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Dispatches from Super Bowl City and the Greenest, Most Purposeful Super Bowl Ever


The organizers of Super Bowl 50 emphasize that it is the Bay Area Super Bowl and the Greenest Super Bowl ever.

Regarding the former, the game is being played at Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, in Santa Clara. And, 40 miles up the road, San Francisco has been the Super Bowl capital for the past week as fans, media, sponsors, and activists have descended on Super Bowl City at Embarcadero Center and the NFL Experience at the Moscone Center.

On the latter, GreenSportsBlog has decamped at Super Bowl City since Sunday to get a sense of how green the Greenest Super Bowl Ever really is. Here is what we’ve found so far.

Super Bowl City (SBC) is a multi-city block long pop-up metropolis in the heart of San Francisco that is expected, by the time Cam Newton hosts the Lombardi Trophy#, to have hosted up to 1,000,000 people during its 9-day life. SBC’s greenness is present, albeit subtly, throughout the mix of concert stages, fun football-themed activities for kids of all ages, and sponsor exhibit structures.

That under-the-radar-ness is by design. Fans come to SBC for football, football and, more football. If the sustainability message is too heavy-handed, it’ll come across as a “eat your broccoli!” scold and will turn people off. And, it says here, organizers want to show fans that being green is the norm for San Francisco, and that it’s easy being green (sorry, Kermit The Frog).

While SBC isn’t shouting “SUSTAINABILITY!” (that would be a strange thing to shout), one doesn’t have to look hard to find evidence of greenness.

There are water refilling stations, courtesy of FloWater–bottled water isn’t sold in SBC. Recycling and composting bins are prominently displayed and fans seem to know into which bin to throw their waste. The signs that say “RECYLE” or “COMPOST”? They’re repurposed from the 2013 America’s Cup, which was contested off of San Francisco. Generators powering SBC with cleanly-sourced electricity are seen throughout. And orange-bedecked Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee volunteers cheerily invite visitors who’ve taken green actions (i.e. riding their bike to SBC) to, through the “Play Your Part” initiative, direct charitable contributions to one of 4 local environmental charities, courtesy of 50 Fund, the Host Committee’s charitable arm.


Fans can refill their water bottles at FloWater water dispensers in Super Bowl City. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

An unscientific sampling of fans on Monday and Tuesday revealed that they found the greening to be, pun intended, organic and a very good thing.


Sonoma County Tourism, Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Winegrowers have partnered to be a Destination Partner of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. And, like all of the partners/sponsors in Super Bowl City, this partnership has a green hue.

Sonoma Tourism, Vintners and the Winegrowers became a Host Committee sponsor, in part, to share their sustainability strategy with the public. This strategy is unique in that, says Host Committee Sustainability Director Neill Duffy, “it has a century-long time frame–as in ‘how can we sustain ourselves and the wine business for the next 100 years.’ Who thinks in 100-year time frames? Amazing.” And very cool.


Sonoma County Tourism, Vintners’ and Winegrowers’ booth at Super Bowl City. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

Also very cool for SBC visitors is the Sonoma County Wine Bus Tour, powered by renewable biodiesel.


Tuesday night, the NFL hosted its annual Super Bowl party for the media that covers the most popular sport in the US. Upwards of 2,000 reporters, producers, cameramen/women, and media executives traded on- and off-field gossip while touring The Exploratorium, a museum that will activate your possibly long-dormant “inner child amazement” muscle, I guarantee it^. You gotta go. And, no, I’m not being paid by them.

But, I digress. Said media enjoyed food and wine from local vendors, walked on recycled wood floors, drank whatever they drank out of compostable cups, initiated exhibits under LED lights powered by electricity generated from 100% clean sources (#Go100Percent). It must be said that most of the folks I talked to were not aware of the greening of this event nor of Super Bowl 50 more broadly. Which means this story needs to be told more frequently and loudly. Which is starting to happen…


Courtesy of San Francisco-based creative agency The Citizen Group comes this 60 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) that tells the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 sustainability story in a compelling, fun yet somewhat understated (very un-Super Bowl-y, no?) way. There’s a 30 second version as well. KGO TV, the San Francisco ABC affiliate, and KPIX, its CBS counterpart, are running the spot periodically between now and Sunday. Other outlets may run it as well. Check it out and let us know what you think.


“The Super Bowl is the biggest single day sports event in the world.” That’s how emcee Jill Savery, kicked off yesterday’s Purpose & the Power of Sport symposium. Hosted by the Host Committee and in/PACT*, a purpose-driven digital technology and marketing agency that is, among other things, managing the technical aspects of Play Your Part, the symposium set about demonstrating to the 125+ attendees how purpose–in particular sustainability, broadly defined (environmental, social, etc.) can and must be core to the DNA of mega sports event brands like the Super Bowl to maximize sports’ immense power to do social good.

Keynote speaker Jim Stengel, former CMO of Proctor & Gamble and CEO of the Jim Stengel Company, a firm devoted to injecting purpose into the ethos of major global brands, shared that “going big” on purpose energizes stakeholders, attracts remarkable people and is simple, but not easy. Stengel challenged future mega-event organizers to not be cowed by the “not easy” part; they need to “aspire to be the most shared, most participatory, most giving [I’ll add “greenest”] events ever.”


Jim Stengel (Photo credit: Ted Talks)

Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss, took the “purpose baton” from Stengel during, what else– the “Purpose As A Strategy For Sports – Doing Well and Doing Good” panel discussion–saying “young people, millennials and ‘Generation Z’, truly want to take care of the planet and will direct their purchases and careers towards companies that do the same. Purpose is a differentiator.”

Robert Schermers, Partner and Business Humanizer at Innate Motion, a global company that helps grow brands by showing them how to create real value for the people they serve, took things up a notch: “Purpose, often thought of as a cost, is not a cost at all. Rather, it is an asset.”

How does all of this relate to Super Bowl 50’s work at the intersection of Green & Sports?

My take: The Host Committee has done a terrific job of making purpose a core facet of most, if not all aspects of this mega event. But we are still in early days in terms of seeing measurable positive impact of those purposeful actions. That impact will magnify exponentially if fans and mass media become more involved. I expect this to happen, but it’s not yet a certainty. The Committee is off to a solid start with Play Your Part. Now, it’s up to the organizers of 2017 and 2018 mega-events, to make the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s fan and media engagement efforts look like a positive, important, yet obsolete step.

# Pulling for Denver but Carolina’s too good. 23-13 Panthers. Hope I’m wrong.
^ Catch the nod to Joe “We’ll Win the Game, I Guarantee It” Namath and Super Bowl III? Just checking.
* Lewis Blaustein is helping in/PACT to generate publicity for the Host Committee’s sustainability efforts.

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  1. Well, I was going to give you 100% on this dispatch, which I think is fantastic. However, I have to take off five points. At the very end of your post, the link to email you does not include “lew@” so one is not taken to an email form. OK, I grant you that his is not major but thought you’d want to know why you were not getting more email responses.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Thanks for the comment, Phyllis. That’s so weird. I put in as the email address from the get-go. Now I’ve put it in quotes. Not sure if that helps. Hope so.

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