3 years ago, the Green Sports Alliance experienced a small revolution. That 4th Green Sports Summit in Santa Clara was the first time that ‘brands’ and corporate partners took a prominent place, ‘front of house’, among the assembled league and team representatives. For an organization with its roots firmly in stadium operations (‘back of house’ in entertainment speak) this was decidedly a crossover move.
That Santa Clara summit also marked the first time a more consumer-facing corporate sponsor presented the Summit, which was “Delivered by UPS” and whose marketing and sponsorship executives were present to deliver their message: “Sustainability is In Our Nature”. Their greetings to attendees cited the parallels of connections in sports and the connections they make for business, and called their partnership with the Green Sports Alliance ‘a natural fit’. The copywriters had arrived. And not a minute too soon, as the movement had grown substantially and word was getting out. From its modest beginnings of about 125 green keeners getting together in Portland in 2011, 2014 saw about 800 rubbing elbows in Silicon Valley.
In previous years, there had been an uneasy alliance between team ‘greening’ practitioners and sustainable solutions vendors. Corporate interests were held to roles as exhibitors on the often makeshift ‘trade show ’ area. They could not become members. One might manage an occasional (coveted) panelist role, as the ‘movement’ navigated its own journey from sharing energy numbers to more outwardly celebrating their achievements. The Summit was a place to learn and exchange ideas and needed to be kept ‘pure’ of commercial motives. I liken the feeling at times of a junior high school dance, with each side eyeing up the other across the gym – wary, but curious – how do we dance together?
Fortunately that same 2014 Summit also brought someone who began to show them how. One of the most memorable, and in hindsight, galvanizing moments, was the dramatic entry and keynote speech of Levi’s brand President, James Curleigh. He himself emerged from the dark, back of the house, with a solid a capella version of the Beatles ‘Revolution’. With all the charisma you’d expect of the leader of an iconic global brand, he did not rest until he had the entire room fully engaged singing, and dancing, with him.
The keynote followed suit, as he shared the philosophy behind the partnership with the 49ers on the shiny, new, ribbon-not-yet-cut Levi’s Stadium, and why the brand is heavily invested with the team.
There was an AHA moment. The Revolution belonged to all of us. Together. There were good stories to tell. Solid stories of real impact – waste diversion, energy savings, water stewardship. And there were trusted partners who were making those wins possible – Waste Management, BASF, National Grid, Skanska, alongside UPS and many others. It was time to take the message forward, with amplified voices. And so it came to pass that the Green Sports Alliance developed a long-awaited Corporate Partner category, unveiled at the 2015 Summit in Chicago. A sincere, but modest approach to beginning to work more closely together. Though no anthem was assigned, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” seems to fit the bill.
And so it is time to Come Together. And complete the triangle. The three-legged stool. The triple-bottom-line.
We have the builders and engineers who make responsible resource management physically possible in the room. The stadium operations people, the materials, construction and systems people.
We have the (team) owners and regulators (commissioners) who make responsible resource management financially possible in the room.
Who’s missing from the room? The front of house people.
The Marketing, Media Relations, Partnerships and Community Relations people. The people who work with partners(sponsors), create amazing gameday experiences, choose cool merchandise, feed the media compelling stories and drive the fans passion on social channels. A few have been present but too few.
We want to make sure the people who can make sustainability fun, sexy and cool – not just, ‘Oh, isn’t that nice’ are in the room. The people who harness armies of fans behind rivalry series and crosstown classics and playoff runs should balance out their operational counterparts at the Summit in the same measure as they do in the front office.
So let’s invite them out – let’s have them join us in Houston. They’ll have some interesting folks to chat with – from Dow, from Constellation Energy, from nrg, from Skanska, from UPS. Help them be better at what they do. Help them discover new inventory to sell and new partner categories to open.
So let’s Come Together.
Not over me – but over beers, and numbers and stories and ideas. I’m pretty sure there will be some great music, too.
The Green Sports Summit in Houston is 2 months away. If you’re registered now, that’s fantastic. If you’re not, don’t delay – here’s your Ticket to Ride.
If you’re coming from a team or league, remember everything’s more fun with a friend.
Bring a colleague from the front of the house. Come Together. Yeah.
There is beauty in simplicity. And a bit of magic in beauty.
And that’s the feeling I came away with from Monday’s ‘Cool 2016 Richmond’ (British Columbia) event. Largely because the City of Richmond has figured out how to make sustainable event and sport hosting simple. And accessible.
Which is beautiful. And a bit magical.
The former Olympic host city (speedskating and more importantly, Holland West in the guise of Heineken House during the Games) bestowed a legacy gift on local festival and smaller scale prospective sports hosts with a full evening designed to help local events – regardless of size – be as resource-conscious as possible.
COOL Richmond was put on in the atmosphere of a most festive event – inside the LEED-certified Oval with food trucks, craft beers, compostable serviceware, and green ambassadors – and circus performers.
And they did it in the language of the audience – in the form of a beautifully designed event:
– A Midway of sustainable service providers under the ever-awe-inducing ‘big top of the Oval’s stunning roof was a wonderful way to show key vendors in action and anable organizers to mingle in in a festival atmosphere. No stuffy trade show, info-expo set-up here.
– Storytellers shared wondrous tales of enchanting characters (volunteers) who whisked away the bad (garbage) while recognizing the hidden treasures (recyclables!) hidden amongst the villagers (event audiences). The various speakers sharing best practices kept their words light and messages practical, but positive. Event organizers told of how greening their events wove magical outcomes of cleaner streets during the events, binners providing valuable services while playing a key (and dignified) role in diverting recyclables from the landfill and the ever-present cheerfulness of Green Team volunteers adding to the happy, welcoming atmosphere of the party.
–Takeaway treasures for all in the form of Richmond’s new ‘7-Step Quick Guide to Sustainable Events‘ – shared widely as guests were invited from all over Greater Vancouver, and produced in conjunction with the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS – Switzerland) . Vendors happily shared their wares, including event merchandise company STG sending us all home with a very cool T-shirt and Food Truck El Cartel feeding all with their wonderful Bulgogi Short Rib Tacos.
-And key to any fascinating tale, the Genie/Fairy Godmother/Wizard element who appears to give you just the bit the protagonist needs to power his/her own success:
in this case, the City of Richmond maintains the ‘Green Team’ volunteer base, fully trained, engaging the City’s youth and ready to be deployed in any configurations events may need. The City has two portable water stations that can be loaned out to events, enabling visitors to bring their own bottles and keep the waste down. The City has a ‘Wheel Watch’ bicycle valet service that can be booked for events. The City connects you to local Food Recovery programs to mitigate the food waste. The City will advise, support and reward you with it’s new ‘Sustainable Event Champion’ designation, which will certainly resonate with both participants and with sponsors.
Creating these solutions from a central source that provides consistency and solid expertise allows organizers to get on with what they do best. It makes the work of their many departments easier. And it assures that Richmond’s reputation for hosting is a notch above by creating zero waste, transit-friendly, procurement-sensitive grassroots events.
The best part of all – they are happy to share their best practices with you and your event wherever you are.
The City of Richmond has simplified creating responsibly managed, well run and enjoyable events and festivals. Which I find simply beautiful. And a little bit magical, too.
Cool Richmond indeed.
The evening was a collaboration of many, as all good things are: multiple departments of the City of Richmond, the absolutely stunning Richmond Olympic Oval, the AISTS, and the Ann Duffy Group and the many generous sponsors and partners of the evening, including compostable packaging company BSIBio who also provided a valuable pre-event workshop on the nitty gritty practicalities of incorporating compostables into food operations. Marc Stoiber provided an invigorating keynote, while organizers of Khatsilano Festival, Car Free Days and Richmond World Days candidly shared experiences and resources.
Three is a magic number. Yes it is. It’s a magic number. All you Schoolhouse Rock grads can hum along.
For those not in the know, sports have always embraced threes on the field/court/rink/track. The Triple Crown in horseracing, triple-double in basketball, hat tricks in hockey and the epically elusive triple that has kept hundreds from hitting for the cycle in baseball. It turns out, the front office is becoming as enamored of the three as the lockeroom, as countless franchises and leagues have embraced a triple-bottom-line approach to managing the business, that is putting equal emphasis on profits, planet and people, in their pursuit of success.
The State of Green
Next week marks the 5th installment of the Green Sports Summit, the annual conference of the teams, leagues, facilities and universities who are forging a smarter, more resilient path to maintaining a competitive advantage in their operations – gameday and beyond. What began as a like-minded group of clubs and venues in the ever-tree-loving Pacific Northwest has now blossomed to over 200 members, committed to sharing numbers, experiments and pushing one another to greater efforts in driving costs and carbon footprints downward while remaining committed to providing exceptional fan experiences.
So it seems like as good a time as any to reflect on each of the major North American leagues’ ‘State of Green’.
The graphic above gives you a quick visual rundown of where each of the leagues currently stand in terms of team awareness/engagement in responsible operations, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story. At the league level, we have had early innovators who have plateaued in their commitment and laggards who have leaped ahead with great gusto.
The percentages associated with each of the leagues refer to the number of clubs in the league who also maintain an individual membership in the Green Sports Alliance. Nice to see MLB batting .750. Hockey and basketball teams are also posting up playoff-worthy stats, and hopefully moving toward conference champ levels. The NFL seems to be in a position that describes the league itself – a bit lagging on the social leadership front (despite a few shining stars – more below). And perhaps most surprising of all, the MLS. With an outdoor summer season, a veneration of natural grass surfaces and a disproportionate fan base of 18-34 year olds who are arguably more environmentally aware, it’s a bit of an eye-opener to see them with a relegation-level number of engaged clubs.
The great news is that all of the major U.S.-based leagues are members of the Green Sports Alliance, an organization dedicated to “Leveraging the cultural & market influence of sports to promote healthy, sustainable communities where we live & play.” The pretty good news is that many of their individual teams are as well. But as you can see, there is still room for improvement.
But a parent can only do so much with its adult children – so to gain some insight into these participation numbers, we feel its best to start with a look at their most fundamental relationship’s influence and guidance to date. In this post, we characterize each league’s approach and most notable efforts to date.
The critical thing to remember is that we are making candid observations about what has been undertaken to date and not ‘grading’ each of them – every action undertaken by these leagues is noteworthy and commendable. We hope our exploration will ignite their innate competitiveness to move the ball down the field even more.
Strategy synopsis: League Leadership, Continuous Improvement, Strong Acknowledgement of Individual Clubs’ Efforts
The league was the absolute forerunner and a early champion of leading all its clubs by providing practical resources for greening operations. They established the first ‘Greening Advisor’ in 2006 in collaboration with the NRDC to guide clubs toward resources, and Commissioner Bud Selig was recognized for his active advocacy in providing league office resources to all member clubs. MLB has certainly played a role in encouraging its franchises to adopt and share best practices, though the 81-game schedule and lower ticket prices are likely also a factor in incentivizing clubs’ efforts to root out efficiencies in operations. It didn’t hurt that Green Sports Alliance chairman, Scott Jenkins, was coming from MLB, but other early leaders including Joe Abernathy of the St Louis Caridnals, Brad Mohr of the Cleveland Indians (now working his mojo for the Cleveland Browns), and the Phillies and Twins organizations were equally instrumental in leading the way with novel energy, water and waste management solutions.
Strategy synopsis: Unified Voice, Fan-Facing Communications, Community Connections
A league with a similar, aggressive early move on greening, the NBA Green Week remains one of the most visible with fan-facing efforts, starting in earnest in 2007. Whatever the NBA does, it does with the entertainment and celebrity factor in mind. While individual club efforts are less celebrated than the league-branded and promoted Green Week, the Portland Trailblazers early, aggressive stewardship of their facility and their community is notable. This could well be that Blazers owner Paul Allen who also owns the NFL Seahawks, was an instigator of getting the original clubs together to discuss energy savings options. The league’s began by doing environmental assessments of its offices and the NBA Store. One small, but remarkable outcome was eliminating BPA from its licensed products – 4 years before the US FDA required this. NBA Green Week was started in 2009 with a heavy and very public focus on community service projects involving health & greenspace, specialty apparel and PSAs featuring players. The NBA has done the most effective job of harnessing star power in its community-directed messaging. Additionally innovative, they have taken their sustainability values with them overseas, incorporating responsible event practices and associated fan-messaging into the NBA EuropeLive Tour.
Strategy synopsis: Clinical, strategic and unrelenting. Taking it to the boards.
While arriving a bit later than its peers, the NHL has taken no small measures since beginning its NHL Green program in January 2010. Moving as fast and forcefully as its game, just shy of 2 years later the league’s stewardship of investment and commitment to greening all of its events, its own operations and those of ALL 30 member franchises led to the 2011 Beyond Sport ‘Sport for Environment’ Award. This recognized the greening of its Draft, Winter Classic, All-Star Game and Stanley Cup Championship, the establishment of a Greening Advisor, but more importantly a dedicated team to put all 30 clubs through en environmental audit, and experimentation with new technologies on behalf of all its venues to guide their investments and upgrades responsibly. It also acknowledged the adoption by all 30 teams of the ‘Rock and Wrap It Up’ food recovery program. Again, to emphasize – all 30 clubs. Astonishing, really, for a league that has had two significant work stoppages, including the loss of an entire season. Other firsts include the first League Sustainability Report, issued in 2014 and the first league level Official Energy Provider with Constellation Energy. It doesn’t hurt that they have a passionate spokesman in Andrew Ference and another in former New York Ranger great, Mike Richter, who now runs a venture capital firm investing in clean technologies.
The next step will see how these very significant and substantive actions are translated to fans – and beyond.
Strategy synopsis: First mover with strong influence potential, several superstars, must lead strongly to keep pace
As with many things, the NFL has been a pioneer, and this is true on the sustainability front to some extent as well, with greening of the SuperBowl going back to 2000. Improving the environmental aspects of championships and all-star games is no mean feat, as they are moving feasts, with multiple venues, stakeholders and local regulations changing every time it comes around. Their focus has been in five key areas: solid waste management, material reuse, food recovery, sports equipment and book donations and greenhouse gas reduction. The man at the head of the parade is Jack Groh, Director of Environmental Sustainability for the NFL, who begins speaking with the host city and organizing committee up to three years ahead of the event to move the needle as much as possible with the various moving parts. And measure and report it each time. As of 2011, the league has also been addressing responsible management of its three primary offices in Manhattan, Culver City and Mount Laurel, New Jersey. The league also benefits from having one of the earliest pioneering teams in all of sports ‘greening’ in the Philadelphia Eagles. Their efforts date back to 2003 when building Lincoln Financial Field (where a guy by the name of Scott Jenkins was in charge). The Eagles are committed to becoming the first net positive sports facility, by generating more energy than they use. SuperBowl 49 was the first played under LED field lighting reducing the electricity demand there by 75% (and eliminating that tricky blackout problem). SuperBowl 50 has an even more broad-ranging plan with its dual commitment to sustainability and social impact, but these need to be showcased more prominently. In fact, the last 4 SuperBowls have made it a point to proclaim themselves loudly the ‘Greenest Super Bowl Ever’, bringing the topic front and center while millions are watching, fan and non-fan alike. The annual one-upmanship of this claim is a laudable practice under Mr. Groh’s leadership.
While the NFL may have been the earliest league onside, it has not been as aggressive as other leagues in pushing the ball down the field or in field coverage through stewardship of its franchises. Then again, they may well have the most difficult owners to wrangle.
Strategy synopsis: Read and react. Looking to the yeoman to report back.
The new kid on the block, and with many items to manage as the league continues to grow and develop, but to our minds the one with the most to gain, and the fan base most likely to reward their efforts and fully engage and amplify both team and sponsor messaging (18-34 year olds). While the league has a ‘Greener Goals’ designated initiative under its broader MLS Works community relations program, at present this is in transition while a number of new MLS partners settle in to their chosen activations.
In truth the league has learned it may be best to take its cues from the best practices that emerge from its teams and fortunately there are a fair few doing some terrific community-based work. The Portland Timbers #StandTogether Week is a terrific example of combining social and environmental measures with a week full of projects that has fans and non-fans alike working with players, front office and mascot on community improvement projects. Portland was also the site of the 2014 All-Star Game where a strong recycling initiative was on tap. The rival Sounders play in the very responsibly managed CenturyLink Field and have emulated their Cascadia rivals with their ImpactSeattle program, also focused on a series of community projects centered on a single week and partnered with existing non-profit organizations. These are smart in several ways – the single week enables the club to get player participation up and simplifies this for the players. It also provides the media with several options to provide profile. It helps the club manage the partner relationships & requests, and finally it provides a solid focal point for the supporter groups and the community-at-large to direct their energy and time. It’s easily incorporated into the clubs’ existing media buys as an ad ‘snipe’ or tag in radio and TV. Naturally the social media on the lead-up and in the activity capture is also easier to manage and more impactful.
The LA Galaxy are celebrating their 20th anniversary with the 20 for Twenty campaign, consisting of 20 community service projects focusing on human and environmental health over the course of the 2015 season.
The MLS would do well to take note of the simple, yet effective framework of these team initiatives: they leverage their more ‘accessible’ players’ willingness to go out into the community and the mobilization capacity and fanatical civic pride of their supporters groups to reach into the community providing both tangible service outcomes and connection to the casual and non-fans of the club. This is what we’d call a triple bottom line impact effort (social good, environmental gain and club ROI on marketing and likely sales).
We are the champions, my friends
So who’s winning? We all are for now, but you know you’re only as good as your last outing, so we look forward to reporting significant ball movement by all of these leagues heading into the 2016 Summit.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be going into greater detail on the actions of each of these leagues’ franchises in a framework that provides both an assessment and decently fair context for comparison. Hopefully, we’ll give you enough stats and insight to draft your fantasy green team.
Following last week’s very well-received “Twitter Report”, we thought we’d share our observations on our Vancouver Pro Teams’ leverage of Facebook.
With the start of the New Year we here at 5T decided to take a moment and appreciate our surroundings. What we found was a great cross-section of different approaches sports teams can and are taking toward social media sitting right in our back yard! The top teams and franchises here in beautiful British Columbia Canada are all diving into social media, and they seem to be coming at it from a plethora of angles with diverse results. See what our local teams are up to below, determine how well their approaches are working for yourself, and let us know what you think is the best, worst, or perfect mix for a sports teams to bring to the twittersphere in 2011!
A more qualitative look:
Vancouver Canucks – Klout.com score 74 (see Klout.com for a description of their ranking metrics and to check your own social media Klout)
The Canucks, as the premium sports property in the province, use twitter very effectively for a number of purposes but remain on brand, “We are all Canucks”, by building in a valuable level of direct fan interaction.
Content Breakdown: 40% direct engagement (RT’s, Mentions), 30% team news and information, 20% link backs to high value content off twitter, 10% fun facts and behind the scenes info.
Content Substance: In arena contests, social media activations (see #DJontheroad), build up for game time, interesting facts and behind the scenes info, and tweet ups. Canucks also have multiple accounts including @CanucksStore [retail], this allows them to divide and conquer goals and ROI metrics and maintain a consistent brand voice across each twitter handle.
BC Lions – Klout.com score 50
The BC Lions seem to really be punching above their weight class on twitter with an almost complete focus on fan engagement, inclusion, and interaction.
Content Breakdown: 25% player quotes, 25% player/coach RT’s, 25% fan interaction (questions, RT’s, Mentions), 20% team news and updates, 5% retail sales
Content Substance: Wrapping the players into the feed really creates a feeling of belonging and ownership for fans. In the CFL this element of ownership is key, re: “This is OUR league”. The strong focus on interaction also helps people feel like part of the team and this is a big reason a lot of fans head to twitter in the first place, to have a voice, it’s also a big reason why a lot of fans buy tickets!
Whitecaps Football Club – Klout.com score 60
The Whitecaps seem to use twitter almost solely as a distribution medium for their website content. Beyond this they have run an interesting contest on twitter (see: Scavenger Hunt).
Content Breakdown: 80% website content distribution and link backs to Whitecapsfc.com, 15% fan interaction/contests, 5% live online events (press conferences).
Content Substance: Information about the MLS, insights and backstories on MLS rivalries and teams, some fan engagement (commonly around ticket sales), and press conference coverage and links to live streaming. Their scavenger hunt contest provided a lot of twitter content and interaction that seemed to go over well. The white caps also have an additional handle @whitecapsmatch that may allow for more diverse interaction as they get into their season.
Vancouver Canadians – Klout.com score 38
The Vancouver Canadians are taking an interesting approach. With fewer resources than the Canucks or Whitecaps, the Canadians are striving for online efficiency by reaching out and connecting with top bloggers and twitter voices to help amplify and spread their message.
Content Breakdown: RT’s, mentions, and offline activation’s with top tweeps 20%, BlueJays (affiliate) RT’s 20%, Insider information and event updates 20%, Fun Fact Fridays and other trivia 10%, Mascot and Staff related content 15%, Website and other media distribution 15%.
Content Substance: A lot of Bluejay’s RT’s and content, including a BlueJay’s twitter background, helps the team really leverage the new partnership. Connecting with bigger twitter names (such as @VIAwesome and @Team1040) both on and off line by providing tickets and game day giveaways extends the teams reach online.
Vancouver Giants – Klout.com score 47
The Giants use twitter most prominently to broadcast their updated website content, their game time play by play commentary and highlights.
Content Breakdown: 50% game time updates, 30% website content distribution with links, 20% twitter contests conducted off of twitter.
Content Substance: Almost entirely links to off twitter landing pages that hold recent stories and website updates. Information and contests almost always directly relate to on ice team information.
That’s our look at the twitter sports landscape in our backyard, (content breakdown is just a quick estimate on our part). Let us know which team you think is leading by example, dropping the ball, or pushing into new territory with their approach to twitter. If the perfect mix isn’t here, what do you think it might be or where is it?
After finding this awesomeness in our own backyard we decided to do a little more digging over the next couple weeks. We’ll dive into each teams approach to Facebook next week and see if there is a similar cross section of strategies and approaches for us to draw out and engage with.
Thanks for reading! Looking forward to hearing what you think!