During the summer of 2014 I had the great opportunity to travel to Rio for the World Cup. I was fortunate enough to win a contest at work (read about that here), and it was an amazing experience. During the trip I blogged about it on an internal site that we had for participants of the trip and I wanted to re-paste those posts here so I could share them with a broader audience, and so I can get to them and re-live the excitement anytime I want.
It was a total of 3 posts, describing two different parts of the experience (the Fan Fest and an actual game) so the paste below will be long. I’ll also add a few pics that show some of the things referenced in the post. Also, since this was posted internally first I guess I should point out that these are still all my own views/etc. and not those of the company. That being said, I hope you enjoy.
Live from FIFA Fan Fest
On the first day of our arrival a couple new friends and I decided to look for a spot to watch the game that was happening between Chile and Spain.
What we didn’t know at that time was that our hotel was right up the street from the FIFA Fan Fest on Copacabana Beach. The fan fest is a huge area that FIFA has set up with a very large projection of the game, and displays from the commercial sponsors.
The area holds twenty thousand people and it gets full before each game. Yes, twenty thousand people show up, on the beach to watch just about every game. That doesn’t even include the people who don’t go into the fenced off area, so the total number of people in the beach area is probably closer to fifty thousand.
Well, needless to say, it was an amazing experience, and we had only been in Brazil for a few hours at that point. I couldn’t stop thinking just how amazing this entire trip and the program was, and that sense was only heightened when I first laid eyes on the scene at the beach.
It further reminded me how great I thought it was that Johnson & Johnson was a part of this event. By the end of watching that game in fan fest though, my thoughts on the subject would take on a whole new meaning.
As I said, the fan fest has huge displays and interactive exhibits by many of the commercial sponsors. You could zip line across the crowd, take part in a virtual fun digital exhibits, see and sample the latest products from the various sponsors basically all of the stuff you would expect companies to do to try and make their products the front
and center of everyone’s attention.
Then, on the way out, we stopped in the Johnson & Johnson fan fest pavilion.
What JNJ was doing was using their space, to create a nurturing family environment at the event. Here, in the middle of all the pandemonium of the crowds of people, JNJ was putting family front and center.
There were families sitting around the JNJ area doing things together, there were kids getting a chance to sit and play (which was the only place I saw that catered to kids), and you could see the looks of appreciation and togetherness that the space had helped to happen.
In that moment I was so proud to be a JNJ Employee.
What other company in the world would – or could – create a sense of family like that? Who else would be making sure that their mission of the space, the sponsorship and the opportunity to participate in FIFA World Cup would be about inspiring care? What other place would offer their employees the chance to win a trip to Brazil for their caring stories? Of course… JNJ would.
It was truly an honor to see it in person. Wow, thank you.
By the way – for all of our employees from or who root for Chile – you guys have some amazing futbol chants for when your team scores. Ha.
Game Day Part 1 & 2 Combined
Do you remember that heightened sense of excitement, joy, and anticipation on the morning of a launch day for any big project you’ve ever been on, or any big event in your life? Remember that morning where so much of what you’ve been looking forward to is about to happen?
Well, welcome to the last official day of our Wave 1 Champions of Care trip. It’s game time.
The day’s match is Game 31, Belgium vs. Russia. It’s supposed to be a great match, with two teams that are looking to fight it out to see who will move on.
A couple of us start our day with Mate’ (pronounced: Mah-ta) at breakfast. Mate’ is a traditional South America infused drink (like a tea) (click here for more info.). Our fellow champion Ignacio brought this special drink from his hometown in Argentina, where he tells us about the ritual and bonding that occurs when preparing it and drinking it with friends. It’s yet another great caring moment that someone in the group wanted to bring and share with the rest of us.
After we have our Mate’ and pick up our tickets we are given our 3rd set of badges for the hospitality area around the Stadium. I mention the 3rd set of badges to point out all the security and protection and care bestowed upon the fans of the game by the organizing bodies – and especially JNJ. I also mention it because it got us into two very special areas I’ll describe in a bit.
So, off we go to the game, already starting with our newly created, not officially sanctioned, and now infamous JNJ Futbol chant. I’ll ask you to stop reading and sing along first, here’s how it goes:
You’ve probably heard the origin of the chant at any futbol game or even lots of other sporting events.
Start with the popular: “Ole’, Ole’, Ole’, Ole’…. Ole’… Ole’”
Now, replace the last two Ole’s with – JNJ, JNJ.
“Ole’, Ole’, Ole’, Ole’…. JNJ… JNJ”
OK, now you’re ready to hear more about the game. We arrive and quickly step through security and into the hospitality area. This is the hospitality village where all of the major sponsors have spaces for their guests for before and after the game. There are two rows of huge tents and the Johnson and Johnson tent is the first one you see when you enter the area.
Once again, I’m blown away when I enter.
JNJ not only uses the space as a beautiful (kudos to the design team – it should win every award out there) hospitality area, but also provides a whole area for the guests to participate in one of the many programs that JNJ is executing around Brasil as part of our sponsorship. Inside our tent a guest in the hospitality area can help assemble a care package that will be donated to children in need across Brasil through a group called INMED. INMED Brasil develops health and education programs to strengthen communities and support the development of healthier children and in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, INMED treats children for infections and shares health and hygiene habits. A pretty cool opportunity in the area along with all the other guests from around the JNJ world, external program winners and not to mention the food and caipirinha’s.
After the Capoeira (Brazillian dance fighting) exhibition outside (just thought I would casually mention that), we started to head in to the general area around the stadium’s entrance.
Take the energy of every major sporting event you’d ever imagine, add in crazy costumes and people that traveled from every part of the world to watch and you’d have the fans at the World Cup. From the looks of things in the crowd it looked like it just might be a Belgium favored crowd. In my guess I’d say the ratio was maybe 2:1 of Belgium jerseys vs. Russia. We had a great Belgian guy in our group, Peter, so it seemed he was in friendly company.
Before we headed into the game we were able to take a last minute detour to the volunteer station. This is where all of the volunteers for FIFA World Cup in Rio would use as a base of their activity and a chance to rest between assignments and socialize. There were so many volunteers in Rio that it took the stadium next to the soccer stadium to hold them all. Johnson and Johnson is sponsoring all of the volunteers and volunteer areas in every FIFA World Cup stadium (I believe there are over 5,000 volunteers) with various programs.
In trying to find creative ways to once again use its sponsorship in ways aligned to a higher mission, JNJ was supporting the volunteer spaces in order to reach a population of people in each area throughout Brazil that were from the local areas and educate and inspire them by caring for them and teaching them how to care for others. There were free medical screenings, education about common issues that plague the areas, information about programs that support the local areas so the person could bring that info back into his or her community, as well as a very cool token of appreciation – a take away bag filled with more great info and some JNJ product. It was probably worth volunteering just for this area.
It was also incredibly humbling to see the Champions of Care trophy that we were each awarded with the night before be on display in the volunteer area. It looks so cool behind glass. The only issue is now I want to go build one of those display cases for my office (ha, ha). It was being shown because JNJ created the Champions of Care program to highlight external people that have inspiring care stories as well. My fellow internal employee Champions and I were not the only ones awarded with this awesome memento. JNJ had also found people through Brazil (and one from the rest of the world), to hopefully continue to inspire more and more caring. I know many of the volunteers will see that info and those winners and be inspired to do more.
Well, as you see – it’s already been an amazing day and the game hasn’t even started yet. So, through a tightly controlled security gate we pass with our credentials and now we’re in the amazing Estadio do Maracana (Maracana Stadium).
As I said before, once again I am blown away when we come through the tunnel of our seating area and first see the inside of the stadium and the field. They even had a perfect song that just started playing in the stadium as we came into the seating area – AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. For those of you that know it – just imagine the first minute of that song blasting over the speakers while you walk in (for those of you that need a refresher of the song, watch the first minute of this YouTube video).
I think by this point I was excited enough that if the coach of one of the teams happened to come up in the stands and ask me to substitute in for a player, I would have been ready.
You can see the great visual recap of the actual specifics of the game that Google is doing for every match here: Russia vs. Belgium on Google. Or you can check out a maybe funny version of a re-cap of the game from twitter here. Belgium ended up winning with a great goal in the 88th minute.
Here are some things Google didn’t tell you.
Our seats were amazing. They were close enough to see everything, yet high enough to be able to get a feel for the whole game. We were in a section equally full with Belgium fans and Russia fans, so we could decide to celebrate no matter what happened. That being said, we were only one section away from two whole sections full of very intense Belgium fans, so when Belgium scored it was like someone just handed each person in the section a million dollars each. I was so happy to have our Champion from Belgium, Peter, sitting behind me so I could see the look on his face when his country scored and grab and hug him like we both just personally won the entire cup for our Country. Sport sure does bring people together.
On a completely different, yet totally related to our trip note, one of the other great things about our seats was that for all of the game, except for the last 2 minutes, we were in the shade and out of the sun’s glare. The sun comes in through the hole in the top of the stadium and as the sun rotated through the day it only caught us for two minutes till the game was over. I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to Linda Nagel from the US who was on the trip because of her caring story related to skin cancer and her work (please check it out) to fund the Skin Cancer Society.
Having a deep personal connection to cancer myself, we were both happy to be out of the sun’s rays. However, we of course had on our JNJ sunblock just in case. Every morning Linda would make sure everyone on the trip put their block on (thanks for the extra sunblock Matt Stayner) and reminded us all of the sun’s possible devastating effects. She was so aligned to her mission that it wasn’t even something she consciously reminded us about – she just did it, she just was always there to care for people to protect themselves.
Also during the game, while I walked around the stadium at half time, I met many of the safety personnel. You could easily find who was a medical or other safety person because they all had on these great white and red vests, that just so happened to have the JNJ logo and our sponsorship tagline on them. As another part of our sponsorship JNJ worked very hard to ensure that every medical safety person involved in any of the stadiums would have a consistent visual identity as well as a standard medical bag.
This might seem like an easy feat, but it is actually quite the opposite. It took coordinating between all of the different groups that run each stadium to make sure everybody would have the same. JNJ knew that in order to make it easier for people attending the games to know who to turn to for help, in the event it was needed, that the people needed to be easy to identify and consistent from one stadium to the next. It was all about ensuring that someone would know who to go to if they needed care. A person watching any game on TV would even see the bags and/or vest from a TV game and could recognize it in their local stadium.
Also, isn’t it kind of cool when you’re watching the game at home and you see the medical person run on the field and their bag has the JNJ logo. Of course, no one wants anyone to actually need any medical attention or get hurt – but it’s nice to know it’s the best healthcare company in the world supporting it.
With that, the game ended and we all made our way back towards the affiliate area towards the bus the group had been using to get around all week. It was at this point that the most personal caring story for me took place and I was once again in awe and deeply grateful for how much the JNJ team had been caring for everyone.
While I was supposed to stay on the trip for another day, I had to leave directly from the match and head to the airport due to a family emergency. When I had notified the organizing team late on the day before, they bent over backwards in order to make sure I was on the next available flight. I know they had to re-arrange a ton of little things in order to make it happen, like miraculously having my luggage appear from my room to the parking lot of the stadium in my own personal escort to the airport, and I couldn’t say more wonderful things about how I was cared for. They acted like it was easy and not to worry, but I know it was a lot of work and I want to thank all of them.
While sitting on the plane on the way home, I was reminded of why I was on that trip in the first place and what led me to that. I was nominated for my work with a non-profit group I started when my father passed away from cancer. It just so happens I was also on a business trip when I found out he had passed away. It was many years ago (before blackberries), early in my career, and I had just flown to London where I was supposed to meet with tons of people, have a ton of meetings and iron out some very important details of some key projects. I landed in the airport and got to the hotel when the front desk person handed me a message as I went to check in. I knew what it was about without even opening it. I immediately got back in the cab, went back to the airport and flew the 8 hours back home.
I landed and sent my boss at the time a quick one line email that basically said I’m sorry but I had to come back to the states and can you cancel everything due to a family emergency. No real deep explanation at the time, just a signal.
At that point I’m sure some people in other companies might have reacted in a different way. Not here at JNJ. I was cared for, supported and given a real sense of family as my team helped me navigate that time.
Also, since then, people from JNJ have supported my efforts in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain. People like Ben Walker (Consumer IT) and Chris Campbell (MDD) helped do a ton of work, for years, to get the efforts formalized in the non-profit. I’ve also gotten to meet so many great people from JNJ that do work helping others that inspire me every day, like the other Champions in the program and all those that were nominated but unfortunately didn’t make the trip too, and the 86% of employees (I overheard this stat recently) that do some type of community service type work. What a great place, we are all lucky.
This Champions of Care program may have started as an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity for a trip to Brazil for the game, but it ended up being so much more for me. It’s been a direct reminder of the amazing work our company does throughout the world, as evidenced by the programs that we’re doing as part of the sponsorship, and it’s been a chance to be reminded so deeply again about the amazing community of people that choose to call JNJ their work home.