There’s no doubt that the 2015 ESPY awards ceremony will go down in the history books as one of the most monumental celebrations of athletic achievements. Despite being sponsored by ESPN in order to honor excellence in sports, the breakout star was Caitlyn Jenner, who made her first public appearance after announcing that she would be transitioning into her real self as a woman.
Jenner, 65, became a household name — albeit as Bruce Jenner — after the 1976 Olympic Games, where he kicked butt in the decathlon and brought home a coveted gold medal.
Jenner recently announced this past April that she identified as a woman and would be making her transition, complete with a tell-all reality show, chronicling her journey.
ESPN awarded Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award; the award was presented to Jenner by U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach, who has become another important individual in the LGBTQ community.
The award ceremony was particularly meaningful for the transgender community, members of which have struggled to be accepted not just by society in general, but also by their own LBGTQ communities as well.
Not only was the night a big moment for ESPN to recognize and honor the community, but it gave other companies — most notably Google and Airbnb — a chance to voice their support as well.
Both the tech giant and the comparatively smaller startup released commercials, which aired on ABC during the awards ceremony, highlighting the struggles that many transgender people face in the gym and the locker room.
According to USA Today and TIME, major corporations typically avoid supporting causes that are as controversial as transgender rights.
However, as more consumers are becoming aware that they aren’t just purchasing a product or service. More than 75% of consumers state that they typically engage with a company or hear about its brand before they even consider buying a product or service; the companies that promote positive brands that consumers want to see are more likely to find success.
And for ESPN, Google, and Airbnb, it’s likely that they’ll get quite a bit of praise for many years to come, too.