2014 Sochi Olympics – Sponsors and Sustainability

2014 Sochi Olympics - Satellite View of Coastal Cluster on Black Sea - Photo: NASA / DigitalGlobeAs the 2014 Sochi Winter Games began, I wondered what green actions Olympic sponsors had taken and how they were promoting sustainability.

These weren’t just the idle musings of a tree hugger. Being concerned for the environment has been part of the Olympic movement for two decades so it’s not unrealistic to expect sponsors to act and talk green.

Sustainability Through Sports – IOC Commitment

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has close ties with the United Nations and was influenced by the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Two years later, in 1994, the IOC officially recognized the importance of the environment and sustainable development by making the environment the third pillar of Olympism (sport and culture are the other two) and adding two items to the IOC Olympic Charter mission statement:

“to encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly;
to promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries;”
IOC Olympic Charter, Chapter 1, Rule 2, Paragraph 13 and 14

Show Me the Money – IOC Marketing Program

2014 Sochi Olympics - Olympic Rings and Torch at Olympic ParkIt’s likely the Olympics would not be possible without corporate sponsors, especially those with deep pockets and marketing prowess. Olympic sponsorship has its roots in 1896 when companies contributed revenue from advertising during the first Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Today IOC revenue comes from a number of sources that fall into four categories:

  • Broadcast – 47%
  • Sponsorship – 45%
  • Ticketing – 5%
  • Licensing – 3%

During the last Olympic quadrennium from 2009-2012, the IOC marketing program generated revenue of $8,046,000,000.1

90% of IOC revenue is distributed throughout the Olympic Movement to the following organizations:

  • Organizing Committees – assist host cities in staging Olympic Games.
  • National Olympic Committees – support training and development of Olympic athletes and teams.
  • International Sports Federations – oversee and promote specific sports.
  • Other Organizations – support the Paralympic Games and World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Olympic Partner (TOP) Program

In 1985, the IOC created The Olympic Partner (TOP) worldwide sponsorship program and introduced the exclusive product and service supplier model. The TOP program raked in $950,000,000 for the London / Vancouver Games 1 which means each of the 11 TOP sponsors ponied up somewhere in the neighborhood of $86,000,000.

2014 Sochi Olympics - Iceberg Skating Palace with Country FlagsIn addition to cold hard cash, sponsors supply products and services within their exclusive categories. This includes technical expertise in IT systems, timekeeping, and broadcasting, cutting-edge products and equipment for building Olympic infrastructure and venues, and worldwide brand recognition and popularity.

TOP Sponsors for the 2013-2016 quadrennium (Sochi / Rio de Janeiro) are listed below with their exclusive product/service category.

  • Atos – Information Technology
  • Coca-Cola – Non-alcoholic Beverages
  • Dow – Official Chemistry Company & 2014 Sochi Official Carbon Partner
  • GE – Select Energy, Infrastructure, Healthcare, Materials, and Transport Products and Services
  • McDonald’s – Retail Food Services
  • Omega – Timing, Scoring and Venue Results Services
  • Panasonic – Audio / TV / Video Equipment
  • P&G – Personal Care and Household Products
  • Samsung – Wireless Communications Equipment
  • Visa – Consumer Payment Systems

Sponsor Sustainability Messaging – The Winner Is…

2014 Sochi Olympics - NBC Streaming Live on Computer Tablet in Snow - Photo: mexrix / ShutterstockDuring the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, 1.8 billion people watched events on TV 2, 78 million visited Vancouver2010.com 3, and the Vancouver Olympics Facebook page garnered 1.1 million fans 3.

The number of fans watching the Olympics on TV and surfing the web dwarf those attending the Games in person so clearly sustainability messages will reach the largest audience on TV or online.

I conducted an informal evaluation of TOP sponsor sustainability messaging by visiting the Sochi Olympics and IOC websites, checking out sponsor’s websites and Facebook pages, and watching a lot of TV commercials.

All in all the results were disappointing. Dow was the only TOP sponsor promoting sustainability via their corporate website and Facebook page.

Dow – Official Carbon Partner

Selected by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee to be the Official Carbon Partner of this year’s Games, Dow committed to mitigating the direct carbon emissions of hosting and delivering the Games and travel for all athletes, media personnel, and spectators.

Dow recently announced that over 520,000 metric tons (MT) of CO2 equivalents have been mitigated through the “Sustainable Future” program. 4 The short video below gives an overview of the program.

Efforts to reduce direct carbon emissions include home weatherization, sustainable agriculture, and improving structural integrity through carbon fiber materials. These projects provide long-term tangible solutions for Russian people and businesses.

Carbon offsets purchased to mitigate travel support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation projects in Russia and future Olympic host countries Brazil and South Korea.

Amur Tiger - Bikin Tiger Carbon Project, Russia - Photo: Vasily Solin, WWF Amur BranchSo far, I haven’t seen a Dow TV ad, but then Dow is more of a business-to-business company so perhaps they didn’t want to spend money on consumer TV ads. Still, it would have been great to see a Dow commercial showing results from their carbon emissions mitigation program like a snug, newly weatherized Russian home or a tiger roaming in a protected forest.

TOP Sponsors Miss the Green Boat

The Olympics offer an unparalleled opportunity for sponsors to not only promote their own brands and the Olympic spirit but to spotlight the importance of protecting the environment to a worldwide audience. It’s disappointing to see how little interest TOP sponsors took in promoting the third pillar of Olympism, the environment.

What can we do? Use our voices and our wallets. Let’s tell the IOC and Olympic sponsors we expect them to protect the environment and promote sustainability. Let’s buy products and services from companies that walk the talk.

Related Posts


  1. IOC – Olympic Marketing Fact File, 2014 Edition
  2. IOC – Vancouver Facts & Figures, February 2011
  3. CNW – The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games: By the numbers, February 28, 2010 (line inactive as of 01/2019)
  4. Dow – Sochi 2014’s Direct Carbon Footprint Mitigated before Opening Ceremony, February 04, 2014 (link inactive as of 02/2018)


Greening Super Bowl XLVIII

What images come to mind when you read the words NFL, Super Bowl, and green? Grass football fields and green jerseys or renewable energy and kale?

The NFL’s environmental program got off the ground in 1994 when it launched its first recycling project during Super Bowl XXVIII at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Let’s look at greening Super Bowl XLVIII being hosted by New Jersey and New York.

Green Community Events

One aspect of greening the Super Bowl is giving back to the communities in and around the host city. Below are a few of the green events recently held in New Jersey and New York.


Two e-cycling events were held in January, one each in New Jersey and New York. Anyone could drop off electronics, working or not, including cell phones, computers, printers, CRTs, and TVs.

Tree Planting in Rockaway Park, NY - Photo: VerizonTree Planting

The National Football League, Super Bowl sponsors, and community organizations joined together to plant more the 27,000 trees and shrubs in New York and New Jersey parks and areas hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Super Kids-Super Sharing

The Super Kids-Super Sharing project teaches children about recycling by encouraging them to pass along gently used belongings to others who can benefit from them. Schools in New Jersey and New York collected and distributed tens of thousands of items including books, sports equipment, and school supplies.

Greening the Game

Ground Transportation

Super Bowl XLVIII has been dubbed the first “mass transit” Super Bowl.

Game day restrictions make mass transit a necessity. For instance, this year for security purposes, no vehicles will be allowed to drop off passengers in front of the stadium and fans will not be allowed to walk or bike directly to the stadium entrance. In addition, 15,000 of the 28,000 parking spaces will be taken up by television and entertainment support trucks.

The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and public transportation organizations have put forth a lot of effort to make it easy for fans to use mass transit for traveling to and from the Super Bowl and getting around New York City and New Jersey.

  • Secaucus Junction station in New Jersey extended its platforms to accommodate the longer trains needed to transport 10,000-12,000 fans to and from the game.
  • Another 30,000-40,000 fans are expected to ride one of the special Fan Express buses.
  • Volunteer ambassadors are on hand at airports, train and bus stations to assist fans in getting to their destination via mass transit.
Renewable Energy Certificates

Community Energy Wind Farm in Atlantic City, NJ - Photo: Bill WolfeThe past seven Super Bowls have included some kind of renewable energy agreement. This year PSEG (Public Service Electric and Gas Company) will offset every kilowatt of electricity used during the Super Bowl and related events by purchasing renewable energy certificates that support New Jersey wind and solar power projects.

How Green is MetLife Stadium?

MetLife Stadium is perhaps the greenest of all NFL stadiums as it is home to not just one but two teams, the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

Prior to opening in 2010, MetLife Stadium signed a Memorandum of Understanding in partnership with the U.S. EPA to become an environmental steward by reducing its carbon footprint during construction and ongoing operations.

Per a 2013 EPA report, MetLife Stadium reduced its carbon footprint by 234,834 MTCO2e (Metric Ton Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) which is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 48,924 vehicles. The stadium also saved an estimated $19,915,885 (not chump change).

The Stadium

MetLIfe Stadium Super Bowl XLVIII - Photo: Eduardo Munoz / ReutersThe old Giants’ stadium was demolished to make way for MetLife Stadium. During demolition and construction, an effort was made to reuse and recycle materials from the old stadium and purchase new materials with recycled content. Some of the stadium’s green features include:

  • Energy efficient HVAC systems, equipment, and lighting.
  • Solar ring with LED lighting.
  • Low flow faucets, shower heads, toilets, and waterless urinals.
  • Porous pavement and native plant landscaping.
  • A light rail station at the stadium entrance.
  • Recycling programs for the stadium and fans.
Green Restaurant Certification

MetLife Stadium is the first NFL stadium to earn Green Restaurant Certification in conjunction with its food service partner Delaware North Companies Sportservice. With over 200 on-site restaurants and service for up to 100,000 people in a day, it is the largest food service operation ever to receive this certification.

Some of the stadium’s green food service accomplishments include: using ENERGY STAR equipment, donating excess food, recycling and composting food and packaging waste, eliminating all Styrofoam, and using water-efficient fixtures.

A Missed Opportunity

80,000 plus fans are expected to brave the cold to attend Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ while over 100 million people watch the game on TV in living rooms and bars across the country.

The NFL has implemented some excellent green Super Bowl programs but has missed the boat on getting the word out.

The 288-page Super Bowl XLVIII Official Game Program devotes only half of page 68 to green Super Bowl efforts and barely mentions the green features of MetLife Stadium on page 110. At least last year we had the Geaux Green Game for fans.

Maybe one of the Super Bowl commercials will be for a clean tech company. I wish.

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