Online posters of 101 missing children were viewed almost one million times on Monday as over 200 football clubs came together to mark International Missing Children’s Day.
The social media initiative, put together by AS Roma under the banner of ‘Football Cares’ for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), took three months to coordinate and was strongly backed by both FIFA and the European Club Association (ECA).
Eighteen of the Top 20 most followed football clubs on Twitter – including Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Galatasaray, PSG, Bayern Munich and Flamengo – all shared at least one ‘Football Cares’ video featuring missing children on May 25.
In total, Roma produced 18 different videos – some global, some regional and some country specific - for the ‘Football Cares’ project, with children from 21 different countries being featured.
As well as ICMEC, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States and Missing People in the UK also hosted ‘Football Cares’ videos on their Twitter accounts.
“The idea behind ‘Football Cares’ was to take what we’d done with missing children on social media at Roma over the last 12 months with transfer videos and find a way to involve the entire global football community,” said Paul Rogers, Chief Strategy Officer at AS Roma.
“With missing children, it’s all about raising awareness and 200 clubs, with a collective audience of over 400 million followers, can do far more than Roma on our own. In January, we took the ‘Football Cares’ idea to ICMEC and with support from FIFA and ECA, we started approaching clubs and organisations about getting involved. The response was incredible. I don’t think any club said no.”
On May 25 each year, to mark International Missing Children’s Day, ICMEC coordinates activities and campaigns to build awareness around the issue of missing children, celebrate those who have been recovered and remember those who are still missing.
‘Football Cares’ was the biggest campaign yet.
“Football is the world’s most popular sport and ICMEC recognised the potential of the clubs to amplify our efforts to publicise the plight of missing children through their incredible social media presence,” said Caroline Humer, Vice President of Programs at ICMEC.
“We’d like to thank the ECA and FIFA for their fantastic support, every club who agreed to participate in the ‘Football Cares’ initiative and also AS Roma, who first approached us about the initiative.”
The ‘Football Cares’ videos published on May 25 have generated close to one million views, with over 135,000 minutes watched of the 14 ICMEC videos alone during the first 24 hours.
For ICMEC, the ‘Football Cares’ campaign was a historic day on Twitter, with new records set for impressions, profile visits and also mentions. The stats are not vanity social media metrics but rather evidence of invaluable new public awareness around the disappearance of the children featured.
“ICMEC would like to thank members of the global football community for coming together on May 25 to commemorate International Missing Children’s Day,” said Bob Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer at ICMEC.
“Thanks to the leadership of AS Roma, FIFA, ECA and other partners, more than 200 football clubs and associations across every continent united under ‘Football Cares’ to raise critical awareness for children that have gone missing, hoping to help reunite them with their families and loved ones.”
For ECA, who saw 86 of their members join the campaign, the success of the project was testament to the power of football to be a force for good.
“When it came to the ‘Football Cares’ initiative, clubs were falling over themselves to get involved and help bring these children back home,” said Charlie Marshall, ECA Managing Director.
“It was inspiring and heartening to see the global football community use its incredible social media presence to reach millions of followers all around the world for such a great cause.”
The campaign also received incredible support from CONCACAF, MLS, and the football federations of Italy, Russia, Greece, Jamaica and Argentina, with clubs from all of these countries and many more sharing videos.
The incredible unity of the clubs didn’t go unnoticed by AS Roma President Jim Pallotta, who tweeted: “Really happy to see #ASRoma helping to unite over 200 clubs as part of #FootballCares. To see so many clubs with millions of followers coming together to try to help find missing children is a great use of social media #InternationalMissingChildrensDay.”