No Fans? No Problem: DS Smith Ready to Produce Cardboard Cutouts to Fill Empty Sports Stadiums

DS Smith's cardboard fans give athletes a safe dose of support. (Photo: DS Smith)

DS Smith, a leading provider of sustainable corrugated packaging, has found a creative way to give athletes support in empty stadiums. 

In a press release via BusinessWire, the company says it is the first in the US to announce designs and large-scale manufacturing plans for cardboard cutout fans that will fill the empty seats in sports events.

Sports teams looking to resume games without spectators can safely fill their empty seats and create some much-needed atmosphere. 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 stadium seats, and soccer clubs in Europe are allowing the replica supporters to be displayed during matches.

DS Smith, the first U.S. manufacturer to unveil large-scale, 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, beginning next month at Walt Disney World in Florida. And MLB has issued a 60-game schedule to start in late July in empty ballparks.

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.

View the full release here.