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Go Green for the Home Team: Sense of Place and Environmental Sustainability in Sport

The sport industry has a tremendous impact on the natural environment. As a result, sport organizations have implemented ways to reduce their impact ranging from energy upgrades, waste management programs, and fan engagement. However, fan engagement efforts have received mixed results to increase participation in sustainability initiatives. This paper proposes that sense of place can be leveraged using fan identification to increase participation in such initiatives, thereby decreasing the environmental impact of the sport organization and individual fans. A conceptual model is presented and practical examples are provided for the use and reference of sport management and sustainability educators or researchers

The purpose of this paper is to examine how leveraging sense of place (SOP), manifested through fan identification, can encourage sport fans to engage in sustainable behaviors while attending sporting events. Specifically, we use the conceptualization of sense of place (Jorgensen & Stedman, 2011) as a frame to understand how aspects of fan identification with a sport team can activate the environmental identity in fans to increase sustainable behaviors during their game day experience. Currently, there little to empirical evidence within the sport management literature examining sense of place and its connection to marketing environmental sustainability initiatives to fans. In the following sections, we provide an overview of relevant literature, including a summary of sense of place and fan identification to orient the reader, and make recommendations to sport management students, academics, and practitioners for leveraging specific aspects unique to their sport organization’s brand that can increase fans’ sustainable behaviors.

In conclusion, sport organizations have a tremendous impact on the natural environment. Sport fans are major contributors to this impact (Collins & Flynn, 2008; McCullough, 2013). However, previous research has demonstrated the difficulty with engaging sport fans in sustainable behaviors (Casper & Pfahl, 2012; Casper et al., 2014; McCullough & Cunningham, 2011). Even sport federations have cautioned sport managers about the difficulty to engage and manage the McCullough & Kellison Vol. 11, February 2016 ISSN: 2151-7452 environmental impact of sport fans (UNEP, 2010). Researchers have suggested that fan identification (McCullough, 2013) and SOP (Kim et al., 2015) can increase sustainable behaviors among fans. Yet previous research has not explicitly explored this connection. We propose a conceptual model and provide practical examples to show how SOP and fan identification can increase sustainable behaviors at sporting events. Sport management and sustainability instructors should consider this model when teaching ways to promote sustainable behaviors at large-scale events like sporting events. Future research should empirically test the model and the interaction of fan identification on SOP.

PS: Practical examples related to this article has been mentioned in a special part.


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