By Ken McEntee
Perhaps the dumbest idea of the year that wasn’t initiated by a professional politician, DS Smith is looking to sell cardboard people to Major League Baseball and other professional sports leagues to take the place of human beings in empty stadiums where games are taking place.
“No fans? No problem,” DS Smith announced, suggesting that sports teams looking to resume games without spectators can create some “much-needed atmosphere” with the corrugated cutouts.
The company today introduced its design and manufacturing plans, which includes an initial approach to the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.
“We look to sports as a unifier, and that’s been missing,” said Barry Nelson, managing director of sales, marketing and innovation for the North America Packaging and Paper Division of DS Smith. “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.”
DS Smith is a veteran international player on the packaging scene, and recently expanded its North American box-making and recycling operations. In the U.K., 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.
The company has not indicated whether the cardboard fans will have the ability to stand up to get a plate of nachos just as a pitcher hurls a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded, or whether they will be able to vocalize f-bombs while sitting behind children.
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. The company’s creation of a literal, sustainable fanbase includes water-resistant cutouts for outdoor venues, using its patented Greencoat, a wax-free, 100 percent recyclable material. The indoor cardboard fans will be fully recyclable as well.
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. The company didn’t indicate which finger would be featured.
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, DS Smith noted. 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.
While MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred cooks up other ways to ruin the game of baseball – such as starting extra innings with a runner on second and outlawing lefty- or righty-shifts – DS Smith is assisting with creating an exciting atmosphere in the stadium.
“There is a motivation that goes with playing,” Nelson said. “This simulates having real fans in the seats and gives a sense of perspective to the players that they’re not all alone.”Follow us on social media: