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How sports rightsholders and brands have helped to inspire oceanic preservation movement



Brownie points if you spotted the news in Philip Hammond’s Autumn budget that there will be a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled plastic. The news was dominated by Hammond’s statement that single-use waste is “convenient for consumers, but deadly for our wildlife and our oceans.

Whilst some might have wanted to see the government also introduce a ‘latte levy’ on plastic drinks lids as something visible in city-dwellers’ day-to-day, the unseen impact of our disposable lifestyle is something we should all care about.

The main source of information on the issue of oceanic preservation for Joe Bloggs has been through the TV screen: Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series, The Cove in 2009, Blackfish in 2013, and, most recently, Drowning In Plastic, which pulled no punches for the British public with some of its shocking footage.

In the last few years, we have seen more brands creating campaigns that align with a public interest in improving the state of our oceans. As more information is becoming readily available and shared with us, plastic’s impact on ocean wildlife is arguably the most emotionally compelling source for promoting oceanic sustainability.

So, how can brands, rightsholders and event organisers capitalise on this increased public awareness and good-will?

Sailing has been leading the front, with a number of initiatives from Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team, newly named INEOS Team UK, debuting the UK’s first Sea Bin last year. The device collects floating debris and harmful microplastics, and is capable of collecting up to 20,000 plastic bottles a year.

It’s impossible to discuss the promotion of clean seas and sailing without citing the #TurnTheTideOnPlastic race team, debuted at the infamously demanding Volvo Ocean Race in 2017-18, skippered by British sailor Dee Caffari MBE. The team was put together to build awareness of the United Nations’ Clean Seas campaign and capture valuable scientific data on microplastics in remote regions. It is an example of how an international organisation can use sponsor rights to create awareness about their mission, whilst still echoing the Volvo Ocean Race’s commitment to its comprehensive sustainability programme that is built on compelling story telling.

And what better demographic to tap into on environmental issues than surfers? The beach-style beer brand Corona has upped the naming rights ante for one of the World Surf League’s major international competitions, changing the name from the Corona Bali Pro to the Corona Bali PROtected. The event brought local authorities, activists, businesses and community groups together to action an increasing issue in the region that is becoming a threat to the Indonesian tourism trade.

Corona have also brought the topic of ocean plastic to major cities around the world in 2018 by building billboards out of locally sourced ocean litter, in a campaign named the “Wave of Waste”. The brand even launched a pair of sunglasses, in partnership with ocean health charity Parley, made entirely from plastic recovered from marine debris and coasts earlier this year. This was part of the creative collaboration campaign ‘Corona x Parley: 100 Islands Protected by 2020’.

This isn’t the first collaboration Parley has undertaken. Adidas have been partnered with them since 2015 to deliver 100% recycled ocean plastic football kits. To represent the longevity of the partnership, Parley even launched the Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus 2018/19 3rd kits.

It’s clear that there is a rising global interest in looking after the environment, which is influencing consumers to respond to brand narratives that are built on sustainable values that reflect their own views. Ultimately people are drawn to brands by these passionate views, not the brands themselves. Hopefully the success of these campaigns and partnerships will not only help CMOs connect their brands more effectively with their audiences, but will ultimately help address the near irreversible impact we are having on our oceans.



Tom Smith, Junior Account Executive, Synergy.