Sports Partnerships Can Drive Sustainability and Boost the Bottom Line
By Dan Fisher
Today’s guest columnist is Dan Fisher, president and CEO-elect of Ball Corporation.
Sports marketing as we traditionally know it has changed. Brands and companies now look beyond viewing sports industry partnerships primarily as a way to sell more products. Rather, because sports reaches so many people, the industry’s teams, players and venues can be a platform to help brands meaningfully accelerate solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues.
One key area where we are seeing this shift is sustainability. Last year was a milestone for galvanizing corporate action on climate change, and much of this was driven by rising consumer demand for more purposeful brands and a growing concern for the environment. In fact, Deloitte research found that nearly 60% of consumers want organizations to change their practices to make progress on societal issues, supply chain and carbon emissions.
As hubs of cultural and community moments, sports venues—and their teams and players—have the power to be true vehicles for change. From committing to meeting net-zero emissions, utilizing renewable energy, serving food and beverages in 100% recyclable containers, and sourcing sustainable food, some sports and entertainment venues are already creating a microcosm of what is possible in a more sustainable world. At the same time, they are also educating fans on how simple actions—like recycling, making more conscious purchase decisions and using less water—can help them reduce their own impact on the environment.
At Ball, we believe that brands have a role to play in partnering with the sports industry to drive this change. This belief is one of the reasons we are investing in the space. Our partnerships—including those with Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE), teams like the Los Angeles Rams, and stadiums like Climate Pledge Arena—are underpinned by a shared desire to accelerate meaningful progress on sustainability. Together with each of our partners, we are advancing commercial goals alongside our commitments to strengthening aluminum recycling, providing fans with a more environmentally friendly fan experience, and showcasing aluminum beverage packaging—cans, bottles and our new Ball Aluminum Cup—as the most sustainable choice for in-venue drinks.
As a result of our partnerships, the aluminum cup was back in the Super Bowl helping fans celebrate their favorite teams for the third year in a row. Leading up to and during the Big Game at SoFi Stadium, our 9-ounce, 16-ounce, 20-ounce and 24-ounce sustainable aluminum cups were available to fans across Los Angeles, including in SoFi Stadium, at the Halftime Show and the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest.
Venues, stadiums and teams that enhance their recycling infrastructure and transition to fully recyclable products can have a huge impact on the environment, meet their own sustainability targets, and influence positive behavior among fans. Just consider the impact the sports industry has on landfills in the United States: Sporting events accumulate around 39 million pounds of trash every year, and an estimated 51 million plastic cups—the majority of which won’t be recycled—are used at sports events annually.
By providing infinitely recyclable aluminum beverage packaging alongside initiatives to improve recycling and educate fans on its importance, Ball is helping its partners meet sustainability targets and demonstrate their own commitment to doing right by the environment. Of course, we recognize there will be hurdles along the way—from costs to ensuring that the cups are truly recycled. But we also know that doing right for the environment—and ensuring long-term success for our businesses and the planet—will require change. Our customers are making a conscious decision to adopt a more sustainable beverage container for their consumers, and Ball is doing everything we can to help them make that possible.
Together, we’re finding creative ways to do just that. For example, to support a truly circular economy, Ball and KSE launched the Team Aluminum backpack ambassador recycling program at Ball Arena in Denver, which encourages fans to recycle and make it easier with ambassadors collecting aluminum containers. In the first four games, the ambassadors collected 52 backpacks full of aluminum cans, cups and bottles—roughly 4,160 aluminum beverage products. Now, imagine the positive ripple effect that these actions can have as fans carry what they learn in the stadium through to their everyday lives. We can boost recycling rates in the U.S. and around the world.
This progress was cited as part of Ball’s admission to the inaugural
Laureus Sport For Good Index launched last fall, which recognized the company alongside the most socially and environmentally friendly brand partners in the sports world. The list was compiled by an all-female judging panel featuring some of leading names in the sports-technology space.
It was an honor to be recognized together with so many companies that share our vision for leveraging the influence and reach of the sports industry to make change. While there is much more to be done, at Ball we are excited about the potential to continue building on our commitments and giving the industry the tools it needs to reduce its impact on the environment and help fans cheer on their favorite teams more sustainably. Together, we can make a true difference.
Fisher, who joined Ball in 2010, was elected to his current position in 2021 to oversee global business operations for the organization.