Under the Helmet

Fan Cans make sport of trash and recycling

When fans go to the ballpark, they're looking for the complete experience. They're wearing the team jersey, they buy a hot dog at the themed food court, and they drink beer from a sponsor's cup. But where should they deposit their trash and recyclables; in a generic, unremarkable receptacle? Not if Stephen Wolford, president of Fan Cans LLC, has his way.

In May, Wolford's company unveiled a line of custom waste receptacles themed around baseball, football and motorsports, the three most popular and heavily-attended North American sports by his company's estimation. Each of the cans is topped with a molded helmet unique to the sport. The cans, manufactured in partnership with Toter, can be made in team colors and customized with team or sponsor logos.

Wolford, who has a background in affinity product management and marketing, began by surveying facility managers at pro and college stadiums, motor speedways, parks and recreation departments, even high schools about waste collection. "They confirmed our hypothesis that most consumers or fans don't really notice the receptacles out there," he says. "They're commodities and part of the everyday life experience. Our purpose was to make the cans pop or stand out in a crowd."

Wolford says the cans also present a unique opportunity for sponsors to reach fans. "Once they get to the product, they basically transact with it," he says. "If you have a sponsor's name on the front of the container, you've pretty much guaranteed a brand impression, unlike a banner that's hanging on the wall that they may walk past."

Wolford, who was in the midst of preparing his product for display at Major League Baseball's winter meetings, says the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have already expressed an interest in Fan Cans, and Coca-Cola is looking to install Coke-branded Fan Cans in the home of the Washington Nationals. Football-themed Fan Cans will become available shortly after the conclusion of the Super Bowl for stadium managers looking to outfit their facilities for next season. While Wolford currently has no statistics on how his product affects collection rates, the company hopes to conduct studies to this effect once more of the cans are in place.

With the cans likely to appear in stadiums around the country, fans tempted to lob trash at the heads of opposing players (or poorly performing members of the home team) will soon be able to satisfy that urge by using a Fan Can.