The past two years have taken a lot out of all of us. We’ve all changed as a result of coronavirus; we’ve left behind the beliefs and priorities we used to hold – and the same goes for the sports sector. Lots of things we had simply assumed prior to the pandemic are now subject to scrutiny.
The wasteful use of resources in stadiums, clubs’ antiquated positions, horrendous transfer fees – all things fans are less likely to forgive. This stops many, in particular younger, fans from becoming football supporters in the first place. Football, the king of sports, needs to change if it wants to keep its throne.
Furthermore, the sports needs to realize the fact that its immense impact on society plays an important role in the development towards a more sustainable world.
Sport is a role model for society
It was visible before the pandemic, but coronavirus has accelerated it. Something that many companies – as well as, sponsors – have long seen as indispensable for success is now becoming increasingly important in the sports business, too: sustainability.
This heavy-hitting keyword is truly multi-faceted when it comes to sport – encompassing everything from social commitment to sustainable business through to environmental responsibility.
Sport has huge potential to make a meaningful contribution to sustainable development, thanks to its position within society: many clubs have spent years engaging with social projects and play a flagship role in health promotion. However, professional sport now needs to lighten its environmental footprint.
VSA study: sustainability is very important to sponsors
A recent B2B survey of sponsoring companies within the Association of Sports Rights Holders (VSA) showed just how important sustainability is to them: 86% of sponsors see corporate social responsibility and sustainability as very important. At the same time it's only 66% for companies who aren't engaged in sponsoring. Additionally, 84% of sponsors believe that assuming social responsibility is a crucial criterion for their customers – in contrast to 59% of companies not active in sponsoring.
The message for rights holders is clear: if they want to keep offering companies an attractive communication platform in the future, they need to position themselves more sustainably and align their partnerships with environmentally and socially relevant criteria.
Socio-political topics come across as credible
VSA Managing Director Inka Müller-Schmäh explains: “Sustainability is a team sport – and one where we all win at the end of the day. Sponsorship helps sport perform its crucial social function, with sponsors taking on social responsibility, too. Socio-political topics come across as credible, thanks to the emotions inherent in the communication platform offered by sport.”
With sustainable engagements, it is particularly important that the professional team and management alike embody the engagement credibly, as SPORTFIVE’s representative study on sustainability showed.
"Only someone who can prove a clear, sustainable specification, authentic commitment and examinable results, will be successful in the long term (from a commercial perspective) and improve their sustainable footprint."
STEFAN FELSING, CEO OF SPORTFIVE
Sustainable sponsorship: the recipe for success
As a leading sports business agency, SPORTSFIVE strives to develop clear fields of action together with rights holders and partners, define targets on the basis of these and thereby be actively involved in designing the transformation process in the sports industry. SPORTIFIVE is in discussions with various partner clubs to jointly develop viable, practical and sustainable products that will enable them to acquire companies as partners, in turn.
What could this look like? There are lots of ways to get started – such as stadium catering. Max Sorst, who heads up sponsorship & sustainability at SPORTFIVE as the Senior Specialist in Product Management, explains: “More regional products, vegan and vegetarian offerings, minimising food waste and rubbish, short supply chains and waste disposal – there are all kinds of things relating to stadium catering that you can make more sustainable.”
On match days, digital solutions can help align the food and drink on offer with demand, avoiding mountains of food waste from the get-go: “If VIP guests choose their menu in advance via an app and collect it at the station in question, potential partners, such as stadium caterers, local cooks or suppliers, can provide high-quality food based on the actual demand. This would be a win for everyone – hospitality guests, clubs, partners and the environment, too,” says Max Sorst.
Sport has a head start in the game of sustainablity
VSA Managing Director, Inka Müller-Schmäh, belives that sport offers the perfect condicitions for a more sustainable approach to development: “Sport has social sustainability in its DNA: this alone gives it a good head start on other sectors in the sustainability marathon – but it’s a distance we need to cover step by step. The diverse array of opportunities for sport and sustainability needs to be cultivated on an ongoing basis. This will ensure we can continue to focus on this crucial aspect of sport and keep writing success stories together.”
"The diverse array of opportunities for sport and sustainability needs to be cultivated on an ongoing basis."
INKA MÜLLER-SCHMÄH, VSA MANAGING DIRECTOR