Play Ball with a Polluter – or Not?


marketing guru Jacquie Ottman weighs in on the brouhaha over
ExxonMobil’s high-profile advertising efforts at the Washington
Nationals’ new green ballpark.

Posted Sept. 2, 2008

By Jacquelyn Ottman, Sustainable Life Media

ExxonMobil is coming around to the fact that a green reputation is
necessary to compete. Among other steps, they are investing in their
R3M technology to remotely detect oil and gas and reduce drilling. From
a marketing perspective, they are running an extensive campaign in
major dailies and newsweeklies, and among other things, are sponsoring the Washington Nationals’ LEED-certified baseball park.


But not everyone is so comfortable with Exxon’s green marketing
efforts. Sponsorship of the baseball park is drawing flack from
environmental activists, who are pressing the Nationals to cancel
Exxon’s contract. Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for ExxonMobil notes that
[ExxonMobil] gets criticized for not doing enough for the environment,
then get criticized when we do.” Does he have a legitimate beef?


Analyze the situation from all angles. Defend Exxon’s right to free
speech. Think about the financial support for a LEED-certified ballpark
that might not be so easily replaced if support were withdrawn. Do ball
fans question, or are they even aware of – Exxon’s environmental record?


Consider any excuse for Exxon to advertise in the ballpark, but
never forget that activists are leery of a former environmental
transgressor’s commitment. And they’ll quickly don their policeman’s
cap to protect an unsuspecting public from greenwash.


Given their history of environmental transgressions, Exxon would be
best advised to pursue exemplary initiatives but not rely on paid
advertising to tout them. Rather, they should defer to the power of
third parties, PR efforts, the press, employees, and supportive
influentials to make their case for them until its safe to “go in the
water” on their own.


Still reeling from accusations of child labor abuses over a decade
ago, Nike has yet to invest a penny in paid green marketing efforts.
Yet, a track record of positive CSR and sustainable design innovation such as Recycle-a-Shoe and the Considered product line has garnered them much positive publicity.


Jacquelyn A. Ottman is president of J. Ottman Consulting. A regular contributer to SLM, Jacquie hosts our weekly Sustainable Brands e-newsletter.

No Responses to “Play Ball with a Polluter – or Not?”

  1. I’m concerned that Ms. Ottoman is suggesting a marketing approach rather than a sustainable approach. Perhaps ExxonMobil’s efforts are in earnest, but a better approach to determine their earnestness is not whether they are financially supporting a ballfield but in what ratio their “green” efforts measure up to their 20th century model of drill, baby, drill. I’d wager that they will extract as much oil from the ground as they possibly can before they are prohibited from doing so or it runs out. EcoAmerica? Just what is this site. Seems like the greenwash companies tried to pull about ten years ago, creating their own NGOs to say how great they were.

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