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In Review: The #DANCELIKEMANDELA Campaign

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Exactly two years ago - July 18th, 2018 - marked the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela, one of the history's greatest leaders, social activists, and humanitarians.

As the executive director of REPRESENT Global, and in partnership with our co-founder Kweku Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, I (Michael Orso) was responsible for planning and executing a series of activations to commemorate this special day and help translate his legacy to young people all around the world.

In order to do this we were tasked with finding a cultural medium that could be used to help communicate this vision. We found that one of Nelson's greatest passions was dancing. He famously said:

“It is music and dancing that make me at peace with the world.” — Nelson Mandela.

Ultimately we used the idea of dance as a theme to communicate his ideas and values to the younger generation. Thus, the idea of the #DanceLikeMandela campaign was born.

The goal of this campaign was simple:

Heres how we achieved this goal:


The most important part of the campaign was the story. By using this idea of #DanceLikeMandela we were able to easily connect with young people all over the world who love music, dance, and parties, but who also care about having a positive impact on their community.


Once we decided the story, we knew that we would need to create a sleek website, content to support our outreach to organizers, a unified look and feel for the organizer's markets assets, and a recognizable social media aesthetic. We were lucky to work with the talented Mathew Bease at We Mean This who contributed his time and effort towards creating the visual assets for this campaign.

The key was creating a process that was scalable and made it easy to coordinate with people across many countries, cities, languages, and backgrounds at the same time. In order to create this scalability, we used an event registration form that allowed us to do due diligence on our organizers, make sure they were logistically prepared, gave us insight into the causes and organizations they were raising money for, etc. Once the organizers / parties were accepted, they we were added to the facebook group where they were able to share information with other organizers, and given access to our visual content repository that gave them all the graphics they needed to market their parties.

Below are some of those materials that were created:




By using this concept to connect with organizers over the world - it made it easy for us to get buy in and quickly assemble a large group of volunteers who wanted to take action to benefit their communities under the #DanceLikeMandela umbrella around Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday. Thanks to our partnerships with Resident Advisor and Boiler Room, as well as our own outreach efforts, we were able to contact hundreds of organizers, DJs, activists, non-profits, etc.

Below are some of the posters that the organizers designed using our PSD templates for their events:

Ultimately we had 25+ organizers sign on to throw parties in 25+ cities across 5 continents with 10,000+ participants raising tens of thousands of dollars for causes ranging from orphans in Zimbabwe to children with cerebral palsy in Canberra to music lessons in Hungary.


The second part of the campaign came in the form of a song called Dance Like Mandela which was created by renowned South African arists, DJ Maphorisa, with features by a variety of other South African artists including Moonchild Sanelly, Mlindo The Vocalist, Stilo Magolide, and Sbucardo. The song became the official soundtrack for the #DANCELIKEMANDELA campaign.

The song was released one week before Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday and in order to make its release interactive and engage with more young people, we created a call to action for dancers all over the world:

What do you dance to represent?

Hundreds of people across the world, from Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, and more posted videos dancing to represent a variety of different causes.

International Youth Council of Tunisia

Deaf Dancer Shaheem Sanchez:

On Mandela Day, our partners at Soundcloud helped us by pushing the song out to all of their Soundcloud app users. Spotify also supported by creating a special Celebrating Nelson Mandela 100 playlist for the occasion.

Ultimately, between the dance videos, the Soundcloud and Spotify partnerships, and other press around the song, the campaign was able to reach millions of people.

5) Billboard and Media Outlets

Thanks to our partnerhsip with Branded Cities, we had two massive billboards in Times Square in New York City. With the help of ENVY, we were able to create stunning graphics on the billboards to highlight the celebration.

We even found a ways to engage a variety artists in the campaign.

Through our partnerships, we were able to hold three contests:

The first was a GIF competition which the winner artists would have their Mandela Dancing design featured on the Times Square billboard.

The second was a photo contest called The Troublemakers in partnership with EyeEm where artists were tasked with submitting images related to this following prompt:

Inspired by Nelson Mandela's life-long fight against oppression and injustice we want to celebrate all the troublemakers world-wide: those who fight for change, who help when no-one else is helping, those who stand up for everyone without a voice, even when facing resistance. For us they are the ones keeping Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive, because they remind us that every single one of us has the potential to change the world and why we should never stop caring. They could be social workers, volunteers, or activists demonstrating for a cause - we want you to go into your own community and document their stories.

This competition garnered 4,600+ photo submissions from photographers all around the world.

Last was a photo animation contest in partnership with Platoverse to see who could make the best motion art with Nelson Mandela for his 100th birthday.

Thanks to our partners at Giphy who featured all the GIFs and motion art that was created and featured on Mandela Day, we were able to garner more than 350,000 GIF views.


Coordinating such a large-scale campaign with virtually no budget was a feat and a tremendous team effort. It was important to us to translate Nelson Mandela's legacy to the next generation of change-makers in a way that was authentic and engaging both digitally and physically. It gives us great pleasure that we were able to do this successfully and play a small role in advancing the legacy of this historic figure to future leaders around the globe.


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