Beyond Sport, the global organization dedicated to the notion that sports must play an integral role in the promotion of sustainable social change, held its 4th annual daylong Beyond Sport United Summit at Yankee Stadium yesterday. The focused on how the industry can better leverage digital and social media to 1) attract a younger generation of fans and 2) to drive youth engagement and social responsibility.
The New York Knicks famously won their first (of only two, sadly) NBA Championships on May 8, 1970 when Willis Reed limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden with a severely injured hip/thigh. The crowd went berserk. Willis played, which inspired his teammates and the crowd and that carried the Knicks to a resounding Game 7 win over the LA Lakers. In the post game celebration, a champagne-drenched Howard Cosell interviewed Reed and said “you are the best that the human spirit has to offer!”
At yesterday’s Beyond Sport United summit at Yankee Stadium, the audience (300-4oo by my estimation) was treated to multiple stories of the “best the human spirit has to offer” by amazing individuals, businesses, non-profits and NGOs, all of which use sports as an agent for positive social change.
From 30 year old principal Gemar Mills helping to save a failing high school in Newark by turning the entire student body into a “team”, to Corinne Eckert, volunteering with the NJ Dare Devils youth ice hockey program for autistic kids; from a family-owned car racetrack in rural Pennsylvania going solar to a non-profit using athletes to inspire kids into community service at over 10,000 schools in the US and Canada, the human spirit was on great display at Beyond Sport United.
The challenge going forward is how can sports inspire the best of more human spirits, especially young ones, to greatness. And do it more quickly, at scale. In a way that’s authentic. The summit’s message: Digital and Social Media will play an increasingly big role.
At a lively breakout session in the Lou Gehrig Suite (this was, after all Yankee Stadium) on sustainability and environmental issues, panelists shared how they were using digital and social communications to get their green messages out:
- Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s Director of Sustainability, said that digital and social allows fans (mainly in Canada), through NHL Green, to share with the league the date when outdoor pond hockey can first be played each year (with climate change, that date is, for the most part, later each year). Thus, they’ve created a cadre of “citizen scientists.”
- Deirdre LaFramboise, co-Founder and Executive Director of Clean Air Champions, which uses elite athletes (mainly Canadian), including Olympians, to educate and inspire people to adopt practices and lifestyles that improve both environmental and personal health, opined that, while social media is absolutely crucial to getting its message out, there is a flip side: If young people are looking down at their devices, they’re not exercising.
- Brandon Igdalsky, CEO of Pocono Raceway, related how popular (very!) the family-owned track’s (the only one left in NASCAR) 3 mW solar farm has been with fans. Pocono Go Green Solar’s popularity has been enhanced through an integrated online and social campaign.
- Moderator Jen Regan, Principal and Chief Sustainability Officer at We Bring It On, a strategic business, and sustainability consultancy firm specializing in the live entertainment and sports industries, emphasized that sports organizations looking to engage young people through digital and social must be authentic (that word was used a lot yesterday!)–and fun.
Aerial view of Pocono (PA) Raceway, with its 3 mW solar farm in the foreground. Pocono CEO Brandon Igdalsky discussed how digital and social media have enhanced fan awareness of and affinity for its Go Green Solar initiative at Beyond Sport United yesterday. (Photo Credit: Wired)
This discussion was followed by a plenary session in which we were challenged by Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport, to make an individual commitment to offer the best of our own human spirit through sports, and then to broadcast that commitment via #MyAction. Look for tweets from @GreenSportsBlog in the coming hours/days to find out more.