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.