Forest Green Rovers recently hit the headlines for being promoted to the football league. However, their sponsor Ecotricity earned equal coverage when it brought a vegan-only diet to the club. What can brands learn from this unique tale?
This May saw sporting history in the making when non-league side Forest Green Rovers were promoted to the Football League for the first time in the club’s 128-year history.
This alone would have been enough to deserve national headlines; however, Forest Green has an extra claim to fame – they are Britain’s only fully vegan club. The players are asked not to eat red meat and the usual greasy burgers at the ground have been replaced by plant-based alternatives.
The reason behind this cross-club lifestyle choice isn’t some PR stunt or driven by a physiological superstition that it will lead to wins. Instead, it’s an honest display of an organisation living its values and taking its message to the world.
The club’s chairman is Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, nicknamed ‘the hippie tycoon’.
Back in 2010, Gloucester-based Forest Green Rovers were suffering financial difficulties. So Vince took on the club, recognising its value both as an employer and as part of his local area’s heritage.
But Vince also saw his chairmanship as an opportunity to take his vision of a more sustainable world to a whole new audience and show that green values can apply to all walks of life and not just energy generation. The fact that the team name evokes images of lush woodlands and sustainability was no doubt a nice coincidence that topped off the relationship.
Brands can learn a lot from this story: choose your values wisely based on your passion, live by them and find new and exciting channels to communicate with new audiences – in this case, Ecotricity has achieved publicity by association. Rather than expecting overnight results Ecotricity and Forest Green Rovers have continued perfecting both their game and their approach to sustainability. It has taken them seven years to reach this point – but today they have a reason to celebrate and an enticing story that the media is queuing up to tell.