A few weeks ago, I was asked to take part in a debate with the Guardian on ‘The Sports Industry and Sustainability’. Joined by a panel of experts including Tania Braga, Head of Sustainability, Organising Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Russell Seymour, founder of the British Association for Sustainability in Sports, I was asked to provide a point of view from the standpoint of rights holders, sponsors and fans.
At Fuse, OMD’s Partnerships and Experiences agency, we know the power sport has to inspire, motivate and engage fans. It’s why we believe in the power of sponsorship to drive brand love, increase consideration and influence purchase decision-making. But what about harnessing the influence sport, clubs and teams have over their fans to drive environmental behaviour change? Can a football club really get their supporters to switch to a green energy supplier or to take up recycling?
An example from one of our clients that have done just that is PepsiCo in the US. Leveraging their NBA sponsorship of Miami Heat team, PepsiCo set up recycling machines that incentivise and reward fans who use them with discount vouchers for merchandise in the stadium. It’s a really great example of how a sponsor and big FMCG brand can engage sports fans, enhancing their experience at a venue whilst encouraging recycling and, importantly, driving a change in behaviour.
Nissan also used a sporting event, the UCL final last year, to promote their fully Electric Vehicle (EV). We didn’t lead with environmental messaging, but instead showcased the performance and convenience of using an EV in a modern city like Berlin. We leveraged the passion of football fans and the sponsorship platform that the Champions League provides to show fans how their physical kinetic energy could be converted into energy that fuelled the Nissan Leaf EV.
There’s a real role sport can play in making environmental and sustainability issues relevant to the everyday consumer. There’s also a massive challenge for the sustainability industry that isn’t used to talking the language of sports fans. That’s the role rights holders, sponsors and marketers can play in the sports industry/ sustainability discussion – making sustainability cool, relevant and part of what is already a consumer passion to drive effective and positive social change.