “What Excites Us Unites Us” that UNICEF launched on June 19th, World Refugee Day. The campaign comes against the backdrop of both the FIFA World Cup, and in the United States, an ongoing crisis over the separation of migrant children and their parents at the country’s southern border.

The 2-minute video—which also includes a surprise appearance from Spanish soccer star Sergio Ramos—is part of a broad multilingual campaign, created by agency 180LA, that aims to show how sport can bring the world together in support of the rights and well-being of refugee and migrant children.

“A child uprooted may be called a refugee, an internally displaced person or a migrant. But first and foremost, a child is a child, no matter where they come from,” says Paloma Escudero, director of the division of communication at UNICEF. “Through the passion of football, this initiative shows that which unites us is stronger than any differences we might have.”

Adds Cecelia Girr, strategist at 180LA. “We have worked with UNICEF for a number of years and felt that this time, it was important to take an uplifting, positive tone.” “We saw the current global football frenzy as the perfect opportunity to provide perspective about child migration in a hopeful, relatable, non-political way.”

There are currently more children forcibly displaced by conflict—an estimated 30 million, according to UNICEF—than at any other time since the Second World War. While many PSAs focus on the harrowing circumstances children face escaping war torn regions and other forms of poverty and violence, the new ad is another important reminder that when they arrive in a more promising environment, the journey is far from over.

Coinciding with the film, UNICEF is also launching the “longest goal challenge” on social media as a way to galvanize support for migrant and refugee children. In one clip, Ramos—captain of the Spanish national football team—challenges viewers to express their commitment to inclusivity by shooting a video of themselves practicing a timeless tradition—shouting “goaaaaaaal” for as long as possible—and sharing it on social media using the hashtags #LongestGoal and #WorldCup. The campaign website will feature compilation videos of longest goal submissions, as well as a quiz on World Cup trivia with a focus on migrant and refugee players.


Campaign: “What Excites Us, Unites Us”
Agency: 180LA
Client: UNICEF
Director of Communications: Paloma Escudero
Uprooted Campaign Lead: Marta Arias
Digital Communications Specialist: Hugh Reilly
Digital Communication Officer: Nicholas Ledner
Senior Producer: Priyanka Pruthi
Web Editor, Digital Strategy: Leah Selim
Social Media Content Lead: Kavervir Sidhu
Internal Communications Lead, Digital: Codi Trigger
Ambassadors Manager, UNICEF Spain: Silvia Murias Sanchez

Agency: 180LA
Chief Creative Officer, CEO: Al Moseley
Creative Directors: Brian Farkas, Tylynne McCauley
Head of Production, Executive Producer: David Emery
Strategist/ Producer: Cecelia Girr
Digital Producer: Eric Shumny
Account Manager: Cecelia Girr
Account Manager: Marissa Mackel
Director of Business Affairs: Loretta Zolliecoffer
Copywriter: Marisa Milisic
Art Director: Sarah Romanoff
Jr. Art Director: Yugendu Vyas
Jr. Copywriter: Caleb Couturie
Content/ Editor: Johan Hesselgren

Production Co.: Caviar Madrid
Director: Carlos Luque
DP: Jorge Roig
Executive Producer: Alfonso Cazalilla
Producer: Federico Tonizzo
Shoot Location: Hortaleza, Madrid
Shoot Date: May 15-16th, 2018

Editorial Company: Pixel Power
Editor: Pablo Piriz
Head of Production: Rob McCool
Completion/Special Effects
Colorist: Moving Picture Company
Executive Producer: Meghan Lang
Producer: Rebecca Boorsma
Colorist: Dimitri Rajapakse

Recording Studio: Beacon Street Studios
Mixer: Amber Tisue
Mix Producer: Kate Vadnais

Digital Activation Company: MediaMonks
Managing Director: Jason Prohaska
Executive Integrated Producer: Simon Joseph

Don't miss the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience Nov. 16-19. Gain insights from leading sports figures on how they navigated a year of upsets and transformation and what's in store for the coming year. Register

@cara_02 Cara Anderson is a contributor to Adweek.