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Sport and Social Media: Perfect Partners for an Imperfect Climate

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

From the melting snow of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to the stifling heat of the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, climate change is proving relentless.
 
So are we going to sit back and let it ravage our lives and love of sport? As a former member of the Polish National Olympic Team in cycling, I definitely hope not. Let’s unite the power of sport with the might of social media and face up to the world’s environmental enemy number one. 
 
Fact – temperatures are rising

According to the World Bank, Earth could warm from its current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels to as high as 4°C by 2100.
 
What does that mean? More extreme heat waves, causing global health, socio-political and economic ramifications. The President of The World Bank is calling for action to hold warming below 2° C. The question is, what can we do?

Maximise the power of sport
 
Sport is not an obvious choice for addressing climate change. But, whichever way you look at it, sport is huge. It captivates billions, employs millions and is worth as much as 700 billion euros, making it one of the world’s biggest industries. 

Sport can shape the way people think about the environment – so has a vital role to play in delivering a powerful eco message. It keeps humans healthy and keeps the planet healthy too.

Call up the superstars
 
The universal power of sport is not only its popularity but also the celebrity status of its stars. High profile athletes make great ambassadors and role models. They can promote the effects of climate change, inspire people to change their lifestyles and help educate young people.
 
Of course, even the most determined actions of the most famous stars may not be enough to reverse the trend of climate change. Which is why we need to call on a new phenomenon that has taken the world by storm.
 
Harnessing the might of social media
 
As a father of two young athletes, I want the global sport community to understand and talk about the consequences of climate change. And one way of doing that is through social media.
 
Staggering numbers
 
The metrics of social media usage are mindboggling. At the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, there were 3 billion Facebook posts, comments, and likes during the tournament, and over 32 million tweets during the final match.
 
If you roll in ticket sales of 3 million and a global television audience of around 3.6 billion, you’ll see there’s more people interacting with the tournament than the world’s population!
 
Where it began…London 2012

The incredible social media explosion in Brazil had its roots two years earlier at the Olympic Games. At London 2012, digital coverage exceeded traditional broadcast coverage for the first time. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ attracted 4.7 million followers, and there were 150 million tweets during the course of the Games.

Not just for the young
 
Don’t think social media is just for the youth either. The fastest growing age group are people over 65 with usage tripling between 2009 and 2013 to 43%. And almost two-thirds of 50-64 year olds now use social networks to communicate too. These people are avid sports fans with the time, flexibility and money to enjoy sports and latest gadgets.
 
An ever-growing opportunity
 
One billion Facebook users in 2014, 255 million Twitter users every month. The pull of social media is growing by the day. Then, there’s the ‘selfie’. It’s one reason why as many as a trillion photos will be taken this year, boosted by apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
 
Sport and social media – partners for a better world So, it’s clear. Sport and social media are natural partners in the fight against climate change. The future of sport is clearly linked to how we interact with our phones and tablets.
 
How sport and social media are making a difference
 
From sports stars like Lionel Messi challenging his Facebook followers to join Earth Hour by turning off all lights, to sports executives lobbying politicians for climate change awareness, sport and social media are coming together to create a momentum for change. Supporting sports initiatives with posts and tweets offers us a tremendous opportunity to get our message across.
 
CONNECT and EVOLVE
 
Social media is all about connecting. Sport is all about connecting. We at Connect4Climate are all about connecting. The challenge is to get social media and sport working hand-in-hand to face up to climate change.
 
We also need to evolve. In an environment of relentless climate change and limited resources, it’s vital we take advantage of new digital and networking opportunities to start making a difference. Our reward? A healthier planet for our children, their children and all future generations.
 

Photograph by John Hogg via World Bank Photo Collection, available here
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