If the Most Important Green Aspects of Super Bowl LII are Two Beer TV Ads, Is That a Good Thing?

Super Bowl LII will be played in Minnesota, one of the most environmentally-conscious states in the country. Host city Minneapolis is mass-transit friendly and filled with LEED certified stadia and arenas. The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots will do battle in LEED Gold US Bank Stadium. The game will be zero-waste and 100 percent of the energy used to power the contest will be offset. Yet, it says here that the most important green aspect of the 2018 Super Bowl may well be two beer ads — unless the NFL steps up to tell the Big Game’s green story to the audience 100+ million people.

 

Question: What does this triumvirate — Clydesdale horses, the Bud Bowl, and recent catastrophic extreme weather events — have in common?

Answer: They are each themes of Budweiser Super Bowl ads, past and immediate future. If there was a Super Bowl Advertising Hall of Fame, the brand’s ads featuring the iconic, white maned horses and the fun, computer-generated football games played by teams of beer bottles (Bud vs. Bud Light!) would both certainly be first ballot inductees.

But corporate parent AB InBev’s stablemates Budweiser and Stella Artois are going in a different direction for Sunday’s broadcast on NBC.

In “Budweiser’s Super Bowl Beer Ad Isn’t about Beer,” which ran in the January 26 issue of Environmental Leader, Jennifer Hermes reported that the brand’s 60 second Super Bowl spot is actually about…water: “[US corporate parent] Anheuser-Busch currently produces canned drinking water at its Cartersville, GA, brewery, and ships them to communities in need. This year, the company shipped nearly three million cans of emergency drinking water to areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and by the California wildfires. In total, the company says it has provided over 79 million cans of drinking water to communities in need. The Super Bowl ad tells the story of its employees in the Cartersville plant who produce the emergency drinking water. [It] features the general manager of the brewery, along with more than 20 of his local colleagues.”

 

Budweiser’s “Stand By You” water-themed Super Bowl ad (60 seconds)

 

Stella Artois’ 30 second ad, produced in partnership with water.org, features actor Patriots fan Matt Damon, who calls on beer lovers to step up to help solve the water crisis by buying a Stella beer chalice. Damon asserts that if just one percent of Super Bowl viewers purchase the glass, Stella will provide “clean water to one million people. For five years.”

 

Matt Damon stars in Stella Artois’ 30 second, water conservation-themed, Super Bowl ad

 

Why did Budweiser and Stella take this turn?

 

IT COMES DOWN TO WATER — AND EYEBALLS

Quality water is, of course, crucial to the beer brewing process. AB InBev and its U.S. subsidiary Anheuser-Busch has implemented a robust water stewardship and environmental protection program across its sprawling brewery roster.

The initiative has engaged employees, farmers, suppliers and strategic partners to devise and implement a wide range of water conservation and management measures. Anheuser-Busch says this approach helped it reduce water use across all of its U.S. breweries by nearly 50 percent over the last 10 years.

That is a BIG achievement which warrants the BIG ad spend — NBC Sports is charging $5 million dollars for a 30 second spot — on the BIG game to reach the BIGGEST television audience of the year — 111 million people watched the 2017 Super Bowl.

Reaching such a vast audience with environmentally-themed messaging is why I believe Bud and Stella Artois have co-authored the most important green story surrounding Super Bowl LII.

Oh, you might say, “I think the fact that the the NFL, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, and US Bank Stadium are teaming up to offset 100 percent of the game’s carbon footprint via the purchase of renewable energy credits is more consequential than a couple of ads.” Or, you might opine that “Rush2Recycle, the program sponsored by PepsiCo, and promoted by ex-NFL great Hines Ward, that will help Sunday’s game be the first zero-waste^ Super Bowl, has to be considered the most important green story.”

 

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Exterior of US Bank Stadium, site of Super Bowl LII (Photo credit: SI.com)

 

While those efforts are, of course, laudable, I still go with Bud and Stella.

Because the  audience of 100 million+ people who might see the Bud and/or Stella Artois water-themed ads on NBC will likely be between 50 to 100 times greater than the number of people who learn about the zero-waste and/or the offset aspects of Super Bowl LII. That audience includes the 66,000+ fans inside US Bank Stadium, along with readers of national media outlets like Fast Company magazine, which are giving the zero-waste Super Bowl story welcome coverage.

Now, the NFL can easily wrest the “most important green story of Super Bowl LII” title away from Bud and Stella. All it needs to do is to create a public service announcement touting the green aspects of Super Bowl LII — hey, as of this writing, there are three days left; plenty of time for great content to be produced — and air it on NBC during the game.

What a BIG deal that would be! But will the NFL step up?

The stakes, said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, founder and former president of the Green Sports Alliance and a founding director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), are much higher than even the Super Bowl itself.

“As one of the most visible sporting events in the world, the Super Bowl has a unique opportunity to promote environmental literacy and reduce cultural polarization related to climate change,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz. “US Bank Stadium’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy credits, ambitious zero-waste goals, and the [Minneapolis] region’s intelligent mass transit infrastructure, positions this event to be among the most carbon intelligent Super Bowls ever. The question before us is this: Will the NFL meaningfully promote this aspect of the Super Bowl story? Given the bewildering retreat from essential, science-based climate policy being enacted by the worst environmental administration in our nation’s history, a counter message by the NFL promoting progress on climate could not be more important. It has a responsibility to the world to do so.”

 

ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGING: A WINNER FOR THE NFL

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, talks a good environmental game: “The NFL is a responsible steward of the environment in all areas of our business. Through [these zero-waste and offset projects], the League and its partners hope to set a new standard of environmental sustainability at the Super Bowl.”

But Goodell’s green talk mainly takes place in dry, easily ignorable press releases, not on Super Bowl broadcasts.

The Commish and league should go beyond press releases and talk the green talk to the widest possible audience — i.e. during the Super Bowl. Because doing so would likely be good for business.

Say what?

Hasn’t has been a tough season for the NFL: from anthem protests to “Fire the Sons of B**ches!;” from CTE to declining TV ratings#? Won’t many older fans get ticked off? Isn’t it better for a league whose ownership and fan base is seen as right-of-center to keep quiet about the environment and climate?

No, it is not.

And, again, I say this from a business building, not from the “it’s the right thing to do” point-of-view.

It is a 2016 conversation with an NFL marketing executive who preferred to remain anonymous that sticks with me. He said the one thing that kept him and his colleagues up at night the most was how to attract Millennial and Generation Z fans and keep them.

One thing that resonates with younger cohorts is the environment and climate: across the political spectrum, the 35-and-under set accepts the reality and seriousness of climate change at rates far greater than their older counterparts.

Will embracing climate and the environment be the main catalyst to turning the tide the NFL’s young fan problems? Of course not. This is a complex, multi-factorial problem and going BIG on the environment is, admittedly, not close to the most important potential solution.

But, it says here that an intelligent, clever environmentally-themed PSA will be well-received among Millennials and Gen Zers. Which would help.

Budweiser and Stella Artois, hardly fringe, left wing brands, believe leading with the environment is the right way to go. Will the NFL join them by airing a green PSA on Sunday? I wouldn’t bet* on it.

In the meantime, buy a Stella chalice and (responsibly) enjoy a Stella or a Bud in it on Super Sunday.

 

 

^ A sports event can claim “Zero-Waste” status by diverting 90 percent or more of its game day waste from landfill, most often by a combination of recycling and composting.
* I also am not betting on the game itself. My prediction? Patriots 24, Eagles 17. I hope I am wrong.
# NFL TV ratings have declined over the past three years but it still generates, by far, the biggest television audience — and not only in terms of sports programming.

 


 

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GSB News & Notes: Eco-Vegan Race Car Driver Leilani Münter Back on Track; MLB Organic Tees from SustainU; USGBC Touts Effects of LEED Stadiums

Leilani Münter competed at Daytona in her first race in two years, spreading her Eco-Vegan message to auto racing fans. SustainU will be making t-shirts from 100 percent recycled content for all 30 MLB clubs again this season, this time with a fun twist. And the US Green Building Council (USGBC) gives a big shout out to LEED-certified sports venues for their important energy saving work. All this in a chock full GSB News & Notes column.

LEILANI MÜNTER RETURNS TO THE RACETRACK, DRIVES FAST, SPREADS ECO-VEGAN GOSPEL

Leilani Münter, GreenSportsBlog fave and the self-described “eco, vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” hadn’t raced in over two years, owing to a busy schedule of animal rights and environmental activism, documentary film making and a lack of sponsors. That all changed Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway when she strapped into her Vegan Powered Toyota at ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards season-opener.

Her five year sponsorship sales effort (that’s right, she sells the sponsorships, too) had borne fruit as a collection of nonprofits signed on to help her promote a plant-based diet to stock car racing fans. In a February 17 interview, Münter shared with espnW’s NASCAR writer Bob Pockrass how new lead sponsor A Well-Fed World joined the team after hearing her acceptance speech for winning the Vegan Athlete of the Year award. In addition to the car and crew, the funding also supports a tent that gave away vegan food samples on Saturday. More importantly, Münter will be educating race fans and passing out food samples from her vegan-themed tent located in the fan zone at Sunday’s Daytona 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl.

leilani-arthur-molainvision-ap

Leilani Munter (Photo credit: Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

 

“When I’m going to vegan festivals or clean-energy events, it’s preaching to the choir,” Münter told Pockrass. “Giving out the food will probably be the greatest impact I will have. We’re serving the kinds of foods race fans are going to find at the track. I’m not going to show up with kale. I’m showing up with vegan chicken wings and meatballs — stuff they would expect to find at the race track. … We’re not going to open minds if we’re not putting food in their mouths. That is the moment where people change.”

But before Münter dishes out vegan food this weekend, she finally got back on the track on Saturday. 

Leilani, as she’s known to her fans, brought them to their feet as she moved into the top-5 during the late stages of the race after qualifying in 17th position out of a stacked 40-car starting field. Catching the lead pack at speeds approaching 200 mph, Münter drafted to catapult herself into fourth position, eyeing a career best finish. Her hopes came to an abrupt end when a trailing car made contact with her rear bumper sending her Toyota up the track and into the outside wall, spawning a multi-car crash. Münter’s crew patched up the damaged Toyota and got her back out on the track to finish the race in a more-than-respectable 19th position. 

When Münter gets back on the track is anybody’s guess as her non-profit sponsors are not nearly as deep pocketed as her competitors’ traditional Fortune 1000 backers. As she told espnW’s Pockrass, “[Non-profit sponsors] don’t have multimillion-dollar budgets where they can run a full season. That comes with the territory of me being an activist and wanting my car to carry these cool messages…You work really hard, you get the car on the track, you get one race and then you’re starting over again.”

To hear/see Münter tell her story, click here for her 5 minute interview as part of FOX Sports NASCAR Race Hub’s “Women in Wheels” series.

 

SUSTAINU ANNOUNCES MLB “T-SHIRT CLUB” FOR 2017; MADE FROM 100% RECYCLED CONTENT

“PLAY BALL!—With t-shirts made from 100 percent recycled content!”

Last summer, Chris Yura, CEO and Founder of Morgantown, WV-based SustainU®, told GreenSportsBlog that his company’s mission is to “chang[e] the way clothes are made to improve the environment [and] reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector.”

One of the ways the young company is making good on that promise is through sports, manufacturing fan wear from 100 percent recycled content for collegiate sports programs (Notre Dame, Clemson and more), the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco, and, starting in 2016, for all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB®) clubs.

With Opening Day 2017 little more than a month away, SustainU announced an extension of its licensing partnership with MLB, with an innovative twist. 

The SustainU T-shirt Club allows fans of all 30 clubs to “Wear the Season” with shipments of officially licensed apparel arriving at their doorsteps throughout the year. There are various levels of membership available through the T-shirt Club that determine the timing and quantity of shipments during the 2017 baseball season, ranging from The Lead Off (one shipment of two exclusive tees) to The Homer (four shipments of five exclusive tees, one long sleeve and one fleece item).

chicago-cubs

The SustainU® T-Shirt Club, 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs version. (Photo credit: SustainU®)

 

All SustainU shirts are printed with eco-friendly inks and are Made in the USA, increasing employment opportunities in places like Appalachia that have seen massive globalization-related job losses over several decades.

GreenSportsBlog loves this program—and would love it even more if SustainU could figure out a way to make fewer shipments during the season, thus reducing its carbon footprint. Ideas?

 

USGBC SAYS LEED CERTIFIED SPORTS VENUES MAKING A MAJOR DIFFERENCE, ENERGY- AND COST-WISE

The Orlando Magic’s Amway Center, the first NBA arena to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for new construction, saved almost $1 million a year, including about $700,000 in annual energy costs alone.

amway-center

Signage at the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic, heralding its LEED Gold status. (Photo credit: Amway Center)

 

In Peoria, AZ, the LEED Gold Peoria Sports Complex, which serves as the spring training facility for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, saves 322,700 gallons of water and more than 1 million kilowatt hours in electricity annually. In the construction phase, the city convinced its baseball team partners to retain portions of the building frame and outer envelope, saving an estimated $1.5 million on each clubhouse and diverting 1,323 tons of construction waste from landfills. The Mariners’ Clubhouse parking lot was also converted into an impressive array of solar modules that, combined with a 320 kilowatt solar instillation, can offset up to 30% of the clubhouse’s annual reliance on fossil fuels.

peoria-sports-complex

Peoria (AZ) Sports Complex, the LEED Gold spring training home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. (Photo credit: AZ Central)

 

These significant accomplishments are but two examples highlighted in a recent US Green Building Council report, LEED in Motion: Venues, which details how LEED certification benefits more than 30 venues’ triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit).

Venues that incorporate LEED into their buildings increase cost-savings, decrease annual operating costs and see a higher return on investment overall, the report says. This builds on an earlier study, the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, which estimated from 2015-2018 LEED-certified buildings in the US will have saved more than $2.1 billion in combined energy, water, maintenance and waste savings.

Sports stadiums and arenas represent some of the most iconic buildings in any community. Their size and scope—the top 200 stadiums in the US alone draw roughly 181 annual million visitors—allow them to engage, inspire and educate millions of people. They also are big energy users and waste producers—according to Waste Management, the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL generate a combined 35,000 metric tons of CO2 each year from their fans’ waste. Their high profile combined with their significant room for improvement on energy usage make sports venues an ideal megaphone for Green Building/LEED. 

 

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