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Playing Our Part: The Bigger Play Around Super Bowl 50


By Robin Raj

So the circus has officially hit town, and we Bay Area residents are now bracing ourselves for the excitement, onslaught and hoopla surrounding the biggest of big games. And while some are quick to dismiss the Super Bowl as nothing but moneyball writ large, or fear a looming ‘Bowl-agedeon,' this year there’s another story playing out that may not get the media attention it deserves.

That’s because the SF Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee has publicly committed to make this the first ‘net positive Super Bowl’ -- a commitment to do more good than harm for Bay Area communities, socially, environmentally and economically. In other words, they are aiming to use the immense power of the world’s single largest one-day sports event as a platform to do good – and they should be acknowledged and applauded for it.

It began with the Host Committee’s commitment more than a year ago to set aside 25 percent of all corporate sponsorship dollars raised around Super Bowl 50 to benefit local communities and our environment. A unique goal, to be sure. It followed with creation of The 50 Fund, a grant-making program that’s on track to deliver some $6 million dollars to more than 130 local non-profits. And it will come to life in these last days by inspiring local fans to play their part by reducing their collective impacts.

That’s what led to creation of the ‘Play Your Part’ campaign, developed and co-sponsored by my agency Citizen Group, our technology partner in/PACT, and the SB50 Host Committee. Fans are being encouraged to make this ‘the most sustainable, shared, and giving Super Bowl ever’ by taking positive actions while attending Super Bowl events, such as carrying reusable containers, recycling properly, taking public transit, hosting sustainable Super Bowl parties, and offsetting their carbon emissions from travel.

Play Your Part | Super Bowl 50 from Citizen on Vimeo.

For their actions, fans will also be given the opportunity to direct dollars to deserving Bay Area environmental non-profits using the ‘Play Your Part’ online giving platform powered by in/PACT.  And as a thank you, fans will be automatically enrolled in a daily prize drawing where they can win tickets to Super Bowl 50, special Super Bowl City events such as the CBS Metallica concert, as well as sustainable merchandise and collectibles.


The ‘Play Your Part’ campaign links directly to the four key pillars that girder the Host Committee’s net positive commitment:

  1. Reducing impact on climate change by delivering a low emissions event,

  2. Responsibly using and recycling materials and resources,

  3. Inspiring fans to embrace sustainability personally, and

  4. Leaving a lasting legacy for the Bay Area at large.

So, is all of this simply small-ball?  Well, if you’ve ever witnessed a stadium filled with 70,000 fans, you know the environmental impacts on any given Sunday can be significant. What’s more, few sectors in our society are as influential as sports in raising consciousness and inspiring behavior change. As Green Sports Alliance president Allen Hershkowitz is fond of observing, only 13 percent of Americans say they follow science, yet 61% claim themselves as sports fans.

Sports is the ultimate cultural unifier.  If we’re serious about shifting the mindset of fans and suppliers towards ecologically preferable products and behaviors, we need to engage with leagues and teams, and harness the mighty power of the sports industrial complex.

By working closely with the Green Sports Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council over the past decade, my agency Citizen Group has had a front row seat to watch the rise of a global sports greening movement, as teams and alike align with healthier practices. Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL, NFL, NCAA, USTA and MLS have all engaged and the case studies abound.  If you like following your favorite team’s stats, you might enjoy reviewing the metrics contained in this 2013 NRDC report, GAME CHANGER: How the Sports Industry Is Saving The Environment or watching the honoree film we produced.

All of the action proves that a net positive goal, while ambitious, is important and achievable.

This will be part of the story of Super Bowl 50.  A Super Bowl the Bay Area way, and one that will hopefully set a higher standard for big games to come.

And that’s something to get excited about.

Image credit: Pixabay

Robin Raj is founder and executive creative director of Citizen Group, an award-winning, San Francisco-based agency dedicated to building “citizen brands.” Citizen works with companies and organizations to shape values-based strategies and then brings them to life through creative campaigns, media initiatives, and community activations that inspire, inform, and invite audiences to participate. citizengroup.com

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