Welcome Race Fans…to CSV?

Yankee Stadium has now fallen silent as the Bronx Bombers were eliminated by Detroit last night. A week ago, however, while the Yankees season was still alive, a different sort of event unfolded in Yankee Stadium as a unique group, Beyond Sport, convened over 150 sports industry representatives to talk about the role of sports in social change.

League and team reps hailed from the MLB, NBA, NFL, MLS, NHL, EPL…and, well, seemingly whatever three letter acronym describes your favorite sport of choice.

FSG’s co-founder, Michael Porter, gave the keynote address focused on the role that Shared Value can play in sports. Noting that most sports teams are engaging in primarily philanthropic community-based efforts, he encouraged teams and leagues to address the social issues surrounding their sports in a way that drives business value too. A fair enough call to action, but practically speaking, what could Shared Value look like in practice for professional sports?

Take the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, for instance. Faced with a deregulating state energy authority, the Pocono Raceway performed a business-driven analysis that suggested that their energy costs could rise by as much as 40-60% – any business would be alarmed by the prospects of a key cost rising so precipitously. So, they set out to figure what they could do about it. The business asset they had most readily in abundance was space – so they evaluated how they could connect all of that space with the various power options at their disposal – wind, geothermal, solar, etc. And, a business case emerged that suggested that solar power was going to be their best bet to combat the energy price increases they faced….$16M in solar farm investments and later the track is not only generating power for itself but driving a new revenue source by returning energy to the grid.

Some stats from Pocono:

  • 3MW Pocono Solar Project came online after just 3 months of construction with 40,000 photovoltaic modules covering nearly 25 acres
  • Will produce more than 72 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy over the next 20 years
  • Will generate enough power to provide the electricity needs for close to 1,000 homes beyond the power needs of the Raceway

As it turns out, according to track president Brandon Igdalsky, the story, however, didn’t end there. A funny thing happened on the way to returning power to the Pennsylvania grid – race goers started providing overwhelmingly positive feedback on Pocono’s solar investments. And, Brandon believes that the track’s green initiatives have not only attracted new fans to his track, but also have contributed to a new way for NASCAR to think about creating shared value…in a sport known, even as he acknowledged, more for resource usage than resource creativity.

Congratulations to the Beyond Sport team for a great event and let’s hope examples like Pocono provide the impetus needed for other sports to move beyond philanthropy and into CSV.

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