DS Smith: Cardboard Cutouts Ready for Empty Stadiums

A creative way to give athletes a safe dose of support.

Sports teams looking to resume games without spectators can safely fill their empty seats and create some much-needed atmosphere, thanks to DS Smith. A leading provider of sustainable corrugated packaging, the company has readied production of recyclable cardboard replacement fans for use at arenas forced to limit attendance of the real thing.

DS Smith announced today the launch of its design and manufacturing plans, which includes an initial approach to the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer – offering quick, reliable and sustainable options for teams wanting to fill empty venues.

“We look to sports as a unifier, and that’s been missing. We want to help solve that. By using a versatile material like cardboard, we can support teams across the country to design a unique atmosphere while fans stay home to maintain social distancing because of the coronavirus,’’ said  Barry Nelson, Managing Director of Sales, Marketing and Innovation for the North America Packaging and Paper Division of DS Smith.

DS Smith is a veteran international player on the packaging scene, and recently expanded its North American box-making and recycling operations. In the UK, it already is producing customized, branded “fans,” made of recycled, corrugated material. They easily slip over existing stadium seats, and soccer clubs in Europe say they will allow the replica supporters to be displayed during matches.”

DS Smith, the first U.S. manufacturer to unveil large, sustainable cardboard production plans to help enliven the nation’s sports scene, will make the likenesses of cheering male and female fans at its newly opened packaging plant in Lebanon, Ind., and another in Columbia, S.C. They’ll have arms raised, some in a V for victory, and with in-house pre-print capabilities, can be custom designed in a combination of tones, in solid or striped clothing to match team colors and even holding images of a foam finger or baseball bat.

Sporting events across the country are working on safe ways to move forward, some limiting the number of spectators and others prohibiting any onsite, the result of physical-distancing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The NBA is among those close to resuming its abbreviated season, scheduled to start late next month at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Nelson said that besides approaching pro leagues, DS Smith will reach out to universities, high schools and others eager to fill their seats with a bit of normalcy during games. The Indiana plant, for example, can produce more than 50,000 durable, corrugated fans in an eight-hour shift.

“There is a motivation that goes with playing. This simulates having real fans in the seats and gives a sense of perspective to the players that they’re not all alone,” Nelson said.

The company’s creation of a literal, sustainable fanbase includes water-resistant cutouts for outdoor venues, using its patented Greencoat, a wax-free, 100% recyclable material. The indoor cardboard fans will be fully recyclable as well.

About DS Smith

DS Smith is a leading provider of corrugated packaging worldwide, supported by recycling and papermaking operations. A member of the FTSE 100, DS Smith focuses on creating innovative and sustainable packaging solutions, using a closed-loop recycling model – in which paper and corrugated is collected, recycled and then used again to make packaging materials. North American operations are headquartered in Atlanta, with 16 manufacturing, paper and recycling facilities, totaling more than 2,000 employees. Using the combined expertise of its divisions – including Packaging, Recycling, Paper – DS Smith works with customers to develop solutions that reduce complexity and deliver results throughout the supply chain.

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Caroline Curran

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David Lindsay

David Lindsay

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