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How Should Sports Teams Talk Green? First, Walk Green

December 17, 2013

A recent webinar by the Green Sports Alliance offered some valuable advice for organizations considering how to best communicate their green messages to the public. Many presenters agreed on one piece of advice: Sports teams should make a commitment to sustainability. 

Suzanne Shelton, from the Shelton Group, which specializes in sustainability marketing, reminded viewers that brands matter. Shelton shared research data suggesting that a large percentage of consumers (over 60 percent) believe a product is green because of the brand’s environmental reputation. How does a team build a good reputation? First, said Shelton, by committing to a sustainability action, or actions, that can be measured. She suggested that brands can allay fears of “greenwashing” by being committed and consistent. An organization-wide commitment to sustainability shines through to the public. “Greenwashing is more black and white than you might think,” Shelton said. “If you’re on the right side, it will be clear.”

Shelton and David Doan, a Director of Marketing with CSE, also recommended that teams have fun with their marketing efforts. Doan urged teams to go beyond the traditional act of simply selling sponsorships. Sports offer a unique opportunity to deliver “integrated marketing programs” that can both engage fans and increase revenue. Doan sited the Blazers-Burgerville partnership and the Falcons – Novelis partnership as good examples. Burgerville, a Northwest franchise known for its sustainability focus, created the Blazers Burger, a limited offer that quickly became a top seller. Down South, the Atlanta Falcons teamed up with Novelis, the world’s largest recycler of aluminum, to launch the “Get Caught in the Act” recycling program. The program videotapes fans who recycle a can and then posts their image on the stadium’s Jumbotron. For their small act, fans get positive reinforcement from a few seconds of fame.

During his presentation, Doan also made a stunning claim: “Professional sports can do more than politics to save the planet.” Doan emphasized that sports have the power to reach every corner of the country. “Local focus creates national reach,” he said while showing a map of the way college and pro teams blanket our country. “We are a United States of Sports.”

If teams all over our country are both walking and talking green, their impact will extend beyond that of their stadium’s initiatives – beyond a building’s energy efficiency or waste diversion during Game Days. They will help push fans in unison toward more sustainable life choices.


-Communications Manager

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