The inaugural Green Football Weekend took place over the first weekend of February 2023 and cemented its fixture on the UK football calendar. Over 80 clubs took part in the inaugural GFW, including all the EPL, an amazing feat in itself – added to which the support of Sky and BT Sport made GFW1 unmissable. If it came onto your radar and you’re thinking about Green Football Weekend sponsorship for 2024, here’s our assessment. In short – it’s a real opportunity.
The premise is simple : to engage the world of UK football once a year to engage fans and make climate action real, immediate and accessible. GFW actually lasts a month, with the focus on the final weekend. The media proposition is strong : it offers a parallel content stream for football to complement match day activity which offers an easy lifestyle angle for media. Finally, late Jan and early Feb in the UK are deathly quiet – the third week of Jan the traditional nadir of UK tourism – so GFW’s timing is impeccable, offering some hope and optimism when we need it mostl
- Although sadly there’s no official research to indicate awareness, most football fans will have been aware of it in 2023 – with strong broadcast support from Sky and BT, signage at many EPL matches and very good media pick up
- The organisers calculated a total audience of 30 million, which is quite feasible across the channel coverage above, the aggregate live audiences and other media coverage.
- Current and former players, including our national conscience, Gary Lineker, were largely supportive to GFW, with plenty of quotes and actions
- 80 clubs took part across EPL, EFL and WSL. Interestingly, EPL participation was strongest : all clubs took part with activities for fans, pledges and active carbon reduction activity and club web activity. Club participation varied hugely – including new or one-off initiatives, announcements, as well as the introduction of innovations.
- 80,000 pledges or carbon-saving actions were taken to reduce carbon impact. The figure is not super high, but very respectable for a first year initiative.
- NGO membership engagement (at last count, National Trust alone had a membership or over 5 million) and similar commitment from the Church of England
The major strands of activity in 2023 were :
- Broadcast support from Sky and BT Sport, including a creative Green Football Weekend takeover across the whole weekend
- Club initiatives to showcase club improvements in sustainability (such as Wolves, who used the occasion to launch their One Pack, One Planet commitments to environmental sustainability) or engage fans (Carlisle United hosted a United Walk and Talk. A free, walk at your own pace from Carlisle Cathedral to Brunton Park.)
- ‘Individuals signing up at greenfootballweekend.com to take an environmental action or pledge and score a green goal for their club: these numbers determined the winner of the Green Football Cup.
- Activities across thousands of schools across the UK
For the full details, go to www.greenfootballweekend.com
Organisational credits are shared between the Football Supporters Association, Count us in, Planet League and Pledgeball, who each bring their individual constituents, pledge auditing mechanisms, as well as their understanding of how to engage football audiences – along with Sky and BT Sport, who shaped the programme.
As far as we know, Sky and BT Sport (TNT Sports) are both committed for next year – which is great news for GFW and sponsors as it guarantees public awareness. More than that, as both broadcasters will be looking for content across the weekend, sponsors will be able to float their ideas with both broadcasters for approval. Coverage can’t be a guaranteed right of course, but if the content genuinely works, then…even the BBC manages to find editorial justification for brands supporting Children in Need.
Access to Clubs is not a given either, and the rights landscape, for sure, is complex. Although the EPL donated signage to promote GFW, it’s not likely to return the favour to GFW sponsors – and Club sponsors create a minefield of category conflicts, making global club activation a very remote possibility.
The mechanism of the Green Football Club as an incentive to drive pledges clearly needs some finetuning to scale up – but GFW clearly has the potential to become the FA Cup of sustainability – where turnover and star players can’t mitigate against embarrassing upsets.
It’s a collective event, so there are no contracted rights and very few guarantees beyond broadcaster commitment. But the framework has been designed nicely to be broad enough to allow Clubs to opt in to the extent they want. And with a rump of EPL clubs and leading sustainability players from local leagues, the pressure to take part will grow.
FINDING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY
The proposition of football meets the environment is incredibly strong – with an audience overlap that will be growing year on year, bringing huge relevance for sponsors.
For existing sponsors of football in any capacity, GFW offers an opportunity to amplify and extend the association to existing and new audiences. Individual clubs sponsors could – if they manage the positioning right – build relevance with the broader football community. And likewise for businesses with a solid sustainability commitment – their sustainability credentials giving them permission to play. If you’re not sponsoring football and you don’t have a strong stainability focus – it’s going to be harder, but not impossible. It’s never impossible if you tread carefully!
In our assessment, this is a prime time to develop a relationship with GFW. It’s clearly not going away – in fact, it’s easy to imagine the organisers having Comic Relief as a benchmark for scale. At the same time, sponsorship structures are still loose and it’s possible to create something unique which is going to build and grow with GFW.
The organisers are looking to scale up their schools presence, which works on two levels – as an audience in its own right, but also to build awareness with young people and parents to support retail promotions.
SOME GREEN FOOTBALL WEEKEND SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
Taking into account the emerging structure of relationships, the parameters for activity and the directions of travel suggested by 2023, here are a few of the areas which we believe could hold great potential for brand partners.
FAN ENGAGEMENTS (IN NON CONFLICTING CATEGORIES)
At first, fan activations across 80 clubs seems like a long shot, but we’re not talking about a collective agreement : Club participation is opt-in.
Promotions, for example which reward clubs for fan participation, and provide the mechanism to celebrate success tick all the boxes. Boot and strip recycling is an obvious contender.
If the terms are right, participation is easy and there is value for the Club, brands have a chance of recruiting a decent number (10 – 30?) of participating Clubs.
In principle, 80 sets of club sponsors will create a long list of conflicted categories – but looking beyond EPL sponsors and gaming, there are very few categories which are heavily populated – the spread of categories is extremely broad.
Specialist suppliers of low carbon impact or sustainable products or services can use GFW as a channel to be seen by clubs across the UK.
Green electricity suppliers, to take another example, can clearly sell into clubs on an individual basis, but the halo of Green Football Weekend will extend to sponsors, who will be able to engage more easily and deeply with Clubs.
During GFW 2023, Crewe Alexandra announced plans to install more than 3,000 solar panels above parking spaces on the existing car park at Gresty Road – GFW is likely to become a moment in time when Clubs are looking to announce positive initiatives and plans for the future.
Liverpool men’s team played Wolves away travelling in a bus using sustainable fuels, creating a reduction in carbon emissions of up to 90% from regular diesel. Targeted media opportunities of this kind will allow specialist suppliers a quasi trade media channel to talk to Clubs at all levels.
GFW has established itself as a recognisable date on the calendar, so retail promotions rewarding ‘green’ activity with matchday tickets or experiences over the weekend would work well. The participation of so many Clubs allows the organisers to reach out to individual Clubs with confidence for tickets and experiences because the promotional benefit cuts both ways.
The larger context here for recycling is the growing obligation on brands to take responsibility for the post-sale environmental impact of their products, the full life cycle.
Schools are a natural partner for GFW – GFW offers an entirely new platform for brands and the powerful combo of football and the environment can’t fail in schools. An integrated schools campaign starts at c £70K per annum, but with content like this, a steady investment in schools marketing is going to yield abundant media coverage and a large percentage of the school population – literally, millions of children – for say, £120K pa.
Just to reiterate, now is an ideal stage for brands to engage – solid foundations are in place, but the sponsorship framework is not yet rigid, so GFW is at the perfect stage for creative brands. In our assessment Green Football Weekend offers real opportunity to creative sponsors.
Please click on the image opposite to view the sponsorship presentation for 2024.
NB This is not a sponsored post, we’re just big fans!