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SportsPro Hackathon 2022: Reviewing the top solutions for sport’s sustainable future

Ten universities took part in the second edition of the SportsPro Hackathon from 8th to 10th April, when students were tasked with designing sustainable solutions for the sports industry. Here, SportsPro profiles the top three ideas and offers a team-by-team rundown of each concept put forward.

21 April 2022 Rory Jones


Students from some of the leading sports business courses around the world assembled virtually in early April for the second edition of the SportsPro Hackathon, which this year was co-hosted by Wonderful Copenhagen.

The event, which took place over more than 50 hours from 8th to 10th April, featured 20 teams from ten different universities, including the University of East London, Bournemouth University, Sheffield Hallam University, Loughborough University, and the AMOS Sport Business School. Three US universities also took part this year – Ohio University, New York’s Adelphi University and Columbia University – with entries from the University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) and Fifa’s International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) completing a competitive field.

Similar to the inaugural edition in 2021, the participating teams were once again tasked with developing solutions within the triple bottom line framework of people, planet and profit. They also had to ensure that their ideas aligned with the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), with the overall aim of putting forward a concept that would make the sports industry more sustainable.

Final presentations by each team were assessed by a panel of five judges, which comprised of Wonderful Copenhagen’s head of sustainability Pil Krogh Tygesen, The Sustainability Report founder Matthew Campelli, Sport Positive Summit founder and chief executive Claire Poole, 5T Sports founder Aileen McManamon, and professor Simon Chadwick of Paris’ Emlyon Business School.

Over the course of the weekend, the contestants were able to draw on the advice of a team of vastly experienced mentors from organisations such as Intel, World Rugby, The Ocean Race, Euroleague Basketball, Oracle, and the Seattle Kraken. The event also featured a Q&A with Susie Tomson, the director of sustainability at ThinkBeyond, and a project management masterclass from Chris Collins, president of NorthStar Solutions Group.

The challenges

Primarily related to the city of Copenhagen and its support of sustainable solutions and infrastructures, there were three challenges for the students to choose from.

In the first challenge, inspired by the Danish city’s SailGP event in August, teams were tasked with developing a product, solution or business model that would help to create the most sustainable mass viewership event in the sports industry.

The second challenge, built around Ironman Copenhagen, asked teams to present sustainable concepts that could be applied by mass participation event organisers, while the third task involved creating a solution for stadiums, venues and multi-use arenas such as the CopenHill ski slope.

The Winners

First place: UEL Phoenix

University: University of East London (UEL)

Challenge: Mass viewership

Product: EcoSport

Team members: Shahrukh Sohail, Akash Joseph, Nimish Rampal

The winner of the first challenge and overall event was the UEL Phoenix team, whose stated aim was to make sports 100 per cent carbon neutral.

With that in mind, the team pitched the EcoSport app, which is built around a rewards-based programme and educates fans on how they can help make their favourite sports more sustainable.

After downloading the app, fans would be able to earn points and discounts on things like food, travel, accommodation and merchandise for adopting more eco-friendly behaviours such as taking public transport, eating vegan food and purchasing sustainable merchandise products.

Ultimately, the app would encourage fans to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle around the sports that they follow, allowing users to log their activity and access insights regarding their eco-friendly habits. Another unique selling point is that the platform would be sport-agnostic and scalable, while the team highlighted that its idea meets two of the UN’s SDGs.

During their market research, UEL Phoenix, who will present their concept on day two of SportsPro Live in London, discovered that 83.8 per cent of those surveyed would alter their sports behaviour if it were to have a positive impact on climate change, while 94.6 per cent would be prepared to do so if they received rewards in return.

In terms of the team’s business plan, UEL Phoenix said EcoSport would require UK£250,000 (US$325,000) in year one, followed by UK£5 million (US$6.5 million) in seed funding to help it reach one million users within two years. The team envisaged generating revenue from corporate partnerships, grants from international donors and ad placements, meaning the app would be free to use for fans.

“What me and the judges liked about this particular project,” said The Sustainability Report’s Matthew Campelli, “was that it combined gamification, it combined fan engagement, [and] it looked at all three [aspects] of the triple bottom line.”

It combined gamification, it combined fan engagement, and it looked at all three aspects of the triple bottom line

Matthew Campelli, Editor, The Sustainability Report

Second place: Markit

University: Columbia University

Challenge: Venues

Product: Markit

Team members: Agustin Montes de Oca, Pramod Nair, Yash Agarwal, Andrew Moss

Columbia University’s Markit concept secured top prize for the third challenge, with the team’s solution for addressing the sports industry’s contribution to textile waste winning over the judges.

The team’s research revealed that US sports apparel accounts for 3.4 million tons of textile waste every year, equivalent to US$113 billion worth of material, with professional franchises losing between US$500,000 and US$1 million in unsold merchandise per season.

To tackle the problem, Markit would seek to leverage stadiums and arenas in the US as collection hubs for sports consumer waste, creating a circular model whereby materials are diverted away from landfills into resale, recycling and upcycling streams.

Markit won because of its clear focus on real sustainable facts and its bold ambitions to generate both behaviour level change and systemic level change

Pil Krogh Tygesen, Senior Project Manager, Wonderful Copenhagen

Through the initiative, sports fans would be able to collect Markit credits from donating their unwanted apparel, which would then be sorted and either recycled, upcycled or listed. Reusable products would then be made available on Markit’s ‘re-commerce’ platform, which would allow shoppers to redeem credits and access discounts. Orders would then be fulfilled using sustainable shipping methods, including free stadium pick-ups.

Meeting as many as six of the UN’s SDGs, the team envisaged that Markit’s key partners would be US stadiums and arenas, venue logistics providers, and professional sports teams. The students projected that Markit’s revenue would reach more than US$66 million by year five, which would be generated through its re-commerce sales, as well as selling textiles to upcycling organisations and high-value recyclers, in addition to a ‘shipping and carbon offset’ fee for home deliveries.

“Markit won because of its clear focus on real sustainable facts and its bold ambitions to generate both behaviour level change and systemic level change,” noted Pil Krogh Tygesen of Wonderful Copenhagen.

Third place: Team Nera

University: CIES

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: Apptivity

Team members: Adél Koves, Alberto Trovamala, Emmi Zoccolan, Nabor Garcia, Nada Sakr, Rong Chen

Team Nera won the mass participation challenge for their proposed Apptivity fitness app.

Designed to consolidate the most iconic mass sporting events, the platform would allow participants to convert their movement into digital currency which can later be exchanged for sustainable initiatives.

Highlighting the fact that more than one million people take part in marathons annually, Team Nera’s idea aimed to leverage the growing popularity of wearables and fitness apps by building an engaged online community where users can compete with each other in private or public leagues. They would then be able to exchange the points they earn for sustainable initiatives – whether it be ocean preservation, reforestation or recycling – sponsored by the app’s strategic partners.

Working under the four strategic pillars of sustainability, a healthy lifestyle, community and gamification, the team found during its market research that more than a quarter of respondents would be interested in using a fitness app if one of the benefits was preserving the environment.

In terms of revenue, Team Nera planned to generate income from sponsors, partnerships with sports venues and training facilities, and in-app purchases. Its digital marketing strategy involved using social influencers and professional athletes to promote the app.

Commenting on Apptivity, Aileen McManamon of 5T Sports said that Team Nera’s project was “very well rounded” and “very thoroughly” addressed the triple bottom line.

Best of the rest

Adelphi Panthers

University: Adelphi University

Challenge: Venues

Product: New York Liberty Community Center

The Adelphi Panthers took on the CopenHill challenge and put forward the New York Liberty Community Center, a multi-sport facility which would also promote wellbeing and serve as a hub for education on sustainability. Housing three indoor soccer pitches and nine basketball courts, the complex would feature solar panels on its roof, LED lights and kinetic floor tiles.

French Green Corporation

University: AMOS Sport Business School

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: French Green Corporation

This team aimed to leverage the popularity of running and the willingness of the sport’s community to support sustainable causes. The French Green Corporation planned to launch a B2B consulting practice to advise event organisers wanting to become more sustainable. They also aimed to create a digital platform that would enable athletes to learn what organisers are doing in terms of sustainability and earn points while training which could be converted into donations to charities of their choice.

London Monarchs

University: AMOS Sport Business School

Challenge: Venues

Product: Save Your City

The London Monarchs’ Save Your City campaign focused on raising awareness of sustainability at Twickenham Stadium. The wide-ranging concept included plans for a ‘one try, one tree’ initiative, an entertainment village which would open up to three hours before matches, and half-time activations that would educate fans about protecting the environment.

Likeable Eight

University: AMOS Sport Business School

Challenge: Venues

Product: Courchevel redevelopment

Using learnings from CopenHill’s sustainability programme, the Likeable Eight proposed a redevelopment of France’s Courchevel ski resort, intending to reduce its carbon footprint. The presentation highlighted how the ski resort market currently contributes to environmental issues such as deforestation and water waste, and proposed that Courchevel could incorporate solutions such as sustainable ski lifts and a new waste management programme to tackle those problems.

BH Club

University: Bournemouth University

Challenge: Venues

Product: Echo

Highlighting the fact that the 2019 FA Community Shield soccer fixture at London’s Wembley Stadium resulted in 30 tonnes of waste, the BH Club proposed an interactive recycling bin called Echo, which would use gamification to incentivise fans to recycle at sports venues. The smart bins, shaped like people and placed throughout arenas, would record and collect data on the amount of material recycled by fans and display a scoreboard to reflect which team’s supporters are leading the way.

Swiss Six

University: CIES

Challenge: Venues

Product: Multi-use stadium for Cairo 2036

The first of five teams from the Fifa Master course, the Swiss Six aimed to address the issue of stadiums becoming ‘white elephants’ after hosting major events. Using Egypt’s bid to stage the 2036 Olympic Games as a case study, the team put forward a plan for a long-term multifunctional facility in Cairo that could be used for sporting and non-sporting purposes after the event.

Sustain the Flame

University: CIES

Challenge: Mass viewership

Product: Sustain the Flame

As climate change continues to impact the number of cities capable of hosting a Winter Olympics, this group proposed having three ‘Winter Olympic Capitals’ which would each stage the Games three times in the space of 36 years. In doing so, the team believed it would secure the future of the event, reduce infrastructure costs and protect natural habitats.

Games for Change

University: CIES

Challenge: Mass viewership

Product: Games 4 Change (G4C)

Pointing out that 77 per cent of people view the Olympic Games as unsustainable, Games for Change planned to launch a feature within the Olympics app that would encourage sustainable behaviours both before and during the event. The solution would allow users to earn points for sustainable actions, which could be redeemed for sponsor prizes, donations to sustainable causes, or in-venue discounts.

Project Icarus

University: CIES

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: Athub

The final CIES team described Athub as a ‘one-stop digital platform providing athletes information and general resource’. The app would be a destination for sportsmen and women to access features such as online courses, consultation advice and other services.

Green Loughborians

University: Loughborough University

Challenge: Venues

Product: Circulus

Loughborough University’s Green Loughborians presented Circulus, a consultancy service designed to help multi-use sports venues tackle the issue of food waste. Branded as the ‘one-stop-shop for food waste solutions’, Circulus proposed solutions such as generating energy from food waste on site, selling bags of leftover food, and providing education on the impact of food waste, among other services.

Team Lightning

University: Loughborough University

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: Move Beyond

Using the UK’s Great Run Company as a case study, Team Lightning highlighted the fact that first-time participants in mass participation events are unlikely to sustain activity levels beyond race day. The team’s subscription-based Move Beyond fitness app would therefore allow users to connect with fellow race participants, stay active, and take part in sustainable activities, for which they could earn rewards.

OU Elite

University: Ohio University

Challenge: Venues

Product: BetGreen

The stated aim of Ohio University’s OU Elite team was to create a financial incentive for sports properties to see sustainability as a lucrative investment. Users of the BetGreen product would be able to bet on what they believe would be the most sustainable sports property, event and venue over a given time, which would be determined by environmental scores assigned based on a weighted index.

Team Eco-Active

University: Sheffield Hallam University

Challenge: Mass viewership

Product: SWAP

Team Eco-Active’s SWAP concept focused on implementing more sustainable signage at sports venues and events. The team cited data from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Uefa which found that the majority of signs at mass sporting events are unrecyclable. SWAP therefore advocated for the use of recycled and reusable materials to replace the signage currently installed at sports events.

Hallam 8

University: Sheffield Hallam University

Challenge: Venues

Product: VenPlus

Aiming to reduce the waste caused by sports venues, the Hallam8’s VenPlus app would help distribute surplus food from stadiums and multi-use sports facilities to charities and food banks. Depending on their subscription tier, venue operators would gain insights into both how much food waste they produce now and are likely to produce in the future.

The Green Huddle

University: Sheffield Hallam University

Challenge: Venues

Product: CarbonDive

The Green Huddle’s CarbonDive app would track the carbon footprint of consumers who buy food products at venues. Users would scan a QR code that generates a carbon footprint score that highlights the impact a purchase has on the environment, starting from the supplier through to consumption by the consumer.

Hallam Green Machines

University: Sheffield Hallam University

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: TryB

The Hallam Green Machines planned to launch TryB, a female-only mass participation event aiming to be as sustainable as possible. The first year would focus on a national event in London before regional events were rolled out across the UK in year two, with international expansion earmarked for year three.

Kenneth’s Disciples

University: University College of Northern Denmark

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: Sharehow

Aiming to ‘bring back football to the communities’, Sharehow is a web portal designed to address the issue of retaining young people in Danish youth clubs, particularly in soccer. It would serve as a destination for volunteers, coaches and managers to share their expertise when it comes to keeping young people involved in sport.

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