The Virtual Experience Raises Awareness of ADL and Honors Everyday Heroes

The Background

In the wake of the global pandemic, ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) In Concert Against Hate, traditionally held at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, was transformed into a custom virtual show experience. Each year, In Concert Against Hate seeks to amplify the ADL mission by honoring and celebrating ordinary people who have performed extraordinary acts of courage and compassion when confronted with hate and bigotry.

Even though gathering in person was not an option, it was more important than ever for the ADL In Concert Against Hate to go on. The show needed to find a balance: stay true to its roots and its loyal attendees by honoring everyday heroes who fight hate and bigotry in their daily lives, but also appeal to new, broader audiences who may not be as familiar with ADL. Leveraging virtual technologies and making the concert available to the public allowed ADL to reach a much larger, national audience.

The Work

Immersion sessions about key audience targets and objectives were conducted, out of which came guidance and creative strategy for the show’s story line, the talent acquisition brief, the understanding of the show’s pace, and the overall experience for audiences new and old. The traditional, successful format was evaluated, and new programming, themes and moments were woven in without isolating an existing and loyal donor base. The narrative, the run-of-show, and the overall new program took shape. A new visual identity was created for In Concert Against Hate - calling attention to this year’s new, exciting format - but also staying true to the updated brand ADL recently developed.

Content creation was next. Original, individual short films about each honoree were concepted, written, casted, filmed, and edited by Sparks - both in-person through Covid-19-compliant regulations and through remote recording using Sparks production kits and technology. The entire experience was housed within Virtu, Sparks proprietary virtual event platform, while streaming through ADL’s YouTube channel.

The Concert Experience

Segments, story, and celebration came together in a once-in-a-lifetime concert program, guided by emcee Debra Messing. The show’s opening moment, a musical performance by Rafe Pearlman (with special guest Grace Love) kicked off the concert and set the tone with Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” featuring short clips of ADL staff sharing how they “fight hate for good.”

The work of honorees Gerda Weissmann-Klein, Bellen Woodard, and Team Brownsville was celebrated for ADL’s largest audience ever. The concert featured additional standout performances by Adam Levine, Ifetayo Ali-Landing, Kenny Loggins, Jason Isbell, Andra Day, and Aloe Blacc. Sparks pulled together a roster of additional celebrity narrators and appearances, including those from Bebe Neuwirth, George Takei, Bob Costas, Olivia Boisson, Lizzie Kaplan, Ron Cheung, and others - all encouraging the audience to “Speak Up. Share Facts. Show Strength.”

The Results

Through a mix of inspirational stories, memorable moments, stirring musical performances, and celebrity appearances, ADL achieved its objective to further their mission of “Fighting Hate for Good.” Calls from donors and partners alike started flooding in to ADL team members the moment the show closed - praising the new thinking, the fresh concept, and the highly emotional show. The virtual ADL In Concert Against Hate resulted in the organization reaching its widest audience in the show’s 26 year history, and even saw same-day fundraising surpassing expectations.

Sparks Scope:

  • Project management and production of first time virtual concert for a national audience
  • Design of event identity and show graphics
  • Custom build of host platform
  • Creative direction of show including editing, narrative development and honoree segment concepts
  • Full content creation and talent management
  • Programming and show flow creation, including music segments, opening moment, honoree segments, emcee scripting
  • Technical production including filming, editing, graphics and animations, and streaming


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