Football Fans Want More Environmental Protection

My name is Max Beer, and I have written my master's thesis on the ecological sustainability in the Bundesliga. In the context of blog posts, I would like to present key findings of this work. While the investigation and results primarily focus on professional football clubs, they can also be applied to a large extent to professional sports clubs.

Should professional football clubs do more for climate protection? A clear yes emerges when looking at the ever-warming global climate. If that's not reason enough to act, the pressure from fans on the clubs is continually increasing. At the very least, the fans' desire for more environmental protection should prompt clubs to implement and communicate significantly more ecologically sustainable activities in the future.

The need for more action in the field of ecology from the demand side is illustrated, among other things, by the study conducted by Lammert et al.[1]. In 2019, over 900 fans were surveyed about the ecological activities of their favorite clubs in the Bundesliga, and the results show that, on a scale of 1 to 5, fans consider ecological sustainability important with a value of 4.02. Bundesliga clubs are recognized as role models in this area, with a value of 4.34. However, the reality is different: 88% of the surveyed fans expressed a desire for more activities in the field of ecological sustainability by football clubs. The current efforts of the clubs on the same scale were rated as rather mediocre with an average value of 3.34.

If football clubs, from the fans' perspective, do not do enough for climate protection, one might think they would rather encourage fans to act more ecologically. However, even if football clubs are currently perceived by fans as doing too little, the clubs seem to fail in compensating by encouraging fans to act more ecologically. On average, fans feel inadequately encouraged by their club in this area, with a value of 2.97[2]. The results indicate that ecological sustainability topics must gain more significance in the Bundesliga.

The possibility that football clubs can take on a role model function regarding climate protection is also evident in the study conducted for my master's thesis. Here, 414 football fans* were surveyed in an online questionnaire. The respondents self-assessed their environmental consciousness on a scale of 1 to 5 with an average value of 3.28. In contrast, the perceived relevance of environmental engagement by their favorite club was significantly higher, with a value of 4.42. Football clubs should, therefore, lead by example, ideally inspiring fans to follow suit in their actions.

This is an important aspect for brands and companies. Since football fans consider their favorite club's environmental engagement important, advertising campaigns related to environmental engagement can be communicated to the target audience through the club's channels. Examples include green energy partnerships between companies and clubs (e.g., BVB Vollstrom), through which fans come into contact with more sustainable energy alternatives. The branding of the offer with the club's name creates a greater incentive to consider ecologically sustainable options. Therefore, the clubs' ability to excite their fans about climate protection measures can also be used by brands and companies in partnerships with clubs to gain attention for their products and services.

*Due to the research design of the master's thesis, fans of six clubs—Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke 04, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and Mainz 05—were surveyed from December 10, 2020, to February 28, 2021.

[1] Lammert, J., Faix, A., Schröer, J., & Eßer, A. (2019). Anstoß-Studie zur Nachhaltigkeit im Fußball. Retrieved on December 19, 2020, from Pp. 5-9

[2] Lammert, J., Faix, A., Schröer, J., & Eßer, A. (2019). Anstoß-Studie zur Nachhaltigkeit im Fußball. Retrieved on December 19, 2020, from P. 10