As one of the most-viewed single-day sporting events on the planet, people tune into the Super Bowl to experience an emotionally-charged game, view the ambitious advertising, and enjoy an entertaining halftime show (especially when Rihanna’s on stage, apparently!).
The Super Bowl is a big spectacle that draws a lot of people and can create a lot of waste, so it’s interesting to follow how this high-profile event meshes with the even higher-profile topics of sustainability and environmentalism. There’s no question it’s becoming a far more significant and prominent focus.
This shift toward waste reduction and climate-friendly initiatives is evident, from the actions taken by the host cities and stadiums to how advertisers choose to frame what are likely their most expensive ad spots of the year.
The NFL and Sustainability
The NFL launched the NFL Green program back in 1994. In the ensuing 30 years, the sustainability efforts undertaken by the NFL have grown to include food recovery, material recovery, recycling, solid waste management, as well as green energy and community greening projects.
By spearheading the effort to create a more sustainable infrastructure around the sport of football, the NFL has inspired and worked with stadiums and NFL team home communities to become more sustainable as well.
Sustainability at Super Bowl LVII
Let’s take a look at the role sustainability played in the 2023 Super Bowl.
Arizona and the City of Phoenix
The partnership between the NFL and Super Bowl host cities has spurred a great deal of forward momentum on the sustainability front.
In October, the NFL launched the first in a series of community greening projects by planting 57 trees at Sunridge Park in West Phoenix to honor the 57th Super Bowl. This event was followed by a planned dozen planting and habitat restoration events resulting in over 500 trees planted across the state.
The City of Phoenix involved residents in the sustainability efforts by organizing a team of Zero Waste Ambassadors.
According to the city’s public works department, the duties of these ambassadors included:
- Educating attendees about what is recyclable and compostable
- Ensuring attendees place items in the correct container
- Monitoring containers and reporting fill levels to Public Works staff
- Reporting littering or other issues to Public Works staff
- Conducting any other pertinent duties to ensure the event reaches its zero-waste goal
State Farm Stadium
While the home stadium of the Arizona Cardinals is not leading the pack in NFL stadium sustainability efforts, they have enacted some meaningful initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint.
In 2020, State Farm Stadium entered into an agreement with the local energy providers Enel X and Salt River Project (SRP) Business Demand Response Program.
The demand response program offers commercial and other institutional organizations the opportunity to save electricity (and costs) by reducing energy expenditure during peak demand periods. According to SRP, “program participants earn payments for agreeing to be on standby and for curtailing electricity consumption in response to high electricity demand.”
This program has saved the stadium $75,000 annually in electricity costs since joining.
The Super Bowl is traditionally a three-party event: the host stadium and the two participating teams. (Fun fact: only twice in the 57-year history of the Super Bowl has the game been hosted at the home field of one of the participants!)
Here’s what each team has contributed to sustainability in their home communities.
The Eagles are invested in sustainability, both as a team and at their home stadium.
Since opening in 2003, the Eagle’s home stadium Lincoln Financial Field has been continually making updates that further its sustainability. In 2018, the stadium became LEED Gold Certified. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system used by the U.S. Green Building Council to signify
The stadium earned this designation for “implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in: sustainable site development, water savings, energy eﬃciency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”
In conjunction with the opening of Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles team launched their own community initiative, Go Green. One of the most unique recycling efforts to come from this effort includes a biodiesel program. Used kitchen oil is sent to reprocessors to be converted to biodiesel which is in turn used to power stadium equipment.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City-based team has enacted changes at their home base of Arrowhead Stadium that are helping bring more sustainability to the broader Kansas City community.
Notable achievements include:
- An increase in waste diversion to 59.%, up from 11% in 2010
- The Extra Yard for the Environment program, which promotes sustainability across the community
- An installation of 308 solar panels that generate about 29,000 kilowatts of electricity a year at Truman Sports Complex
Sustainability in Super Bowl Advertising
A fair number of viewers tune in to the Super Bowl each year to watch the ads, spurring hefty investments by brands wishing to capitalize on the hype.
Unsurprisingly, ads with a climate-centered message have increased in recent years. This year the environmental messaging was carried by car manufacturers promoting their EV offerings. The car ads that did appear were almost exclusively promoting EVs, which was a stark and noticeable change.
Here are some of the top EV ads from this year’s game:
- Why not an EV?: Starring Will Ferrell, this ad places the actor in scenes from Netflix’s most iconic shows to promote how Netflix and GM have partnered up to place more EVs in their original content.
- The Jeep 4xe “Electric Boogie”: Set to Shaggy’s remix of Marcia Griffiths’ Electric Boogie, this playful ad pairs shots of the Jeep 4xe with scenes of wild and endangered animals bopping along to the tune.
- Nissan Electrification: This ad demonstrates the durability and power of their EV technology while challenging buyers to think beyond sustainability as a reason to purchase an EV.
Sustainability Is a Smart Investment
The Super Bowl is such a massive and expansive event that the game itself can almost become a side-story. From a business perspective, it’s fascinating to see what narratives are being elevated in front of an unparalleled global audience, and what messages are being prioritized by advertisers in their most expensive campaigns of the year.
Once again this year, and maybe more than ever before, a sustainability focus was prevalent throughout. Are you ready to up your game?
About Antea Group
Antea®Group is an environment, health, safety, and sustainability consulting firm. By combining strategic thinking with technical expertise, we do more than effectively solve client challenges; we deliver sustainable results for a better future. We work in partnership with and advise many of the world’s most sustainable companies to address ESG-business challenges in a way that fits their pace and unique objectives. Our consultants equip organizations to better understand threats, capture opportunities and find their position of strength. Lastly, we maintain a global perspective on ESG issues through not only our work with multinational clients, but also through our sister organizations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and as a founding member of the Inogen Alliance. Learn more at us.anteagroup.com.