Unilever wants to create lasting change with inclusive marathon in the metaverse

Degree: runners will cover 26.2 miles in Decentraland
Degree: runners will cover 26.2 miles in Decentraland

For the Degree experience, participants can select avatars with racing wheelchairs, prosthetics and blades.

Unilever deodorant brand Degree is hosting an inclusive marathon in partnership with Decentraland with the aim to create lasting change in the evolving metaverse.

Degree, known as Sure in the UK, was inspired to design an inclusive experience after research this year from Mintel found metaverse worlds are marginalising certain communities, such as those with disabilities. Some 60% of digital consumers felt there was a lack of inclusivity in metaverse worlds, while 61% of consumers agreed that the metaverse could be a positive experience for disabled people.

With the metaverse still nascent in its development, Degree wants to play a leading role and act as a partner to shape the standard of inclusivity and representation in the virtual world.

Kath Swallow, global brand vice-president, Degree, told Campaign: “The reality is, the virtual world which is still being created lacks representation and inclusivity. By focusing our efforts here, we can make a bigger, more impactful change faster.

"The brand stands for movement, so it made all the sense to bring to life this ‘Metathon’, as a way of championing inclusivity. This is genuinely the beginning; there has to be a commitment long-term to really keep that systemic change happening.”

On 26 April, runners will cover 26.2 miles of the Vegas City Sports Quarter, the largest district in Decentraland. Registrants can create an avatar representative of their identity with the ability to choose from a new avatar library inclusive of racing wheelchairs, prosthetics and blades.

The Degree "Metathon", created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in partnership with Decentraland, allows participants to run alongside Paralympic athlete Blake Leeper; Grammy Award-winning rapper Fat Joe, who is an advocate for representation; para-snowboarder Amy Purdy; and pro-footballer Hector Herrera. During the race, they will share unique and inspiring stories of the barriers to movement they have personally overcome.

As part of the brand’s mission to shape a more inclusive world where everyone can move with confidence, Degree partnered with experts on disability, race and gender inclusion to better understand and identify the needs of underrepresented movers in the metaverse.

Swallow explained that Degree has a sample group of people with disabilities who will be feeding back their thoughts on the experience, with the feedback used to inform future developments.

Jack Smedley, creative director at AMV BBDO, said: “In its first instance this is an awareness piece to raise the profile of inclusivity and representation in the metaverse. Secondly, it's a chance to try to work with Decentraland to effect lasting change. Decentraland has been super open to talking to us to, learning and getting as much information as it can from the inclusivity consultants that we're working with.”

Following the “Metathon”, Degree will continue to advocate for solutions in the metaverse, such as adding an audio description for people with visual impairments, implementing a non-binary experience when creating an avatar, and constructing a wider variety of body shapes and sizes.

The “Metathon” supports Degree’s larger purpose efforts with the brand‘s “Breaking Limits Programme”, which supports youth sports organisations whose members face barriers to being active.

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