In its bid to host the 2016 Super Bowl, the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee committed to deliver a Net Positive event (i.e. one that would be a platform to do good – socially, environmentally and economically – for the benefit of the entire Bay Area.) It would also be the Greenest Super Bowl Ever. While the game was played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, during the 9-days prior to kick off, the action was in the Embarcadero section of San Francisco as it played host to hundreds of thousands of fans at free-to-the-public Super Bowl City. Home to concerts, interactive exhibits and corporate sponsors displaying their wares, Super Bowl City was also a bastion of green business as the Host Committee engaged several Sustainability Sponsors to help it make good on its Net Positive/Greenest Ever commitments. GreenSportsBlog spoke to executives of two of the Sustainability Sponsors–Neste and FloWater–to understand why they came on board and to get their takes on the experience.
Before diving into this story, I have to get something out of the way.
Neste has nothing at all to do with tea, unless its employees drink it from time to time. If you are thinking about the leafy beverage then your mind has gone to NesteA. With an “A” on the end. Get your mind back here.
What Neste is is the world’s leading supplier of renewable diesel.
And it is that growing and clean form of transportation fuel that drew the interest of the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee when it was making its plans to power Super Bowl City’s temporary grid with cleanly generated electricity. The electrons powering Super Bowl City had to be clean if the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 could really be Net Positive and the Greenest Ever.
Thus Neste stepped up with its 100% renewable diesel made from waste fats and residues like cooking oils. According to Dayne Delahoussaye, the company’s Legal Counsel & Regulatory Affairs Manager, North America, the product is “attractive for a number of uses, including at Super Bowl City, because standard generators can run renewable diesel–they don’t need to be adapted at all.”
Neste’s renewable diesel also filled the tanks of 100 charter Google gBuses that took fans from the Bay Area to Santa Clara on Game Day. It was estimated that the switch to renewable diesel took the equivalent of 2,000 cars off the road.
One can clearly see why the Host Committee wanted Neste. But why did Neste partner with Super Bowl 50 Host Committee? A 5-minute chat with Tuija Kalpala, Neste’s Marketing Manager for North America, made that answer eminently clear, as well.
“Neste has long been involved with sport,” said Kalpala, “In Finland, we are the title sponsors of the Neste Rally, as part of the World Rally Car Championship series. Some of the support vehicles there run on our renewable diesel product. In North America, of course there is nothing bigger than the Super Bowl. The fact that sustainability was important to Super Bowl 50 Host Committee and that renewable diesel was needed, gave us an opportunity to cooperate with the Host Committee. And California, and in particular the Bay Area, is an important market for us and it leads the world in terms of new, clean technology, so, we were very happy to be a sustainability partner of the Host Committee.”
Tuija Kalpala (r), Marketing Manager, North America for Neste, alongside Super Bowl 50 Host Committee Sustainability Director Neill Duffy. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)
How Neste would measure the success (or not) of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee sponsorship? Per Tuija Kalpala, “Well, our renewable diesel was successful in that we lowered carbon emissions from electricity generation by about 50% for Super Bowl City. From a marketing perspective, this is first time we have been official supplier of renewable diesel to a sports event in the US. Some aspects of it will be hard to measure as our logos were not present in Super Bowl City. On the other hand, we can set baseline standards for future US sports deals by measuring media pickup, social media engagement, and new business contacts made We do know that sport is greening in North America and we want to be a part of it.”
Amidst the booths and exhibits in Super Bowl City from marquee sponsors like Verizon, Levi’s, Hyundai and the NFL Network, stood an attractive if unassuming, blue and white water bottle refilling station from FloWater. Little did the thirsty passersby know that FloWater is an innovative post-start up, poised to disrupt the Water Hardware market and, in the process, help to make big events greener.
“Our goal is to dispense top quality, purified water that tastes incredible, that people can trust–without having to discard a plastic bottle,” offered Elizabeth Raffa, FloWater’s Marketing Director, “Now, the current state of mobile water dispensers is not nearly up to our standard–it’s not sanitary or very purified, the water often doesn’t taste good and it’s not fun.” Thus, FloWater took its time–two years–to get the product right–using that extra time to look at the entire system from filters, to the interface to usability to how people interacted with the device.
Elizabeth Raffa, FloWater’s Marketing Director, standing next to the FloWater dispenser in San Francisco’s Super Bowl City last month. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)
Raffa took me through what seemed like an advanced tutorial in Water Hardware and FloWater. The gist: FloWater, with its proprietary technology, dispenses H2O that’s purified 7 times (no other dispenser does this), goes through reverse osmosis (another important purification process), is mineral and electrolyte enhanced (helps the body absorb healthy water that’s free of chemicals and additives more quickly), and uses activated oxygen (destroying pollutants, bacteria, and odors in the water, increases the oxygen available in the water for your blood and muscles to use, and improves the taste.)
FloWater Refill Stations are sold or leased in 6 states (CA, HI, NV, VA, WA and FL) plus New York City so far –Raffa says the company, after a recent round of capital raising, is currently expanding nationally–with hospitality, education, and fitness industries as prime customers.
FloWater was born in Hawaii–no surprise there, as clean water and the environment are top priorities on the islands. It’s also no surprise that its first major sports sponsorship was the Vans Triple Crown, US surfing’s Super Bowl. CrossFit Games, Action Sports and the Coachella Music Festival soon followed.
Partnering with the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee was the first foray into team sports sponsorship for the company. As Raffa tells it, “We met the folks from the Host Committee in San Francisco in September. From there, it was a quick conversation, as they really needed Super Bowl City to be water bottle free. The Host Committee built our station’s super structure and provided reusable containers. They couldn’t have been more helpful.”
FloWater CEO Rich Razgaitis is convinced the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee experience demonstrates that team sports can be another high profile market: “We believe that if we can get into pro sports’ teams locker rooms, we can get the players. Some of those players will evangelize for FloWater and then we’ll get the fans.”
FloWater CEO Rich Razgaitis and Marketing Director Elizabeth Raffa (Photo credit: FloWater)
Speaking of evangelizing, Razgaitis preached the green gospel, as he brought the sermon/master class on Water Hardware and FloWater to a rousing finale: “People want to choose the greenest product. They want to do the right thing. But only if that product is also the best. In our case, we have to deliver superior hydration, superior taste, superior usability. And we have to be cool. Every time you fill up at our station, a plastic water bottle is not going to landfill. That’s cool. When you make it tasty and easy like we do, that’s cool. When athletes and teams and venues like Super Bowl City buy in, that’s cool. And when you have history on your side like we do–bottled water is becoming the ‘environmental cigarette,’ that’s cool too.”
Sounds like FloWater used its partnership with the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee as a springboard to change the world. Hallelujah!