SBJ/July 21-27, 2014/Research and Ratings

Study: ‘Green’ fans willing to spend

Teams should listen to them, alliance says

Fans who live “green” tend to spend more green, according to the results of a study scheduled to be presented this week at the fourth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit.

The study, commissioned by Portland-based Green Sports Alliance and conducted by Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, polled more than 1,000 fans who had attended at least two different types of pro or college sporting events during the previous 12 months. The fans responded to a battery of questions regarding their habits and opinions on environmental issues applicable to the sports world. That included fans being presented with a dozen activities they could say they did or did not engage in on a regular basis, such as “Buy locally grown foods,” “Take mass transportation to work,” and “Utilize reusable shopping bags.”

Environmentally active or not, fans expect recycling options from their favorite teams.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

Fans who claimed to be more environmentally active — defined in the survey as engaging in more than four of the 12 behaviors — spent an average of $403 on tickets to sports events in the past year, $63 more than the fans who engaged in fewer of those activities. The gap existed across the various income and fan-avidity levels of the survey respondents.

Additionally, nearly half of all the fans surveyed (and 61 percent of the more environmentally active fans) agreed that teams should use sustainable products even if those items are more expensive.

“Fans are saying to teams: These behaviors are part of our everyday values, and we see other public assembly buildings and other industries making progress, so why is the sports world moving so slowly?” said GSA Executive Director Martin Tull. “If teams offer things like shirts and other items that are made out of recycled materials, and provide local foods, people are willing to pay for it.”

Among all fans surveyed, 54 percent said they felt their favorite club could be doing more to benefit the environment. When asked to identify what specific measures teams should be taking, nearly three-quarters of all fans (84 percent of the more environmentally active fans, 59 percent of the less active) said that venues should have separate receptacles for trash and recycling, making it the most selected attribute (see chart). Additionally, “Donate prepared, unsold concessions items to places of need,” “Offer reusable, refillable cups for beverage purchases” and “Play in venues that are easily accessible via mass transportation” were cited by more than half of all respondents.
DEFINING THE ‘GREEN’ FAN
Sports fans surveyed were provided the following list of environmentally friendly practices and initiatives and asked to select the items they expect their favorite team(s) and league(s) to put into practice. Respondents could select more than one activity.
While fans who were deemed “more” environmentally active typically expected more actions from their teams, more than half of the “less” environmentally active fans expected at least a couple of actions as well.
MORE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFORTS LESS
84% Utilize separate trash and recycling receptacles 59%
74% Donate prepared, unsold concessions items to places of need 55%
72% Offer reusable, refillable cups for beverage purchases 43%
67% Play in venues that are easily accessible via mass transportation 43%
60% Participate in community activities related to the environment 35%
58% Utilize less toxic cleaning products 29%
56% Utilize renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, solar) 31%
54% Publicize their environmentally friendly practices 28%
49% Compost food and kitchen waste 19%
48% Play in LEED-certified facilities 25%
40% Offer charging stations for electric vehicles 21%
35% Offer waterless urinals in restrooms 18%
32% Feature their star players in green-supportive initiatives 14%
Note: The study, commissioned by GSA and conducted in May by Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, polled more than 1,000 fans who had attended at least two different types of pro or college sporting events during the previous 12 months.
Source: Sports Attendees and the Environment (2014 report), GSA/Turnkey Sports and Entertainment

Tull said in addition to generating a re-evaluation of game-day fan amenities, the survey should serve as a catalyst for team marketing departments to more actively seek out partners in business sectors that are under-represented in the sports sponsorship world, such as biotech and farm-to-table companies.

Indeed, half of the environmentally active fans in the study said they are more likely to support a team that actively promotes environmentally friendly practices than a property that does not do so, and 56 percent said they would support a team sponsor that did the same.

Scott Jenkins, who was hired in February by the Atlanta Falcons to oversee the development of that team’s $1 billion stadium scheduled to open in 2017, said the study “reveals a sweet spot” for the industry and should provide an incentive for companies and organizations to implement long-term environmental plans based on something more than just “a hunch.”

“It was just a couple years ago where the industry started wondering about how we could create value around sustainability,” said Jenkins, who had spearheaded environmental initiatives at Safeco Field in Seattle since 2006. “Now, if a team can weave environmental consciousness into every single part of its business model, it gives us more opportunities to engage with fans and with partners. And, yes, it reduces operating expenses.”

Jenkins, who also serves as GSA’s chairman, said environmental activation plans are part of every conversation the Falcons have during contract negotiations with current and potential marketing partners.

Hull also cited the value of emotional connection fans feel toward a team, saying no matter how environmentally responsible your bank is, for example, such behavior will likely resonate more on a personal level if you know your favorite team is doing it.

“We hope that teams look at this study and realize that their business plan should go beyond just an annual themed Earth Day,” he said. “This is about the legacy role you play in the community.”

The GSA is a nonprofit organization that launched in 2011 with a mission to help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance. Alliance members represent more than 240 sports teams and venues.

This year’s GSA summit is being held in Santa Clara, Calif.

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