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The carbon footprint of the Super Bowl

The environmental impact of the Super Bowl, a pinnacle event in American sports, extends beyond the game itself, with a significant carbon footprint. Contrary to expectations, this footprint is not predominantly tied to travel or the event's energy consumption but is significantly influenced by the environmental repercussions of Super Bowl advertising.

The Carbon Footprint of the Super Bowl_Close-up on American football player during a match, Super Bowl 2024_visual 1Close-up of an American football player during a match, Super Bowl. AI generated picture. 

Ads, both before and after the event, contribute to concerns among environmentally conscious consumers and investors, prompting environmental experts to emphasise the imperative to address the considerable environmental impact of this beloved sporting event.

Read more: The importance of carbon offsetting in achieving net zero

The global football industry, responsible for emitting over 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, parallels the scale of Denmark's yearly emissions. The massive viewership of major events, such as Super Bowl, surpassing 99 million last year, underscores the need for organisations to evaluate the environmental impact of such large-scale sporting occasions and other large events.

Read more: Taylor Swift's Eras Tour: its carbon footprint and offset strategies

Major sports leagues, including the NFL and NBA, can play a pivotal role in promoting sustainability, influencing viewers and addressing unforeseen environmental consequences associated with these events.

Estimates suggest that major sports leagues generate about 35,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, covering fan emissions alone. Celebrities, like Taylor Swift, contribute significantly to the event's carbon footprint through private jet travel.

Read more: Taylor Swift's eco-tune: addressing her high carbon footprint

Beyond individual emissions, the energy consumption to power stadiums, resource-intensive field maintenance, and the sale of consumables at games significantly impact the environment. However, the most substantial contributor to the Super Bowl's carbon footprint is digital advertising.

The Carbon Footprint of the Super Bowl_Super Bowl Average Ad Cost, 2002-2021 (in million USD) illustration_visual 2Super Bowl Average Ad Cost, 2002-2021 (in million USD) illustration. 

Advertisers often focus on the $7 million cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad slot, but the environmental impact is overlooked. In 2021, Super Bowl ads emitted as much CO2 as 100,000 Americans, totalling around 2 million tonnes. Data from iSpot.tv shows that 56 advertisers with 67 spots created 6.3 billion TV ad impressions, 26 million online views, and 64 billion social impressions. 

Pre-Super Bowl, there were 4 billion digital ad impressions, equivalent to 4,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent. In 2022, the top 15 ads generated 470 million views, highlighting a substantial long-tail effect. The Super Bowl had 115 million viewers last year, a 3 million increase from the previous year.

Data shows that 1 million ad impressions equal 1 tonne of CO2. This also equals 1 round trip from Boston to London per passenger, charging 121,000 smartphones, or 2.4 million plastic straws.

Efforts are underway to make the Super Bowl more sustainable, with the NFL leading initiatives. NFL Green, a programme addressing the environmental impact of major events, focuses on community projects, including ecosystem restoration. The Green Initiative will focus on tree planting and creating green spaces. Susan Groh from NFL Green stated, ‘The Super Bowl is here and gone, but when we are able to implement these greening projects throughout the community, it leaves a lasting legacy and just an impact that lasts for years to come.’

Measure your carbon footprint

In addition to sustainable practices, stakeholders are using carbon credits to offset emissions, emphasising the importance of environmental responsibility in large-scale sports events. Carbon credits have been purchased by Entergy and the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee to compensate for their flight emissions. Carbon credits (or carbon units) represent emissions reductions generated by offset projects, such as nature-based projects.

While strides are being made, there's a collective call for enhanced environmental action to balance the Super Bowl with environmental sustainability.

At DGB Group, we specialise in developing nature-based projects that generate top-quality, verified carbon units that help organisations, individuals, or industries such as sporting events or travel agencies, to compensate for their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. As the demand for more sustainable events increases, we offer the ideal solution to address these large carbon footprints while contributing to nature.

Learn more about our carbon units and how they can reduce your carbon footprint

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