Game changing strategy: how football is scoring a goal on climate change

What if people felt as passionately about climate change as they do about their favorite sport? Picture stadium-fulls of fans rooting for our world on and off the stands, just like they do for their favorite teams on match day…alongside them, leagues and clubs stepping up their game and rolling out initiatives to help make their operations cleaner and make greener living more accessible for all. It’s a compelling idea that helped incubate Green Football Weekend – a groundbreaking campaign that brought together the UK footballing community to tackle climate change, setting a new standard for collective action. Here’s how it played out, and top learnings that you can draw on for your own campaigns.

Reaching fans where they’re at

On Green Football Weekend, professional clubs battled it out for the Green Football Cup in a tournament where fan climate-friendly actions – from eating more veggies to taking shorter showers – decided the winner. In taking action, fans not only supported their club and were empowered to help protect our world, but also had the chance to win exciting prizes. Over the weekend, clubs wore green armbands and took part in ‘greener games’ to reduce their carbon pollution and showcase their sustainability work. Players and pundits took on climate-friendly challenges and Sky Sports and BT Sports put on an incredible spread of original content.

Green Football Weekend’s narrative focused largely on appealing to football’s competitiveness and the strong sense of community embedded within clubs’ fandom. The primary call to action of the campaign invited fans to “score green goals for your club”. In this vein, fans were invited to participate in the Green Football Cup tournament, where they alone had the power to help their clubs win, by pledging or taking climate-positive actions. Throughout the campaign, fans were exposed to live leaderboards, where they could see their clubs’ performance against others based on fan action, and further be encouraged to take action to take their clubs to the top.

With the participation of more than over 80 of the UK’s top prestigious professional football clubs and leagues, and widespread promotion and community activations, Green Football Weekend was visible in the build up to and during the weekend, reaching fans across the UK and encompassing clubs, schools, the media, players, and pundits.

Changing the face of the game

When the whistle blew, Green Football Weekend reached up to 30 million fans organically with a climate action message, actively engaging an estimated 39,000 fans online in taking 63,370 actions or pledges via its innovative tournament model.

The first year of the campaign demonstrated the power of football, one of the world’s greatest cultural forces, to reach fans and shape their attitudes to climate change. It helped fans to:

  • Understand how climate change is affecting the things they love;
  • Consider doing more to combat climate change;
  • Share with their clubs the action they’re taking and demonstrate their willingness for the beautiful game to be a greater force for good in the climate crisis.

In its inaugural year, Green Football Weekend’s impact went beyond the stands. By engaging fans, the campaign has played a crucial role in signaling to clubs that their fans are in support of taking action on climate and communicating about it. It has also shone light on fans’ overwhelming support for their clubs making real efforts to make football more sustainable. Moreover, it has demonstrated the ability to engage fans that are concerned about climate change in taking emissions-reducing actions that can also be adopted as long-term behaviors.

7 Tips to drive climate impact in sport

  1. Reach fans early with a recurring and clear time-bound call to action. In the campaign build-up, promote a headline action and immediate steps that fans can fold into their plans for the campaign peak.
  2. Make climate action normal and expected by featuring fans in sport communications. Make taking action feel more normal for fans, by showing that others within their social groups or communities are taking action. Engage with the community groups you’re working with, to source this content and celebrate it far and wide.
  3. Align with fans’ own values for an impact that resonates. Not all fan groups are the same, so engage with them as they see themselves. Work with them to align aspects of the campaign to their local environment and motivations.
  4. Clubs and leagues should lead by example so individuals believe in their impact. Work with clubs and leagues to announce long-term commitments and implement visible measures within the frame of your campaign…
  5. Maximize fan engagement through research-based climate communications. Tailor easy-to-apply guidelines. You can access some of our list on the Green Football Weekend impact report.
  6. Draw attention to fewer, high-impact actions. Accessibility is important, but less actions with higher impact help narrow the campaign focus and empower fans to make changes that truly matter.
  7. Keep an eye on all activations for a complete campaign assessment. Map and track data on community activations, media reach and in-stadium fan engagement to draw a better-rounded overview of your campaign impact.

To conclude…

Green Football Weekend is helping fans take a step into becoming active on climate – and feeling part of a growing community of equally concerned individuals who act on climate. With clubs and active fans on board to participate in future editions, a significant opportunity for Green Football Weekend in the years to come will be to connect to the larger number of fans who are concerned about climate but are not yet acting or sharing that they are acting. Tapping into the power of individuals to become influencers within their community groups will be fundamental in growing momentum at a community and systemic level.

There is also fertile ground for the sport industry at large – from teams and leagues, to events organizers and sponsors – to adopt similar campaign models that leverage fans’ competitive spirit towards taking climate action. This has the potential to positively engage existing and new fans on the increasingly critical topic of climate change, by bringing them on the team’s and league’s journey towards a lower emissions future, on game day and beyond.

Read the complete impact report, prepared by Count Us In and Rare.

Would you like to learn more about Green Football Weekend or support future editions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch

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Count Us In harnesses the power of popular culture to inspire and engage mainstream audiences to take climate action – driving wider systems change. We reach the moveable middle through their passions and interests. We deliver impactful popular culture campaigns, facilitating unexpected partnerships in sports, music, social media, entertainment and gaming.

Rare is a non-profit focused on inspiring change so people and nature thrive. Rare is part of the Count Us In leadership team. Together, we are working to share data and insights as part of a public good, intended to help anyone who sees themselves as part of the movement to address climate change, the biggest challenge humanity faces.

Get in touch to learn more.

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