Group questions partnership at a 'green' baseball stadium

The Washington Nationals' new stadium, which opened this year, became the first LEED-certified stadium in the US. But now an activist group, Strike Out Exxon, is protesting the ballpark's advertising partnership with ExxonMobil, saying it runs counter to what green stands for. However, a spokesperson at ExxonMobil says the company entered the partnership because it provided a great platform to promote energy efficiency.

In the news
The Washington Nationals' new stadium, which opened this year, became the first LEED-certified stadium in the US. But now an activist group, Strike Out Exxon, is protesting the ballpark's advertising partnership with ExxonMobil, saying it runs counter to what green stands for. However, a spokesperson at ExxonMobil says the company entered the partnership because it provided a great platform to promote energy efficiency.

"One of the things we focused on was using the venue of Nationals Park because it's an icon of energy efficiency," spokesman Alan Jeffers tells PRWeek. The Washington Nationals declined to comment.

Why does it matter?
Despite the controversy, Larry Farnsworth, VP at Crosby-Volmer International, says the partnership is a "win-win" for the Nationals and Exxon, though he points out that the public increasingly holds brands accountable for actions, rather than words.

"This means that they must be seen as credible, consistent, transparent, and a visionary," he says.

Jackie Reau, CEO of Game Day Communications, says the partnership likely makes good financial sense for the Nationals, and that Exxon's "steps in the right direction on these new environmental platforms" helps, too.

"When we look at sponsorships on behalf of clients, or with teams, it always works best when there's a vested interest in either a product that makes sense, or a project, or the community," she says.

Reau notes that an announcement of Exxon's sponsorship during the traditional seventh inning stretch was less appropriate, but that has since been canceled.
Five facts:

1 The Partnership for a Drug Free America was criticized in the mid-1990s for receiving funding from various drug, alcohol, and pharmaceutical companies.

2 A study of 6,000 Web users conducted by Burst Media in April 2008 found that 42% of consumers sometimes or usually investigate green claims made in ads.

3 Nationals Park, which cost more than $600 million to build, features recycled building materials and energy-efficient lighting.

4 Shell sponsors an energy blog called Next Generation Energy, which covers energy policy and alternative energy solutions, but doesn't have content control.

5 Chevrolet's sponsorship of a Christian music tour in 2002 was criticized by some who believed it was an inappropriate mix of Christian and corporate interests.

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