Green Sponsor of the Month: Ecotricity

UKSA’s first ever Green Sponsor of the month is Ecotricity, a green energy supplier that has built a dynamic business around wind farms, solar parks and ‘green gas’. Its key sponsorship platform is Forest Green Rovers, a modestly-sized English football club that it first partnered with in 2010. Since then, the sponsorship has generated huge awareness both for the sponsor and the causes it represents. Here are just a few of the reasons why the UKSA team singled it out:

Clever choice of ‘asset’: Most sponsors go chasing after Premier League partnerships and pay a high price for the privilege. With FGR, Ecotricity recognised there was an opportunity to get into sponsorship at a lower price point and take total control of both the substance and messaging of the partnership. A key insight was that Ecotricity’s agenda is so distinctive, that the size of the club was less important than the purity of the message. As long as the brand owner and club stay 100% committed to sustainability, the message cuts through. 

Total commitment to the core message: In the environmental sustainability game, it’s easy for sponsors to be accused of greenwashing – even if they are sinking serious investment into the issue. But the most militant critics would struggle to pick holes in FGR’s green credentials. As you’d expect, the club is powered by green energy and encourages the use of green transportation among its staff. But it goes much further than that. The pitch is sustainable and organic, meaning it is free from pesticides. The stadium collects rainwater to irrigate the pitch and there are EV charging points at the site for fans with electric cars. It would be interesting to see what happened if FGR ever became involved in European competition (which involves flying), but they’d probably find a solution.

Distinctive imagery: The name Forest Green Rovers is a great start for a club with environmental associations. But the club colour scheme also helps amplify the core message. The 2020/21 home kit was green with a quasi-safari design which not only reinforces the sponsor messaging, but also stands out from the usual palate of team shirts. Even more impressive are plans for a new stadium to be built entirely of timber – with artist impressions currently doing the rounds. The stadium will sit on the same site as a green technology business park, with sustainably-built commercial offices and light industrial units.

Successful ‘hearts and minds’ strategy: Getting football fans to buy in to a green message was never going to be an easy proposition – which probably explains why Ecotricity decided to partner up with a Gloucestershire-based club. Winning over hearts and minds at more traditional urban club might have proved a tougher call. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that FGR fans have been won over by the club’s innovative stance. In a recent interview with UN News, Ecotricity founder and FGR chairman Dale Vince said: “Our fans don't just tolerate this sustainability concept, they embrace it in a life-changing way. So many of them have told me their families have gone veggie or vegan, drive electric cars and have solar panels at home.”

Adept use of PR messaging: Dale Vince is a flamboyant character who has proved to be PR gold in his own right. But the club has also achieved huge amounts of exposure around key initiatives. Long before Greggs launched its Vegan sausage roll, FGR took the decision to become the world’s first Vegan football club. That move generated huge amounts of PR at the time and continues to be a point of distinction, proving elite athletes can function perfectly well on vegan diets. This year, the benefits of striking out in a distinctive direction were underlined when the club struck a deal for its Matchday food to be distributed nationwide via Ocado. FGR’s vegan food is marketed under the name Devil’s Kitchen, providing a further channel for Ecotricity to get its message out to new audiences.

Creation of a green ecosystem: Like-minded brands pull together, so it’s no surprise Ecotricity has been able to leverage its association with FGR as a way to connect with other green brands. This week, it announced that YouTube channel Fully Charged has secured the naming rights to its stadium. All told, 100 groups put their names forward as potential naming rights partners, underlining the way in which FGR has enabled Ecotricity to forge new business partnerships. It would be no surprise if some of those 100 end up being based on the new business park referenced above. As an aside, Ecotricity’s partnership with FGR has led to high levels of recognition among influential global bodies driving the climate change agenda.

Not every brand can be as green as Ecotricity, but if you have a candidate for Green Sponsor of the Month let us know here. Any brand that has used sponsorship to advance its sustainability credentials is welcome to put themselves up for consideration.

View the 2022 Winners

Follow us on Twitter