ABOUT THIS ENTRY
There was arguably no bigger story in the sports world this past year than Brittney Griner, whose detention dominated the headlines and was a national media discussion for nearly 10 months. Her situation—being held hostage and used as a political pawn by Russia as part of a wider geopolitical conflict—defines the phrase ‘bigger than sports,’ but also revealed the unique power and influence the sports world can bring.
Behind-the-scenes, BG’s eventual return home is a compelling story about teamwork, and the tireless efforts of many at Wasserman who fully committed themselves to bringing her home safely. The communications team, and the months-long communications strategy that was produced and executed, were on the front lines of this global crisis and unequivocally played a major role in bringing about her safe return.
How does this represent “Excellence in Engagement”?
Wasserman’s global communications team fielded thousands of media requests from hundreds of outlets globally—roughly 40 countries. BG-related work was a constant from the day she was arrested to the day that she was returned. Managing the situation - and doing so at a world-class level as the earned media results mentioned above illustrate - was a massive undertaking not just in the level of work, but also quantity that accompanied it.
Although BG is home and the 'first phase' of the campaign is completed, the work has not stopped. Today, the Wasserman communications team is hard-at-work continuing to manage the strategy and public-facing access in all things relating to BG, and are working in conjunction with her agent on executing a strategy for her business going forward.
This saga will forever endure as a significant moment in the history of sports and our country, and ultimately revealed the impact of sports, and the power of collective action.
Plain and simple, the objective of all communication efforts was to return Brittney Griner to the United States safely. Experts advised and largely agreed that the best way for the public to help BG was with a loud show of unity to bring all wrongfully-detained Americans home and to show compassion for her as a human.
As such, a nuanced communications plan was created to inspire the public and ultimately the White House to prioritize BG. Ultimately, once the conversation and attention around BG made it an unavoidable topic for the White House, a delicate strategy was deployed in conjunction with the government to keep BG in the discourse, while not doing anything to hinder President Biden's negotiations with Russia.
Strategy & Execution
The Wasserman communications team served as the primary point-of-contact for BG’s wife Cherelle Griner, BG’s family including her parents and siblings, Brittney's Russian legal representation, advocacy groups, political and communications consultants, experts on Russia, the State Department, the NSC and ultimately, the White House.
More specifically, in hopes of best controlling the messaging and narrative around this delicate situation, the communications team, in conjunction with Brittney's agent, orchestrated the collaboration between President Biden, Vice President Harris, the entire Biden-Harris White House Administration, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Team, the Special Presidential Envoy of Hostage Affairs Ambassador Roger Carstens and team, the U.S. Department of State, The Richardson Center and Governor Bill Richardson, BG’s Russian legal team, the WNBA, the NBA, the WNBPA, the NBPA, the Phoenix Mercury, USA Basketball, UMCC Ekaterinburg, civil rights leaders, the LGBTQ+ community, and a coalition Black women, to ultimately bring BG home.