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March 26, 2007 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (1) | Post A Comment

A Green Media Bubble (Sports Illustrated on Climate?)


I had to chuckle last week when I saw the cover of Sports Illustrated. A baseball player knee deep in water and a series of articles about how climate will change the way we play games, and even where we play them. Taking the high-end predictions about sea level rise almost as a given (which Gore is taking some heat over doing in An Inconvenient Truth but SI does without flinching), the articles show how much of Florida will be underwater, including which stadiums will disappear.

There is something sort of comical about the level of coverage on this topic. It’s not that the subject isn’t worthy of everyone screaming from the mountaintops — we need to do that. It’s just sort of funny to worry about which stadiums will get flooded out when the map means that the entire city of Miami will go away (and, elsewhere in the world, most of Bangladesh for that matter).

But humor aside, by and large, this kind of coverage is a good thing. It’s another way to reach people where they care about something…and god knows sports fans are deeply committed with their teams often ranked only slightly below their families in order of priority (and a bit higher than family on Sundays). While I worry that there’s really nowhere else to go with this level of attention but down, perhaps we’ll see this settle into everyday action and discussion more — much like the Internet went from over-hyped investment vehicle (sound like ethanol anyone?) to legitimate ongoing game-changer.

But there are some lessons here for business trying to understand these environmental challenges. The SI article is actually pretty smart about, say, the effects on ski resorts, showing how many fewer days of snowpack major locations are facing. That’s the kind of analysis a range of industries — tourism, agriculture, transportation — need to do to understand their near, medium, and long-term futures.

Perhaps the more interesting lesson is that SI unapologetically tailors the message squarely to the audience (right in the strike zone or wheelhouse they might say). Businesses trying to market the green should also think about who they are reaching, what matters to them, and what products they use as a lead-in with different market segments before hitting them with the 100% organic, locally grown, FSC-certified, no animal-testing, 100% recycled and recyclable, cancer-erasing widget (see also my previous post about “Green Leaders”).

No doubt, we live in an interesting age where Sports Illustrated can teach us something about green business.




On April 7, 2007, William Sarni said:

I was somewhat amused by the Sports Illustrated isssue on climate change until I was at the airport (actually several) and came across the Vanity Fair “Second Annual Green Issue”, the Town & Country “Special Green Issue”, the Time “Global Warming Survival Guide”, The Atlantic “Global Warming: Who Loses - Who Wins” issues and articles.

In my mind this raises two questions: where do we go from here; and, most importantly, who is the target audience of these “green issues”? Although Vanity Fair and Time flirt with substantive content on what to do regarding climate change and sustainability, the magazine issues really do not provide significant tools and resources for society to support meaningful change.

Which leads me to the more important conclusion that all of these “green issues” - none are printed on recycled paper - are targeted to privileged American consumers. The real need is for “green” to be accessible to the middle and lower income sectors of America. In some ways this is an issue of environmental justice - providing green affordable housing, mass transit, organic foods and products, clean/inexpensive energy, open space, etc. We fail if the “green issues and green transformation” is owned by the wealthy as a symbol of privledge (just like the diamonds and autos advertised in the “green issues”).

However, I remain optimistic as organizations such as Enterprise Community Partners provide green affordable housing to those who can benefit the most from the green movement. The green transformation embraced by the “common man” will be the next phase of this global revolution provided we focus on addressing the disparity of impacts of climate change on wealthy and poor nations, building truly sustainable industries and societes. We all have much to do.


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